I see in this whole debate a fundamentally flawed assumption that few seem to be willing to address. This assumption is (I believe) actually the core problem and there is a simple solution – which means that it will probably never get addressed. Granted the solution isn’t without its own flaws, but it is probably better than the morass of laws and lawsuits we are heading into right now.
Flawed assumption: Marriage is a civil function. It isn’t. Marriage is a religious institution.
The whole thing boils down to the mixing of the civil (for want of a better term) “joining of households”, and the religious marriage contract. This context of this is inherited long before the Christian church, and can be traced back to almost every culture’s early religious movements. Look at the cultural surroundings of Druidism, Greek Pantheon, Pharaohic rule, Divine Imperial rule in the ‘Far East’, Semitic Abramic tradition, Mayan, Aztecan, etc, and you will find that the priest(esses) - or those serving in the religious hierarchy – performed both civil and religious law, and it wasn’t until some of the Grecian and Roman legalists and sophists came along that there was this idea of separation between civil law and religious mores and traditions.
Judges and magistrates already perform the civil function of ‘joining of households’. Religious functionaries should not be performing a function of civil or common law.
The solution to the issue is fairly simple (on the surface) and could fix the problem once and for all. When two or more consenting legal adults want to join their households into a single entity they receive a Household Tax ID IF THEY SO CHOOSE. If they don’t choose, they remain (for taxation and civil law) two separate individuals. Religious marriage doesn’t enter into it at all. If two or five consenting legal adults want to enter into a relationship sanctioned by their church or religion or whatever, that has NO BEARING or relevance on the civil side.
Tax filings stay pretty much the same, except that instead of a place for two people on the tax forms, there is a ‘household tax id’ number. That links to the civil household registry of who is part of that household, which ties in the individually issued W-2 and various other tax forms. Each party in the household signs off on the tax return, and voila.
Medical benefits and retirements work similarly as they do now, with the exception that if you pay for each adult dependent at the same rate you currently do the ‘spouse’ or ‘domestic partner’ – if they are part of the household (joined under a Household Tax ID). So if Jennifer is the primary or largest wage earner, and has the best medical coverage, and she wants to list Janet, Sandy, and Bill (who are all part of the household), she pays for herself, plus 3 adults.
This also allows for platonic households, or sibling households (for tax and legal benefits), etc. The key to remember is that in the event of a dissolution of the household, the same issues apply as do under current marriage contracts. Who gets what, who pays what, who gets the kids, who pays child support, who gets the tax deduction, etc.
I know I'll probably get eaten alive by rabid wolverines from the fringes of both sides, but anyone have any additional thoughts, analysis, or comments?