Gay Marriage Fallout

by W.F. Price on November 15, 2012

After dozens of tries, gay marriage finally squeaked out an electoral victory here in Washington state, thanks in large part to a six-to-one funding advantage provided courtesy of one-percenters like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com) and Jim Sinegal (Costco).

I don’t think gay marriage will make much of a difference to society in general. We’ve already crossed the cultural Rubicon, so what does it matter? If anything, the government never should have gotten into the marriage business in the first place, and if it hadn’t gay “marriage” would be a moot point. Marriage is the kind of thing that should be defined by culture and custom rather than the state, but we’re stuck with the government regulating it now, so it was probably inevitable that some strange things would happen to the institution somewhere along the line.

However, it will make a difference for the people who actually (unwisely) get involved in a gay civil marriage, because they will suddenly become subject to the same kind of tangled mess that so many straight couples get into. For lesbians, it will be a particularly big problem, because of custody issues and precedents. What will happen with lesbian couples is that judges will take the birth mother of any children as the default mother, and the other woman as the “father.” We all know what fathers face in divorce, so it isn’t going to be pleasant for lesbian partners who are not the birth mother when there’s a divorce. Furthermore, I can imagine all sorts of contention and intrigue involving children.

Let’s say a lesbian woman is in a gay civil marriage, and she chooses to save time and money, or maybe she just wants to have some fun on the side (many “lesbians” actually do sleep with straight men from time to time), and gets pregnant in the cheap, conventional way — by penis. When pregnant she assures her partner that the child will be theirs, but neglects to tell the man she’s pregnant, or her partner how she got pregnant — let’s say she lied and said she used donor sperm. Later, she files for divorce and initiates a paternity suit against the biological father at the same time in an effort to kill two birds with one stone (deep-six the lesbian lover’s custody chances and get child support at the same time). In the meanwhile, the non-maternal partner had legally adopted the child. But the man never knew he had a kid, and after he’s hit with the paternity suit he gets involved and sues for visitation, arguing that he should have a right to see the child he didn’t know about. If you’re a judge, how do you settle this? Does the non-maternal lesbian pay child support and keep visitation rights, or does the father take on that role? What does the judge do about the adoption? Does the child have the right to a relationship with his biological father, or a non-related lesbian “father?” And keep in mind that this is simply one of many possible permutations of the custody problem that could arise in lesbian civil marriages.

Gay men will be able to avoid this, but they aren’t going to marry at the same rate as lesbian women. They also are not going to adopt very much (it’s expensive and a hassle), and since they can’t get pregnant they’ll have far, far fewer children than lesbian couples. However, they will have another problem to deal with: property disputes. When gay men split up in a relationship that doesn’t involve a civil contract, they are forced to be reasonable. I keep mine, you keep yours, etc. When lawyers get involved, it is going to complicate matters. I expect this issue will limit gay male civil marriage and therefore divorce, but in cases where it does occur it will likely precipitate a fair amount of conflict and lead to a greater incidence of inter-partner violence.

So, now that gays have civil marriage, they will be subjected to the same laws that make straight divorce such a painful, drawn out mess, and the “benefits” they gain from official civil marriage won’t be worth the extra trouble (most marriage benefits have already been significantly watered down and now extend to unmarried partners as well).

The only significant result of the new law will be that gays will now have a greater incidence of domestic violence, more custody litigation, and much higher legal expenses.

The lesson:

Be careful what you wish for

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