Friday, October 28, 2005

Why would we marry?

The following is a interview I did with my law and inequality and law proffessor. She is brillant, when I was working at OUThouse she came and did a talk on partnership rights and was ableto express herself in a way that everyone could understand. This interview has already been printed in wsm's newspaper and spread around the internet. Today my flatmate got it in an email from some anarchism list from the states that he is on!!!

Interview with Judy Walsh on a personal capacity

T: Can you explain how marriage and partnership rights are decided regulated in Ireland?

JW: There is a very clear hierarchy in Irish legal system. Marriage is the very privileged family form and that is confined to straight people. At the moment it excludes people who have a different gender identity that hasn’t been recognized.

In terms of what this contract involves, once you sign up for marriage you take on farley extensive obligations towards your partner but you also have a range of benefits confirmed on your largely around tax, social welfare, employment benefits.

T: Can you explain how the policies now around partnership rights as a negative impact for all relationship outside of marriage and not just same sex couples?

JW: Anything outside the marital family unit is treated less favourably so solo parents, people who are heterosexual but are cohabiting or not and are not married are all treated as lesser forms of family then the martial family, the courts have made that very clear. The constitution prescribes special protection for the married family.

In relation to social welfare last year the government introduced legislation to say that gay or lesbian co-habiting couples are not to be treated as couples for the purpose of social welfare.

In most area you find that married couples are benefiting and have the most defined set of rights. If own a property and if you are married your spouse has an automatic share in the property, more over married couples don’t have to pay inheritance tax. If you are not married and you are in the same situation and your partner dies it depends whether you have written a will or not. Your partner is a stranger to the law.

T: Can you talk about the few other inequality when you can’t be married, in terms of children for example?

JW: Sure, children are probably the one is most acute in people’s actual lives.

In terms of parent child relationships, if you are married both parents are automatically the legal guardians of their children. Where the partner of the kid is not married to each other the mother is atomically given custody and rights over the child.

Married fathers are presumed to be automatically good parents and unmarried fathers are seem as having a lesser status. The real problem here is not discrimination based on gender but on martial status.

T: How does this effect same sex couple that have a child?

JW: The biological parent, whether they be a man or women is the guardian. The partner would fall outside the parental unit. There is no provision at the moment to have gay or lesbian partner to be appointed as guardian.

T: When do you see these laws changing so same sex couple are able to get married?

JW: Marriage is somewhere off in the distant future. The Gay and lesbian lobby have various positions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Many groups that have put in proposals are saying they don’t want marriage per say they just want some form of recognition. For example GLUE who are concerned mostly with people whose partner outside the EU was some form of recognition, for them it’s an urgent issue of being able to be with there partner in the one place.

David Norris drew up a bill to put gay and lesbian relationships on some sort of legal footing and opposite sex no married couples. This was introduced last year but it has been deferred. The government indicated that it would draw up its own proposals. The issue is gaining some political issues, and I can image there will be a larger debate around this fairly soon.

T: Do you think that state should be regulating interpersonal relationships?

JW: There needs to be some form of ground rules to protect people from being exploited from violence and abuse.

Traditionally the state as used marriage for the base of many things, basically maintaining inequalities, privatise responsibility and care. Basically the state subsidise marriage, we give it financial benefits, we need to ask why don’t we subsidize solo parents instead for example. At the moment children are inheriting the poverty of there parents. People talk about meritocracy and I think it’s a joke.

T: What is your utopian vision of relationship formation and regulation

JW: Autonomy and equality as the two core values, where every individual would have autonomy and the right to self-determination, to freely choose the type of relationships they want to form with whom, when etc. Subject there not being able to exploit or abuse someone else.

If each individual had a basic standard of living regardless of gender or martial status, the questions about what happens when you cohabitate with someone or get married become more or less irrelevant.

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