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DOMA? Time to stop defending marriage!

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has largely been framed in terms of gay rights. The denial of benefits, tax breaks, and hundreds of other incentives that go to state-recognized relationships between one man and one woman.

But the real issue is one of equality, not of marriage. Equal rights for everyone under the law. And the right to have your family protected by the law regardless of what it looks like. And a big thank you to our LGBT friends for helping to frame the issue of access.

45% of all households are NOT married. Over 12 million unmarried partners live together in over 6 million households.  (Including some unmarried same-sex households--12%.) 39% of births are to unmarried women. 41% of first births to unmarried women are born while cohabiting. 2/5 of children will live in a cohabiting house at some point. The percent of households headed by unmarried parents has doubled since 1970. Nearly 40% of unmarried, opposite-sex households include children. AND nearly one third of all grandparents who are responsible for grandchildren are unmarried.

You can find sources for all these stats at

My point? US households don't look like they used to. Two married parents with kids is no longer universal and very close to not being the norm.

But this isn't a rant against marriage. And, to be clear, gays and lesbians should be able to marry and be recognized. The point isn't that marriage is outdated or not for everyone or isn't great for those who choose it. The point IS that the families who aren't married don't deserve to be discriminated against any more than the families of gays who want to get married.

The problem with DOMA is that real life is messy. People want to marry the same gender, sure. But people need health insurance. They need to visit their loved ones in the hospital. People need to be able to have property go to their loved ones when they die without fear of being penalized for not being married. People have custody and bank and tax and income issues tied first and foremost to their family unit, not their husband or wife.

Marriage as an institution may no longer be the best way for the government--state or federal--to recognize family structures. Because they come in all shapes and sizes and they all need support and respect.

It's time to end DOMA not just for gays and's time to end DOMA because it's time to stop "defending marriage" as the basis for society when it so clearly is no longer the only option for organizing a household.

The Supreme Court may be ready to rule that DOMA is unconstitutional, but the larger issue ahead in the courts...which may make it back to the Supreme Court in future whether the government can divide people into married and unmarried classes at all for the purposes of decision-making. Marital status, like gender or race or handicap, is not something to be judged on--let alone given benefits for.

Unmarried = unequal?