Issues of Unmarried Equality

Health Care
Unmarried Equality believes that access to health care in the United States should not be determined by relationship or marital status.  Although we applaud efforts by some employers to make health insurance more accessible (by offering domestic partnership benefits, for example), we advocate for a truly universal system that separates health care from employment.

Taxes, Social Security; Estates
UE believes that individuals’ incomes should be taxed without regard to their marital status. People should be free to choose whether to marry without having to calculate if marrying will make their income taxes higher or lower.  The current tax structure favors upper-income married provider-dependent households, a minority amoung American household types.  It is unacceptable for unmarried taxpayers to subsidize tax breaks for married couples and families.

Social security is deducted from wages earned during an individual’s working years.  When the wage earner dies, his or her remaining Social Security benefits may be passed on to a spouse or dependent children.  When an unmarried wage earner dies, his or her benefits cannot be left to a designee but revert to the Social Security system.  An exception to this is a divorced spouse.  It the wage earner was married and accrued Social Security during the marriage, a divorced spouse may be eligible to receive death benefits.  This lack of control over an unmarried person’s Social Security account is unacceptable.  These benefits should not be tied to marriage.

Unmarried partners must take extra care to protect each other’s inheritance rights.  A court may rule that next-of-kin has precedence over an unmarried partner, and the partner may be forced from the family home, or may lose property purchased jointly.  Unmarried partners also do not receive the estate tax exemptions allowed to married couples.  Again, without carefully prepared legal protections, unmarried people may lose equal protections at the time of death.

Illegal Cohabitation
Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and Virginia all have archaic laws on their books that define cohabitation as illegal.  These laws are not typically enforced, and may be considered misdemeanor crimes. The state of Virginia is considering removing the ban. In the meantime, we need to put pressure on the remaining states to do the same.  Consensual adult relationships, barring those that are harmful to the individuals, should never be considered criminal or be liable for prosecution.

Housing Discrimination
Since unmarried people are not a legally protected class, they may be denied housing due to marital status.  A landlord may simply not approve of cohabitation and deny a lease.  Finding suitable housing is one of life’s big stressors and knowing that a couple or family can be denied a residence that meets its needs and budget is patently unfair.  Marital status discrimination in housing is widespread, legal and completely unfair.  In about half the states in the U.S. (unless there are stronger local laws), a landlord can legally refuse to rent to an unmarried couple and a town can forbid unmarried families, roommates or extended families from living in certain neighborhoods.  In a handful of states, cohabitation is a crime.  These laws are not enforced consistently, and are often ignored.  However, discrimination does happen, and when it does, it hurts!

Adoption decisions should be based onthe best interest of each child.  But some states prevent same sex couples or unmarried people from adopting or fostering children, no matter how well matched the child and adults might be.  Several states are considering proposals to ban adoption by anyone why is cohabiting.  These laws hurt kids.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal law that was enacted September 21, 1996.  It defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States.  Since it does not recognize same-sex marriage, those marriages do not receive federal benefits even if they are conducted in states that have enacted laws validating same-sex marriage.  In 1997, the U.S. General Accounting Office issued a report stating that there were 1,049 federal statutes in which rights, benefits and privileges were bestowed based on marital status.  While eight federal courts have determined that the law is unconstitutional, the law is still in force.  The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the law in March 2013.  In the meantime, Unmarried Equality will continue to advocate for the removal of government interference in defining relationships and allocating benefits accordingly.

Same-Sex Marriage
Unmarried Equality believes that all individuals who choose to marry should have the right to do so.  However, as states recognize same-sex marriage, they typically eliminate the domestic partnerships formed in that state.  The couples who chose not to marry but filed as domestic partners then lose all of the rights they had gained unless they advance their relationship to a legal marriage.  While the same-sex marriage laws seem to be advancing rights, they also ultimately hold out marriage as the only relationship form that is legally recognized.  The focus on marriage then continues to widen the gap between the married and unmarried, regardless of sexual orientation, and singles are once again completely left out of the equation.  Unmarried Equality will continue to advocate for equal rights for those who are unmarried by choice circumstance. (link to HRC?)

Welfare and Poverty
Unmarried Equality believes that nudging, bribing, and coercing people downthe aisle is an inappropriate role for govnerment and an ineffective way to help people escape poverty.  We will continue to speak out against any programs that include “marriage incentives.”