With marriage equality being such a hot debate, I’ve seen two disturbing trends. One is that both sides have tended toward hatefulness and name-calling and two, neither is addressing fully what marriage is about. Marriage is not exclusively designed to promote procreation neither is it soley for the purpose of honoring love. Marriage is a legal contract and status whose primary purpose is the protection of children. Marriage is not a spiritual act or ritual. Not in the legal sense. Marriage provides legal and financial safeguards for the products of the marriage. Children.
At this point in our development as a nation, we must acknowledge that children join by a variety of methods that outnumber biological birth. Children live with foster parents, are adopted, join step-families and are born through surrogacy to name a few. By the very nature of their entrance in to their families, they are not members of intact, biological families. If they are lucky enough to join a married, heterosexual couple, they may enjoy the benefits of being the child of married parents. But what if they do not have such parents? What if they are lucky enough to find themselves with parents at all, but then become relegated to second-class citizens because THEIR parents are not allowed the protection and benefits of marriage?
Some will argue that there are those incapable of or unwilling to have children. This is irrelevant. Marriage protects the children of a family in a variety of ways, either directly or indirectly. Even an elderly straight couple who marries has now secured inheritance rights for their grandchildren. Those same rights would be available to the extended families of LGBTI couples. Without legal marriage, their estate may be heavily taxed and recouped through probate instead of flowing down the family line. This is patently unfair to the upcoming generations. All children should enjoy the same benefits of being members of a family which extends beyond love.
Today in the US, we allow LGBTI couples to both procreate and adopt. Marriage insures inheritance rights to the whole family, without paying any hefty taxes. Marriage ensures an ill family member will be visited and attended to by the WHOLE family. Marriage promises these children that if the marriages results in divorce, they can expect child support and the custodial parent may also receive spousal support. Both forms of monetary support are essential to the physical care of the child. Marriage also ensures that upon the dissolution of such, each parent is ENTITLED to visitation with the kids. Marriage creates a legal bind within the family that keeps more money available to the family and makes it difficult for the children to lose either those benefits or access to their parents.
Without marriage for their LGBTI parents, these kids are left vulnerable. What inheritance rights they ought to have may be stripped when one parent dies and the estate instead goes to the deceased's father or mother, not the remaining parent and kids. If there is a dissolution of the family, the children may no longer have access to their other parent and may experience a severe decline in quality of life if there is no child support or visitation. These children are at extreme risk and the civil union loopholes that they are living under need to be closed. Marriage has legal ramifications and is a legal, binding arrangement with real-life consequences and privileges. Every child deserves to have those protections. Marriage equality is not just about marrying who you love, though that is certainly a valid reason. Protecting the safety of the families of the children who already and will continue to live in these arrangements is of paramount concern. If, as opponents often say, marriage is about children, then I agree. Having said that, and knowing we condone and allow LGBTI to raise children in families, there is no other option than to allow their parents to legally marry. If all children’s parents should be married, as many who are opposed to marriage equality repeated tout, then ALL children’s parents should be married.