Should Marriage be a Human Right? — 7 Comments

  1. Pingback:Rachel’s Musings » Happy Birthday Human Rights Declaration

  2. Very good question, Tom! This is really the underlying issue: To what extend should society steer people toward one form of relationship and away from others. The religious wrong argues that marriage is the foundation for civilization, therefore they are pushing it with the claim that society will fall apart if marriage goes away. The evidence they present falls apart on closer inspection, though. For example, children leave poverty not by way of two parents but through better education (whether their own or their parents). Again and again, the push toward marriage does not address the underlying issues. Marriage is not the panacea that the conservative forces claim it is… So, I would argue that the state has no role to play in relationships because relationships per se do not address societal problems. The pro-marriage movement is ignoring that most of the societal problems they claim stem from the decline of marriage are really failures of policy.

    And I think this reframing also points out that there are really two issues here: Should people have the right to marry anybody they want? Yes. But does the existence of this right dictate certain state policies? No, except in the removal of any barriers. In other words, the state should not be in the way of marriage but it also should not push marriage as a policy because it solves no societal problems.

    (This argument is in large part based on the evidence presented in the excellent book by Nancy Polikoff Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage.)

  3. There’s a related and in my view more profound question apart from rights (I find debates about rights too often muddy the waters). What is the role of the state in relationships and why? Should it use fiscal and legal policy to “social engineer” i.e. nudge citizens toward certain behaviours that the statespeople believe, through some sort of deliberation, should be supported. The bias toward matrimony stems in large part from the supposition that enabling and reinforcing families improves the health of the body politic. One only need look at the social pathology of the inner city to consider the validity (or not) of such an approach.

  4. Thank you for posting about this, Rachel. I’ve been aware of the inequality that singles receive from the government, and from their neighbors, for a long time, having been single most of my life and having made the decision to not marry again. Marriage seems to me like the last strong-hold of a patriarchal system that no longer works for most people, but I don’t see a big change in our lifetimes.

  5. Looking at the whole Universal Declaration of Human Rights , every right mentioned accept Article 16 deals with individuals. With Article 16 left out singles and married couples would have rights. I am not sure why its added that if you get married you will still have the same rights as before you were married.

    Therefore the third point is just reassuring people who want to get married that they rights will be protected by the state. I do agree with you that its a very terse document and up for many different interpretations.

  6. Thank you, Allix, for adding more international information! I suspect that the UK & US stories hold in many countries.

    I agree with your interpretation of Article 16: It gives people the right to marry (and it does not specify how that marriage looks like, i.e., it doesn’t have to be between one man and one woman…). I am, however, still troubled by the third point, which assumes that the family is a natural unit…

  7. In England there are tax benefits to couples as well

    The table in the second link explains the differences clearly. So if one of them is under 75 they do not get to pay tax until they have at least £6,285 whereas a single under 65 starts paying tax when the have £5,225.

    In regard to Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , it does not explicable state that someone wanting to get married has “rights” and singles do not. It just says that if you want to marry someone that is from another country regardless of the law in that country you have a right to do so.

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