If you are confused about the state of the living arrangements for adults in this country, you are not alone. It is sort of a free for all at best.
John and Mary move in together. Being consenting adults, they do not want to get married but seem to want the best of all worlds – life together without the constraints of marriage. Children, of course, are not part of the arrangement. Current data indicates that between 1970 and 1986, the number of unmarried couples living together in the same house or apartment more than quadrupled from 523,000 to 2,220,000 – a staggering statistic.
Sally and Judy move in together. They are gay. They would like to get “married” as they want to form a long term relationship and have their assets and living arrangement protected by law. I call it a civil union. They call it a marriage. In 2000, 36,000 same sex unions existed in the United States of which 58% were female and 42% male. Same sex marriage is recognized in nine States currently.
John Smith moves into his own apartment. He is single and never married. More than 62 million Americans over age 18 are unmarried. This number represents 37% of all men and 43% of all women. This represents the largest proportion of single persons reflected in the never married category. The increasing tendency for young adults to delay marriage is reflected in the median age for the first marriage, which increased from 23.2 years in 1970 to 25.7 years in 1986 for men and from 20.8 years in 1970 to 23.1 years in 1986 for women.
Debbie moves into her apartment. Her marriage to John lasted 5 years which fits exactly into the current statistical data. In 2009, there were 2,077,000 marriages in the United States. Close to 50% ended in divorce as married adults now divorce two and a half times as often as they did 20 years ago.
And, of course, we have the traditional couple that are still married. As of 2009, 55.7% of Americans over 18 years of age were married, but, going forward, this statistic could go down. One of the main reasons is “no-fault divorce” that was first enacted in California in 1969. All 50 states now have no-fault divorce provisions.
Obviously, the most controversial living arrangement is the “gay union.” If we eliminate the requirement that a marriage consists of one man and one woman, we open the door to all kinds of possibilities. Why can’t 3 men marry or possibly two men and a woman? Crazy you say? Not really. Once the States agree that both parties can be of the same sex, a limitation must be enacted into the law that the “marriage” can only be restricted to two men or two women. Lesbian unions tend to be more complicated. Many same sex women are in their child bearing years. One or both women could become pregnant complicating the legal status of the children of such a union. Who is exactly responsible for these children should something happen to the biological mother? Many such births are the result of sperm donors who wish to remain anonymous.
I can understand the need to protect assets and insurance coverage. What amazes me is that most States do not or will not address the civil union aspect. I remain strong in my opposition to the marriage of same sex partners but then I grew up in an era when marriage was sacred.