A Comment on Civil Contracts

I had lunch on Friday with a friend who recently jumped the political fence and became a hippy Democrat. She’s also a writer and a very good editor … and one of the few known readers of this blog. The planets must have been out of kilter on Friday because she and I found ourselves agreeing on not one, but two topics.

The second topic was about how people can’t better themselves if they’re stuck working for minimum wage, but that increasing minimum wage isn’t the answer to the problem. I think we even agreed that education was the answer. I’d also say that withdrawing the government teat of welfare would be a step in the right direction, but we didn’t go there.

It was the first topic where I think she was surprised to find I agreed with her. I hate to spend another installment of this blog on the issue of homosexual unions, but this is really something I meant to address early on. Now that I’ve had this conversation with my liberal friend, it seems timely, so here it is.

We agreed on the issue of civil contracts. Not just for gay couples, though. For anyone.

As you probably know, gay rights advocates say they are denied the benefits of legal marriage in most instances. They usually cannot claim their partners on their medical or life insurance, cannot name then as beneficiaries, etc. This is wrong.

Yes, you read that right. I said this is wrong. But it has nothing to do with sexual preference. Let’s leave sex out of this discussion.

Let’s say for the moment that I live for a very long time and for some reason I have no family left except one nephew who I think is a complete jerk. I’m injured and go to the hospital as a vegetable. As the law stands now, this nephew who I don’t like and don’t trust has the legal right to tell the doctors to pull the plug and let me die and would by default be the designee of my fortune. (This is hypothetical, remember … I sadly don’t have any nephews or fortunes.)

I cannot name a life-long trusted friend as the person to determine when the life-support machines should be turned off. I cannot leave my worldly possessions to friends when there is family there to claim them. This is wrong.

Now, what if this friend and I both find ourselves with no family. He’s homeless and destitute and I take him into my home and we agree that he’ll take care of the lawn, the housework … whatever … and I will provide his room and board. That makes him my dependent, even though we’re not having sex. If I’m willing to pay his insurance premiums as my dependent, I should be allowed to do that.

This is not a change in my stance on gay marriage. I still say it is morally wrong for two people of the same sex to marry. I still say it defies the laws of nature.

But I’m also saying our laws are too restrictive when it comes to letting individuals designate who should have authority or benefits or claims in certain situations. If my wife dies before me and all my children are living lifestyles I think are wrong, I should be able to give whatever I have to my nieces when I die. If a gay man wants to trust his life-support decision to his partner rather than his parents, he should be allowed to do that.

I think it’s pretty sad that we have to have legal debates over the definition of marriage, a union based on an agreement to forsake all other sex partners for the purpose of propagating the species, but at the same time I think the government has gone too far in limiting our personal freedom to recognize, depend on and reward those people who are important in our lives.

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