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Should the Government Recognize Your Marriage?

From a life insurance underwriting point of view, marriage is neither a deal-maker nor a deal-breaker. I have been able to get policies for a man and woman who were legally-married partners; two men who were legally-married partners; two women who were legally-married partners; two men who were unmarried domestic partners; and two women who were unmarried domestic partners.

Any Evidence of Your Marriage?

Nontraditional couples were a bit harder to insure twenty years ago. I think that was because insurance companies wanted to make sure the relationships were stable and ongoing. If a same sex couple wanted to buy life insurance on one another, they had to prove some sort of codependent relationship. Something like a joint checking account would suffice.

These days even simple documentation such as that is typically unnecessary. Insurance companies pretty much accept the various forms of partnerships that are commonplace. A government-issued marriage certificate is certainly not required for the approval of a life insurance application.

No Marriage Certificate, No Problem

Let’s look at that situation for a minute. An insurance company does not require an applicant to be “officially” married in order to offer him a contract. The company will put hundreds of thousands – and even many millions – of dollars into reserve for the insured’s beneficiary, as long as the premium is paid. Over many years, a multitude of transactions have been effected on this basis.

I am sure that you and I can think of numerous other industries in which civil marriage is not necessary for doing business. That being the case, the question is this: why do we still want the government to get involved at all in our marriages? We all can basically manage our affairs quite nicely without an official stamp from the government certifying our most private relationship.

Gender and Marriage

This point is made stronger when you look at all the controversy regarding gender in marriage. People have many resources available for bringing spirituality into their lives and making their relationships special. They can use traditional religion, or not use traditional religion. They can use various philosophies. Or, they can not bother much at all to find a deeper meaning to their partnership. Couples, families, and communities do a fine job on their own upholding what they find to be sacred. Why is government recognition so important?

I am sure at some point there was a somewhat rational reason for the government to control marriage. Maybe it had to do with public health; perhaps it had to do with census-taking. It seems to me that now, the government regulation of marriage has outlived its usefulness. Worse, it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Wouldn’t our lives be better off without the fight over who is legally married?

(This article was inspired by one of my favorite thinkers, John Stossel, in his post here.)