Mmph! Yes!Mmph! Yes!
“Despite this, no community is quite so sensitive to the reality that, for all its virtues, friendship isn’t family. For the people who try to use it this way, that’s the entire point.
“Generations of gays and lesbians have heard that hitch in a parent’s voice when they introduce our partner as our ‘friend.’
“This language is a way of hiding the truth, of downplaying our beloved’s significance in our lives. We understand that sometimes it’s the best our loved ones can do. But there are times when a friend simply isn’t enough. ”
Though, and I know this wasn’t the focus of your piece, I suggest that a narrow focus on marriage is short-sighted at best and problematic at worse. You raise my concern for me when you say,
“‘Friendship’ won’t keep you at your partner’s side in the hospital if your partner’s brother wants you gone. It won’t get you the flag from the coffin at your partner’s military funeral, or the wedding ring she wore for you.”
To which I have to ask “But why shouldn’t it?” I know it doesn’t. And I am CERTAINLY not advocated for “civil unions for all, keep marriage a religious ceremony” (oy!). But, I do have to question if marriage should be the only reliable way one is able to access health insurance, visit a hospital, raise children, receive inheritance.
I want marriage to be available to all people and also I recognize that even that isn’t enough.
I’d love to hear how other people feel.
Hey Brian!Hey Brian!
I’m familiar with the “beyond marriage” movement, but while I see the appeal for some things, overall I appreciate the unique place marriage has in our society -so long as all couples have equal access to it.
The core difference between friendship and legally recognized family is the element of obligation and responsibility. You can rely on that other person being there when you need them because they’ve taken the affirmative step to accept that responsibility through the marriage contract – and society provides benefits, like shared health insurance, because it knows that your partner is obligated to do the hard things (from accepting legal liability for your debts to raising your children if you die) and has given up the legal right to just walk away.
It’s a different conversation, but because of that element of the social contract, I can understand reserving the benefits of marriage to relationships that have the same level of commitment. Friendship lacks that feature – I agree with C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves” that its freedom is one of friendship’s defining virtues that way – but because there’s nothing holding friends together beyond affection, it’s just not a stable foundation for most legal rights or responsibilities.
Wills, powers of attorney, benefit designation – they’re ways of mimicking that acceptance of responsibility, but the ultimate choice to be a person’s legal proxy in these most intimate matters is and probably always will be marriage. Because these responsibilities should never be taken lightly, and these powers leave an individual so terribly vulnerable, I really don’t have a problem with that.
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