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A Modest (Civil Union) Proposal

10/24/07 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) If our government is truly dedicated to separating church and state, Commentator Deborah Luskin suggests we abolish marriage. Here's her Modest Proposal.

(LUSKIN) I think extending marriage to same sex couples is a step in the wrong direction. If we're really intent on achieving equality, we'd abolish marriage in favor of civil unions for all.

Marriage should be left to the church of one's choice, and those seeking marriage should go to their place of worship for the rite. For the rest of us who want to form partnerships for the sharing of property and the raising of children, a Civil Union should do the trick.

If a couple enters into this secular partnership with romantic ideals, blessings on them. If they maintain this partnership for the duration of their natural lives, they are ahead of the odds. While the divorce rate for the United States has dropped in the last ten years, so has the marriage rate. According to sociologists at the University of Maryland, the number of households of unrelated individuals is growing.

These days couples of all kinds live together without marriage. Without a legal contract, however, these couples split without clear legal rights to property or children.

Marriage is about property. It's not about God and it's not about love, though many people bring both to successful unions. And for good reason: marriage is not easy.

Few business partnerships are as demanding. Business contracts anticipate the division of property in the event of a break-up, but prenuptial contracts are rare.

Business partnerships prohibit sexual involvement during business hours. In a marriage, sex is expected. In good marriages, it's enjoyed. For centuries, marriage protected the consequences of sex, which, before reliable contraception, resulted in children. Sexual fidelity guaranteed paternity. A man, it was hoped, would work hard to support children he knew were his own. A woman, it followed, would bear only her husband's children in return for a share of the man's worldly goods.

Marriage, while difficult and demanding, served the needs of the community. Communities benefit from adult couples living together in families.

Communities benefit when couples perform the difficult work of raising the next generation. As any parent can attest, raising children takes more patience and less sleep than anyone can possibly imagine. Even our government acknowledges that raising children is worthy of a tax deduction, but there's a lot more we could do.

We could provide meaningful financial support to parents who leave the paying workforce to stay at home and raise kids, and we could provide all children with healthcare. Most of all, we could support all parents, regardless of their gender or marital status. Other developed countries do this and more.

Vermonters have a chance to take the lead by acknowledging our many different kinds of families and adjusting our laws accordingly. We could promote liberty and justice by abolishing marriage and instituting Civil Unions for All.

Deborah Luskin teaches writing and literature to non-traditional students in hospitals, libraries and prisons throughout Vermont.

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