The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday December 4th

Opinion: Reimagining familial relations

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, this board chose to take a moment to share our thoughts on the subject of marriage — not love, which we enthusiastically support, but marriage.

A few years ago, it was possible to have a committed relationship recognized with many of the technical benefits of marriage. Progressive local governments and private businesses rewrote their policies to avoid discriminating against people who couldn’t legally marry their same-sex partners. This was a good thing. It helped reduce discrimination and the privileges people who’ve undergone a certain ceremony enjoy above everybody else.

Then, when same-sex marriage was legalized across the country, many towns and companies went back to the old rules, requiring marriage as a prerequisite for certain benefits.

We oppose discrimination of any kind against LGBTQ folks — the refusal to allow them to marry was only one small piece of a bigger problem, much of which continues. We also object to the prioritization of marriage over all other kinds of relationships. Our social networks are too diverse and complex for simple couplehood to take universal precedence.

We hear our generation is marrying later than our parents and ancestors. Right now, marriage is still the only easy way to create a familial relationship with another adult. If someone marries later in life, or not at all, all the responsibilities that traditionally go to a spouse — healthcare decisions, financial cooperation, efficient transfer of property after death — belong to that person’s parents unless they go to considerable trouble to make it otherwise. That default might not make sense for somebody who hasn’t lived near their parents for decades, but there is no effective alternative.

This board previously wrote in opposition to the concept of “ring by spring,” which is just one of a number of marriage-related traditions that remain alarmingly gendered and detrimental to women in an era of supposed equality. While breaking down these anti-feminist traditions one by one is an option, we recommend considering a more universal change. Marriage is only connected to financial, legal and social benefits because we allow it to be that way.

We don’t expect change to come anytime soon, but while you enjoy some conversation hearts on this holiday, think about whether we could accomplish good by de-prioritizing marriage.

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