Re: Family (a definition)

lhaarsma@OPAL.TUFTS.EDU
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 18:16:44 -0400 (EDT)

Jan de Koning wrote:

> The definition of family should not be changed. Still, I knew three
> sisters, who lived together since the thirties. Only one is still alive.
> I would think it perfectly normal that we find a definition, say depending
> on years together, to recognize such committed relationships. If we make
> it possible for such "bonded living", without calling it a "family ", we
> will take away some of the arguments of those who want gay marriages,
> while also recognizing the special bonding which indeed exists, and need
> not be a sinful, sexual relationship.

Excellent!

I agree with some of what both Dean Ohlman and John Burgeson have
written on this topic, and I was just gearing up to make such a
suggestion, but Jan beat me to the punch. Glad to see it.

Our society relies on families to provide some strands in the "social
safety net" --- child health care, for example. (This is all the more
true as we become a more mobile society; extended families and communities
are providing fewer and fewer strands in that safety net.) Many children
have health coverage through their parent's employment-based insurance.
If a single parent (single due to divore or due to death) has been living
with another adult (same sex or different, sexual relationship or not) for
some time, it would be nice if the second adult's health insurance could
cover the children if the parent is, for some reason, unemployed or only
partially employed without health benefits.

(That particular example would be moot if children had universal health
coverage, but there are a few other examples: hospital visiting rights,
the right to take unpaid leave from work to care for a sick "family"
member, etc.)

I definitely believe that "marriage" should be restricted to its current
definition, with all its governmental and societal privileges designed to
make it a stable environment for raising children. Given today's
realities (many single parents, extended families seldom living in the
same city, etc.), I also think it would be sensible for the state and/or
federal governments to create another official category, which confers
_some_ of those privileges (selected with an eye towards that "safety net"
concept) for siblings or close friends living together (or living close to
each other), regardless of whether the relationship is same-sex or
different, sexual or non.

This _seems_ like a way to care for people without weakening the
institution of marriage or encouraging immorality. Can anyone forsee
problems with establishing such a category?

Loren Haarsma