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.