The Student News Site of Taipei American School




OPINION | You are cordially invited to abolish marriage

Charlotte L./The Blue & Gold

In 2011, Andrew and Elad fell in love and started a family in Canada. They fertilized one egg with sperm from Andrew, and one with sperm from Elad. When the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage in 2016, they filed citizenship applications for both children. Andrew had American citizenship, and children born abroad with one American parent become citizens at birth. But one child’s application was denied.
American law requires proof of “a blood relationship” between a parent and child to transmit citizenship only if children are “born out of wedlock.” However, State Department policy defines “born in wedlock” as “when the genetic and/or gestational parents are legally married to each other at the time of the person’s conception or birth.” The children’s fathers were married, but they were born “out of wedlock” because Andrew was neither the genetic nor gestational parent of the egg Elad fertilized.
Andrew’s and Elad’s predicament highlights how restrictive legal definitions of marriage, parenthood, family and citizenship combine to punish nontraditional families—polyamorous, platonic, non-biological, homosexual, and more. Marriage as a legal institution enforces and solidifies the dominance of a conventionally rigid and increasingly redundant arrangement, limiting our social imagination.
The line between married and unmarried couples has blurred as old conventions are no longer considered givens. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, premarital sex is increasingly morally accepted worldwide. An estimated 70 percent of couples in the U.S. cohabited before marriage; around 20 percent of women in the U.S. now choose to keep their names as sex before marriage. Even child-rearing does not constitute a concrete dividing line: In Iceland, around two-thirds of babies are born out of wedlock.
Still, the state confers a host of rights and benefits upon married people. Financial perks include marital tax deductions and Social Security benefits. Legal protections include the right to sue for wrongful death and greater decision-making power regarding medical treatments and resuscitation.
We need an alternative way to regulate family formation, one able to encompass the diversity of possible relationships, whether people cohabiting and raising children in a polyamorous relationship or friends concurrently adopting children who wish to combine income streams and share parenting duties. The rights and responsibilities currently wrapped into one bundle called “marriage” could be allocated piecemeal or to different individuals.
A fluid world without marriage is less far-fetched than it may seem. The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights is still campaigning for the draft bill it submitted in 2012 outlining a multiple-person family system, allowing people with no relationship by blood or marriage to register as a family. This kind of legislation can open the way to a society that is less patriarchal, less heteronormative and more free.  
Marriage may continue as an informal ritual performed according to personal preference, similar to a birthday celebration, without diminishing the emotional power of marriage. Much like proposals and engagement rings, a marriage ceremony devoid of legal implications can continue to be meaningful.
British politician Boris Johnson once criticized same-sex marriage by writing, “If gay marriage was okay—and I was uncertain on the issue—then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog.” I do see a reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men and a dog—a dog is incapable of consenting to marriage—but why not three men, or seven?
The arrangement that is unreasonable exists right now, with the state baselessly privileging certain types of romantic and familial relationships over other equally viable options.

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