Thank you for your actions regarding marriage equality. As a single by choice, I take issue, though, with your framing marriage equality as a human rights issue: what human rights are we exactly defending by asking for marriage equality? The right to discriminate against other forms of relationships? Marriage is an institution; not a human right. People have human rights simply by being human, not by their relationship status. By expanding who can marry, we are perpetuating the inherent discriminatory policies that are endowed on people because they “tie the knot.” As a single by choice, I find it frustrating that people ignore that many of the 1,100+ benefits have nothing to do with human rights or protecting anybody. They simply privilege those who are in a state-sanctioned relationship, aka marriage. This discriminates against all of us who are in relationships other than marriages.
While I think that everybody who wants to marry should have the right to do so, I do not appreciate that this private commitment comes with a huge package of rights and benefits that are not available outside of marriage. I would love to see True Majority fight against singlism (the discrimination of singles) and marital status discrimination in all forms. We should fight for human rights for all people, regardless of their marital status, relationship style, sexual orientation, race, or gender.
After I hit sent, it occurred to me that I failed to do some research. Maybe marriage is considered a human right. After all matrimania is so ingrained in our cultures… I decided to check the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. And, indeed, Article 16 states:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Wow. Marriage is a human right? And the family is a natural group unit of society? Am I the only one who finds both of this disturbing codification of discrimination and cultural assumptions? What is this based on? Marriage is a historical construct, an institution, nothing natural (unlike reproduction or even our need for interpersonal connections, even that might not be completely natural, at least once we’re beyond infancy). I find it sad that it is codified as a human right like this. What about my right as a single person to be respected as a complete human being without having to be married (or coupled)? I guess we have more consciousness raising to do than I thought before we can move beyond marriage…
Aside from the presumption that family is the building block of society, there are two interesting angles that we can look at here: The right to marry and the rights married folks get. I think, looking at it this way, it is clear that the right to marry is very basic: Everybody who wants to make the commitment that marriage entails, should be allowed to do so. However, this does not mean that these people should automatically receive benefits from the government, although that seems to be implied in the assumption that marriage is a human right. This second part – the rights married people receive – is what I take issue with.