After SSM, What Next? Half-Marriage and Ending the "Privileges" of Marriage


Two reminders that the effort to redefine marriage to include same-sex  unions represents just one way that revisionists are attempting to empty marriage of its meaning and purpose.

John Culhane, a professor of Law at Widener University proposes leveling marriage to make it little different from other types of unions:

Why should we continue to privilege marriage at all?

... what about those who will continue to be fenced out [if gay marriage were to become the law of the land], both from the benefits and from the dignity that we demand from marriage? By looking only at the narrow issue of our right to marry, we risk missing greater, more systemic injustices. We need to continue to project of reducing the differences between marriage and other forms of human relations. (

Susan Pease Gadoua, author of Contemplating Divorce, asks why "traditional marriage should be our only option" and suggests "what if we could be half-married?":

In 2002, Pamela Paul wrote a groundbreaking book that presented the novel idea of having what she called, a "Starter Marriage." This legal union would be a first marriage for couples in their 20's or young 30's who knew they would not have children and who did not necessarily expect the nuptials to last a lifetime. Much like a learner's permit for driving, a Starter Marriage would be a way for young people to "play house" without risking their entire lives.

The book did not make much of an impact in our social norms. Nearly a decade later, most people have never heard of a Starter Marriage. More mainstream terms include domestic partnership, common law marriage and civil unions and mean something a bit different.

Proponents of same-sex marriage say that redefining marriage will lead to a stronger, not a weaker, marriage culture. But those who argue for alternatives to the conjugal view of marriage find themselves on the side of those who also argue to make one man, one woman marriage less protected instead of more cherished.