To the People

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Discrimination, Because Of Discrimination, As A Result Of Discrimination

Since I'm on an overseas business trip for the first time, I have read my employer's relocation handbook almost cover to cover. The company allows you to bring your spouse and dependents, with certain restrictions.

My company also allows relocation benefits to a "Same gender domestic partner". Jesus, I'm out of breath after that. Anyway, to briefly paraphrase the qualifying criteria for SGDPartnership, the parties must: (I'm paraphrasing)

* live together and are "emotionally committed" (?), long term
* plan to remain partners in the long run
* be unrelated
* share joint financial responsibility

It goes on to state that the partnership is equal in substance to marriage.

Ok fine, I see where this is going. Said company notices that gays can't legally get married in most of the US, but it decides that this is unfair and extends a similar option to homosexuals. But what if a heterosexual has an opposite gender domestic partner to whom he or she wants to extend relocation benefits. No dice. Sorry, you have to be legally married.

This is discrimination #1. It boils down to this: An unmarried homosexual can relocate with his partner and the relocation benefits apply as though that partner was his legal spouse. A heterosexual cannot, at least not with equal benefits. However, I can hardly fault the company for this. It is a natural result of discrimination #2:

Heterosexuals can enter into legal marriage, but homosexuals cannot. Besides religious doctrine, which has no place in free government, there is really no reason for this. However, I'm going to step over this to shorten the post, since this discrimination has been discussed extensively by libertarian-folk and liberals.

However, if we can set gender aside for a minute, legal marriage itself is discriminatory (#3). I've never been married and am certainly no expert on marriage law. But what is it about two people being emotionally connected that makes them legally "one" in the realms of taxes and ownership?

It seems as though this unnecessarily complicates an emotional relationship between two individuals. Couples break up. Not always, no, but it happens. And it just doesn't seem right that when it happens, it has to end with a long, ugly court battle in which the two parties fight each other over someone else's (government's) rules. If they choose to live together and share their possessions, fine. They have every right. But they need to set their own conditions. If a private bank or broker wants to offer a joint account or investment to a domestic couple, and the couple agrees to it by contract, I have no problem with that. I just don't see the need for a legal "template".

I'll concede that I'm probably oversimplifying this. But in principle, I don't see how any unmarried individual can be justly treated differently under the law than a married individual.

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