Not Wanting Marriage Shouldn’t be a Disadvantage

Mina Himlie, copy editor

Marriage is marketed as a beautiful, romantic thing — the ultimate end goal (besides children). Once you’re married, they say, you’ll be happy. This sort of rhetoric is what amatonormativity is made of. 

Amatonormativity is a term coined by Elizabeth Blake to describe “the widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.” The effects of this assumption often mean people place higher importance on romantic relationships rather than platonic relationships, friendships or familial relationships. 

Examples of amatonormativity in our society include phrases such as “just friends,” which implies that friendship is somehow “less than” a romantic relationship; shaming people for not having a partner or asking when (not if) someone will get a partner; or the idea that elderly people who have never been married must have lived lonely, unfulfilling lives. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, and if you look harder at our society, you can find it anywhere.

Our society is built on amatonormativity, largely through the institution of marriage. Since it is assumed that everyone will get married at some point, there are a lot of potential legal benefits for it, most of which people don’t think about.

Just to list a few: tax benefits when filing, estate tax exemptions when leaving property to your spouse, getting priority if your spouse needs someone to manage their money, obtaining insurance through your spouse’s employer, receiving workers’ compensation, retirement plan benefits and bereavement leave if your spouse dies, the ability to visit your spouse in the intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours, the legal right to make final arrangements for them, access to family zoned neighborhoods, family rates for insurance, tuition discounts and more.

Only some of these benefits apply to domestic partnerships and civil unions, and they can vary by state.

This is one reason why the queer community fought so hard for the legal right to marry. In the documentary titled “Out North: MNLGBTQ History,” Michael McConnell, one of the first LGBTQ+ rights activists in Minnesota, spelled it out: “The institution of marriage if you just look at it cold without the emotion, it is an institution that is used for the distribution of wealth and privileges. If you do not have the option to take advantage of that institution, you do not get certain rights and privileges in our culture.” The equality in the label of marriage is great; the legal benefits are just as important. 

Even though same-sex marriage is legal now — and is a huge step forward that should not be negated — there are still people who can’t or don’t want to legally marry. For instance, people with disabilities lose their disability benefits if they marry a person who does not have a disability. Though there was a bill introduced to Congress in 2022 called the Marriage Equality for Disabled Adults Act that would eliminate this barrier, it was never passed. In addition, polyamorous people who can’t marry all their partners (if that’s something they want) as well as aromantic people and people of any sexual orientation that don’t want to get married also miss out on these benefits.

The whole concept that married couples get benefits is rooted in amatonormativity and arophobia. It assumes that everyone can or wants to get married. So yes, those who want to get married should be able to, and the barriers to people with disabilities getting married should be eliminated. And, at the same time, everyone should be able to visit their loved one in the hospital and take time off of work to grieve if they die, regardless of the nature of the relationship. You shouldn’t have to be married or in a partnership for your love to be recognized. Romantic love isn’t the only type of love.