Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is this a Dave Eggers hoax?

And if so, to what end? This story is almost gift-wrapped for those of us who want to move the debate beyond same-sex marriage.

But check out the name of the "first deputy."

The data tells it straight -- three quarters of domestic partnerships in New York City are heterosexual couples.

"So far this year, 27% of overall domestic partnership registrations are same- sex couples. We are on par percentage-wise with last year," said Michael McSweeney, first deputy at the Office of the City Clerk.
OK, probably not, though you never know with those humor magazine guys. But in NYC it probably would have been The Onion.

Anyhow, the numbers tell an interesting story. As of October 25th, 2,096 opposite-sex couples in New York registered for domestic partnerships this year, while only 767 same-sex coupels did. The trend is accelerating, and it's not hard to see why.

Take my friend M. She and her boyfriend T had been dating and living together for years. He worked for an airline, and she was a self-employed yoga instructor and dancer. They were young and progressive, and with him traveling all the time something about the major commitment of marriage didn't make sense for them (what a pain in the ass getting divorced would have been, for one thing). But they had a household. By registering as domestic partners, M could get T's health benefits and travel all around the country for free. So, somewhat ambivalently, they decided to get their household recognized by the state as a domestic partnership. My old coworker N made a similar decision with one of her babydaddies. "My husband? Hell no," I remember Nidia once saying. "We have a family, though, and he's my domestic partner for all the benefits." Apparently thousands of straight New Yorkers make the same decision every year.

For some of the benefits, it's just a stopgap, of course (the real goal should be universal health care, for example), but in the meantime, this makes sense (and for certain rights it's the only solution, such as hospital visitation).

As my old comrade Bill Dobbs said,
"It gives you flexibility because marriage is a very intricate set of connections that sometimes you need a cutting torch to get rid of. You have options now, among them are domestic partnership, civil unions. People want other ways to get benefits and be connected."
Kim and Duggan said it best:

Marriage is on the decline: Marital reproductive households are no longer in the majority, and most Americans spend half their adult lives outside marriage. The average age at which people marry has steadily risen as young people live together longer; the number of cohabitating couples rose 72 percent between 1990 and 2000. More people live alone, and many live in multigenerational, nonmarital households; 41 percent of these unmarried households include children. Increasing numbers of elderly, particularly women, live in companionate nonconjugal unions (think Golden Girls). Household diversity is a fact of American life rooted not just in the "cultural" revolutions of feminism and gay liberation but in long-term changes in aging, housing, childcare and labor.
Our revealed preferences suggest that a lot of us have moved beyond marriage. We need some orderly recognition of our chosen household structures, but we don't necessarily want to participate in an institution so fraught with quaint obligations and ugly history. We have moved on. Now it's time for public policy to catch up.


  • At 5:32 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    It's also fairly likely that domestic partnership registration is relatively attractive in New York as compared to other states because unlike most other states, New York doesn't have no-fault divorce. That makes it huge, expensive pain in the ass to get out of a marriage here.

  • At 7:06 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Very good point.

    I know I'm repeating myself in this post, but I wanted to have a post in which I succinctly made the argument, so that I can link to it in the future.

  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    It occurs to me that you might want to pitch this to TPM.


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