News The Marrying Kind
posted by October 17 at 8:36 AMon
Sunday’s New York Times featured a much-discussed story on married people in the United States becoming, for the first time in history, a minority group. Two days later it’s still one of the NYT’s most-emailed stories.
The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples—with and without children—just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.
The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.
The story goes on to report that 5% of all American households are made up of straight couples doing what used to be known as “shacking up,” which was, once upon a time, if you can believe it, I shit you not, an extraordinarily controversial thing for a straight couple to do. American families used to disown their straight children for shacking up, landlords would refuse to rent apartments to unmarried straight couples, hotels didn’t allow unmarried straight couples to dirty their sheets. When Republicans and religious conservatives pine for the good old days, straight folks, they don’t just want to stuff gays back in the closet. Nope. They also want to return us to the days when unmarried straight couples were forced to endure discrimination and petty slights.
The census survey also reports that there are nearly three quarters of a million same-sex couples living together in the United States. (413,000 male couples; 363,000 female couples.) Most of these couples are not legally married, of course. Same-sex couples can legally marry in just one state—marriage is under attack in Massachusetts, which nevertheless has the lowest divorce rates in the country—and the feds refuse to recognize the legality of those same-sex marriages. (Former House Rep. Gerry Studds, who died late last week, was married in Massachusetts. His widower, Dean Hara, won’t be receiving any part of Studds’ $114,337 federal pension . If Hara were a woman, he would be entitled to all of it.)
When shacked-up straight couples were asked why they weren’t marrying, a handful cited discrimination against gay and lesbian couples…
Some said that pregnancy was the only thing that would prompt them to make a legal commitment soon. Others said they never intended to marry. A few of those couples said they were inspired by solidarity with gay and lesbian couples who cannot legally marry in most states.
I know that some hip, progressive straight couples have qualms about marrying when their gay and lesbians family and friends cannot. I get letters every week at “Savage Loveâ€ť from straight couples that feel awkward about mailing out invites to their gay F&F. But all of these straight couples intend to get married; what they seem to want from me is absolution, special dispensation, along with a suggestion of some pro-marriage-equality gesture they can make before, during, or after the service. They want to marry—they are marrying—but they want to go on the record as supporters of marriage rights for all.
But, again, they’re getting married, regardless. And I support them in that—I want my straight friends and family to get married (hey there, Billy!).
So… I couldn’t help but wonder about these unmarried straight couples that told researchers that they aren’t getting married until us fags and dykes can. Hmm. Deeply held conviction or convenient excuse? Sincere gesture of solidarity with all oppressed homos everywhere? Or easy out, a convenient way for some straight folks to permanently get their parents off their backs?