Bee misleads on marriage

The Sac Bee’s cover story on differences between married couples, domestic partnerships and other types of couples includes a table of info outlining some specific differences regarding children, medical and taxes. Without opening up this debate, several claims in the Bee’s graphic about marriage and other relationships are misleading.

The Bee believes that people with no legally recognized relationship have “No legal right to act as a parent in school issues.” However, “no recognized legal status” also describes single parents and their relationships. Clearly a single mother would have legal right to act as her child’s parent, but the dude she lives with in an unrecognized relationship would not. I don’t think anybody wants to extend those rights to him. I mean look at his tattoos and his lack of dental hygiene! So the Bee’s description is not only inaccurate but also unhelpful — clearly we cannot necessarily extend full parental rights to all people in non-recognized relationships.

The other issue with the Bee’s infograph is more important. The Bee claims married couples have “Full legal rights to have biological children together.” Clearly the full weight of that sentence could never be applied to a gay couple, since both man parts and woman parts are required to make a baby. Beyond that, is there actually a legal right to procreate? I suppose there is one generally, since the state would run afoul of Constitutional rights if it tried to restrict a couple’s right to procreate. But surely there are loopholes. Can a couple sue their fertility doctor if the treatments don’t work, for violating their legal right to procreate? Can a husband sue his wife for taking birth control against his wishes? Or a wife legally force her husband to have a vasectomy? Those are not rhetorical questions — I’m legitimately not sure if those things could happen.

Regardless, surely the most important problem with the Bee’s claim is that if this graphic is supposed to point out rights conferred by marriage that are not conferred upon domestic partnership even in California, there is still the “biological” part of that sentence. Do the 18,000 gay couples who are currently legally married in California have “Full legal rights to have biological children together”? I don’t even think this statement is true if you ignore the meaning of “have children” meaning procreate. A straight married person raising a child that belongs biologically only to his/her spouse (a step child) is not automatically conferred legal parental rights, correct? The child’s other biological parent is assumed to have parental rights, if I’m not mistaken.

The Bee also claims that married couples have full legal rights to “Full legal right to … make decisions about all aspects of their youngsters’ lives, including medical and school issues.” Teenagers in California have a host of legal rights that prevent their parents from making decisions for them. Perhaps that is why the Bee used the phrase “youngsters” — although by law a 12-year-old is able to give their own consent to be treated for an STD, for example. And parents who want to make decisions about what parts of the public school curriculum their children are exposed to would take issue with that statement as well. Parents have specific rights to opt their children out of certain types of education, but the right of parents to make decisions on this issue is far from comprehensive.

A final point: the graphic claims married couples “Must file ‘single’ federal returns,” but I’m guessing that is just a typo. (“May file” perhaps?)

The marriage definition question is a weighty one and has repercussions regardless of how one answers the question. But it is irresponsible to put forth inaccurate and misleading information into this debate, as the Bee has done today.

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

13 thoughts on “Bee misleads on marriage”

  1. Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize gay marriages. So a married gay couple must indeed file their federal tax returns as single, but their state returns as married.

    This leads to the biggest unfairness of all: If a man and woman are married, and she stays home to raise children (no income of her own), she is entitled to his Social Security benefits upon his death. If two women (or two men) are married and one stays home, the one who stays home is entitled to…nothing. Same circumstances, same income, vastly different result.

    I agree that the right to produce biological children together is problematic. This could have been written much more clearly, since that part seems to refer to the ability of a partner to act as parent toward the other partner’s child.


  2. Plus they are comparing “no legal status” to “marriage” whereas domestic partnerships would be the more appropriate comparison with regard to legal rights. California law extends all of the same rights to registered domestic partners as to civil marriages.


  3. Heymeg, that’s true, but many private insurers, hospitals, and employers refuse to, no matter what the state says, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.


  4. I was pretty confused by the Bee table this morning myself. It was pretty hard to nail down what was actually different between domestic partnership and marriage.

    I have gay couple next door who are very active in the gay marriage effort. But when I ask them, and read things like this Bee article, it is not very easy to grasp exactly what additional rights are granted by legal gay marriage. It seems most of the remaining rights being pursued by advocates are linked to federal law.


  5. Moe, if I read you correctly you’re saying that although state law provides equal legal rights to registered domestic partners, the problem is that the state law is not being followed. If that’s what you’re saying my response is that the remedy for violations of state law would be the same in those cases as in any other: sue for enforcement, etc. It doesn’t require changing the definition of marriage.


  6. Good gravy, HeyMeg–have you still not gotten to those marriage-v-civil-unions resources posted for you back in…November?

    To refresh:


    Learn more about why civil unions are not marriages, and how they do not afford the same protections and privileges; the federal DOMA (”Defense of Marriage Act”) complicates the picture somewhat, but attaining the status of married is an absolutely necessary step to full equality:

    Yeah, the Bee chart made a hash of things–but that doesn’t mean there’s no real difference in rights between those who can legally marry and those who cannot.

    And if you want marriages to be hetero-only due to religious beliefs, then you should want the government out of the marriage business completely. For everyone.


  7. HeyMeg,

    Civil marriage is a legal term with a legal definition. Legal terms are re-definable.

    Like the legal term voter. Used to be just white men land-owning males. Ok, now you other white males can vote, but the blacks dudes that work for you… a half vote from black men. Then, alright already, women too. See, it’s that easy, or was that hard… anyways there are many examples of legal terms redefined over time which I’m sure you can play with too. Geese, those old legal definitions of voter seem so silly and outdated now.

    But that’s kind of the crux of your statement. Would you hop in your time-machine and tell a suffragette she doesn’t have the right to define voter?

    A domestic partnership != civil marriage. It’s a form of segregation and a reinstitution of Separate but Equal mentality.

    But your right about moe hong’s problem. If an insurer in CA denies medical benefits, it’s against the currently defined law. They should sue.


  8. sorry there was ‘sposed to be a {/soapbox} in there somewhere… but wordpress saw fit to nix that bit of html based humor… tra-la-la.


  9. No one can marry anyone. Thats it. Thats the solution. No marriage for anyone. You want to get married? Do what you do to get baptised. You want a recognized relationship? cosign.


  10. The difference is that a man and a woman are equally qualified to be voters but a homosexual couple is not equally qualified to lead a family, which is the institution government is attempting to develop when providing incentives and recognition for marriage. I question the place of government doing that at all but to the extent it does so the gay marriage discussion is not analogous to suffrage.

    It’s not that homosexuality should be criminalized, it’s that a relationship which by its nature is unable to provide a mother and father is not one which contributes to the strongest family structure. To the extent government is providing incentives and recognition to family structures (again, there is some room for debate here) the one that should be idealized is the one that provides a mother and father.

    That’s a comment that will set off a whole bunch of anger and blah blah blah but it’s Saturday and I’ll say in advance I don’t have time to respond to them. Think or say what you will, I’ve said my piece and owned up to it.


  11. ^^^ [insert statement ripping on group of people without any supporting facts] ok I’ve said my piece and owned up to you and if you get angry well blah blah blah.


  12. Actually, HeyMeg, the state law says that for the purposes of the state of California that civil unions and marriage are the same – it’s not a law that requires private businesses to follow it, though, as we’ve seen with religious hospitals, charities & various insurers.


  13. Somehow I don’t think the idea that repealing Prop 8 would force religious employers to embrace homosexual unions is something the movement is going to emphasize.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s