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22 December 2011

Praise: Keith Ablow on Marriage

I find myself quite surprised to be agreeing on something with Dr. Ablow.  During the 2011 Dancing With The Stars, which included Chaz Bono (possibly the most famous transgender man on Earth) this year, Dr. Ablow made a number of disparaging remarks on Fox News, implying that watching Mr. Bono might change one's inner gender or that transgender might be contagious or something like that.  No surprise that Cher came to her son's defense.  Dr. Ablow was also criticized at Psych Central and in the Atlantic in addition to numerous bloggers writing for and against his take on transgender people.

Moving ahead to the present, Dr. Ablow wrote an opinion column at Fox News yesterday about marriage.  When I read this I expected a lot of misinformation and material that I could use to blast him in a blog post here.  What I read was reasonable and intriguing.  After discussing the decline of marriage in the United States, he offers the following.
The solution is obvious: Get the state entirely out of the marriage business. No more marriage licenses. No more special treatment of married couples by the IRS or any other facet of government. No state ever had a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses, to begin with, since marriage is a spiritual commitment and quite often, a religious one. And it is, fundamentally, an intensely personal one based in autonomy—until city hall gets involved and messes everything up.
>In the new paradigm I suggest, every couple wishing to get married would state that intention to their house of worship or their community of family and friends. They would take meaningful vows in front of gatherings of loved ones. Then they would—like knowledgeable and competent adults, rather than state-dependent, incompetent children—sign financial documents they generate together (while represented by attorneys or knowledgably waiving that right) which would govern how their assets should be pooled during the term of the contract and how they should be divided in the event they decide to end the contract. The state’s interest would be limited to enforcing laws about fair amounts of child support and fair visitation rights which must be included in such documents when children are born.
That’s it. The state would protect kids financially and emotionally from parents who fail to protect them. Otherwise, they would have no business getting involved in people’s marriages at all. They never had any business getting involved in them, to begin with.
Trust me, if marriage were thus structured as a union of heart and mind between competent adults making reasoned decisions, rather than abdicating their autonomy and infantilizing themselves, it would have a much better chance of surviving in our culture. 
As worded, this allows for same sex marriage and opposite sex marriage.  This even allows for transgender people to wed, despite Dr. Ablow's previous misgivings about them.  This would be a version of true marriage equality.  There is no mandate on any religion and couples who can't find a religion that will accept and marry them can turn to their family and friends.

The flaws in Dr. Ablow's proposal include the loss of special treatment by the IRS for married couples, not something that I have considered in the past and I'm not sure I agree with him on this.  I like the idea of the government using taxes to encourage marriage.  I believe that having more stable couples in society is beneficial to the whole of society. 

I'm surprised that the social conservatives at Fox are not upset in the media yet.  There are a few negative responses.  From Law To Grace denies the premise, failing marriage.  Most of the responses in the blogosphere are from the liberals.  It is an interesting idea.

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