The very first definition we need is for relationship – a word that has undergone a dramatic meaning change: From describing people who relate to each other to The Couple. One of the definitions presented by a dictionary at Princeton defines relationship as:
A relation between people; a state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection)
Let’s keep this definition in mind as we dig deeper into the discrimination faced by singles and other unmarried folks.
Types of Discrimination
Here are types of discrimination adults can face depending on the type of relationship they are involved.
Marital Status Discrimination (MSD): Treating married people differently than people who are not currently married.
Conjugal Status Discrimination (CSD): Treating people who are in a conjugal relationship differently than people who are not in conjugal relationships.
Relationship Status Discrimination (RSD): Treating people in any kind of relationship differently than people who are not in a relationship.
These status discrimination are strongly interrelated: MSD is a subset of CSD is a subset of RSD. Single people might face RSD if they have no relationship ties with other people; they definitely face CSD even if they are in relation with their siblings (for example); all unmarried couples do not face RSD nor CSD but they do face MSD; married couples don’t face any of these discrimination.
I suggest that
- We fight Relationship Status Discrimination by preventing that any relationships carry special benefits.
- We support offering automatic legal protection to relationships when they dissolve whether through break-up or death.
I think this is a middle ground between fighting CSD and RSD by recognizing that relationships meet special needs and deserve protection by society. But these relationships are not limited to conjugal relationships nor are they limited to two people, really. I also think that there are hardly any people who are not in any kind of relationship, so RSD likely does not effect many people, as long as we stick to the broad definition of relationship!