Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rights Without Any Responsibility for Cohabiting Couples

I haven't been a resident of the UK for almost a year now, but this story is an important one to discuss because we will soon be having this discussion on our shores as well - Couples who are living together should have more legal rights.

With more and more people of my generation delaying or avoiding marriage, we in America will be facing this issue. What do we do with people who are cohabiting that break up? I'm loath to get the government involved in matters of the heart, but these relationships are not happening in a vacuum. Society must get involved if the couple needs adjudication over assets or children. Therefore some sort of public policy is needed.

In the UK, the
Law Commission suggests couples without children should have lived together for at least two years for them to be able to make a financial claim. Any financial compensation would be based on the contribution to the relationship, and the scheme would allow for couples to opt out...But it would mean that if, for example, a partner has given up a career to bring up children, they should receive compensation if the couple separates.

I'm on record as saying that I don't care if you are gay or straight, but society should only sanction a relationship if it based on commitment. That is when society benefits. I know there are exceptions, but long term commitments benefit society by having stable relationships that foster good health, hygiene, financial planning, etc. One is welcome to run life as a complete free agent, but don't expect society to reward you for such behavior.

This proposal by the Law Commission seems to be offering rights without asking any citizens to take on any responsibility. Society will cover your ass if you jumped into this thing too rashly. We'll be there to make sure you don't suffer lost wages if you wish to shack up with a guy/gal because that is the easiest thing to do. Sorry. That's not how it works. We have an option (or we are working toward them for homosexuals) that guarantee those things you seek, but also require something from you; it's called marriage.

As of now, 64% of the BBC's readers agree with me. Go on over and vote in the poll on the right sidebar to register your thoughts.