Readers respond to articles about peace activists in the Middle East, NARAL's name change and American "unmarrieds."

Published January 18, 2003 10:01PM (EST)

[Read "Unwedded Bliss," by Sheerly Avni.]

How revolutionary! People who are afraid to commit to the institution of marriage should be allowed to call themselves something else. Something like ... ummm ... "unmarried"!

And how unfair it is that couples who choose to "really" commit get special privileges ... like the honor of being called ... let's see ... married!

And if you are on welfare and choose to get married, you get an extra $100 per month. But this is not an incentive, it's a penalty directed against those brave souls who are almost committed, but don't quite want to go all the way, because getting "married" is really just a way of propping up the repressive regime of ... you guessed it ... marriage!

Someone should really try to clue in the "unmarried" that not everyone is worried or thinking about them.

A toast to those brave enough to be ... unmarried!

-- Todd Ojala

Although I have no opposition to couples choosing to co-habitate without being legally married and I agree that these unions can often be every bit as valuable as traditional "families," I must remind the author that marriage is a binding legal agreement that comes with rights and responsibilities. The idea is that two consenting adults decide to be legally bound to each other. No definition of partnership that does not involve a binding legal agreement can possibly provide the same protection for each partner. This is why gay marriage is a necessity and why vague domestic partnership provisions in law and company policy will only go so far. The problem treating people who act like they are married as if they were married in the law is very clear. Who decides what constitutes an "unmarried committed partnership" and what is just a temporary fling? Are all couples who live together and are intimate assumed to be committed partners? I bet lots of them would argue not.

And what if the relationship ends and the partners disagree about the nature of the relationship? Can the court really make a determination as to the nature of the relationship without some type of binding legal agreement? Would people really know what they are getting into when they move in with their boyfriend or girlfriend? How does the law determine which couples want the rights and responsibilities of marriage and which have avoided getting married, specifically because they don't want those responsibilities?

Marriage answers all of these questions and clarifies the legal obligations to all parties involved. If Mr. Miller really wants all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, then what is his opposition to marriage? Is it the word itself? The history? Its association with religion? Perhaps a change of term would be sufficient to resolve his concerns, yet still make room for a binding legal agreement. If he simply doesn't want to be bound, then how can he expect the rest of society to treat him as if he is?

-- Amber Newman

Marriage certainly doesn't guarantee any protections. When my second husband decided he wanted to find a younger wife (although I was 15 years his junior) the judge told me, "Mr. Roberts wishes to divest himself of his responsibilities and he has a right to divest himself of his responsibilities." Under the California "no-fault" divorce law at the time I was not even allowed to buy my home from him, but was forced to sell it, against my wishes, to a third party. I would have actually been better off if I hadn't been married to him.

-- Fran Spragens

Good, good, good. Finally some in the U.S. are understanding that daily life isn't shaped by a piece of paper (in this case, a marriage license) but by an underlyng feeling of commitment and respect for one another. Also, what great news that 40 percent of "illegitimate" children are actually growing up in a two-parent home. As a child of a committed unmarried couple (I'm 23, my parents have been living together for 27 years), I think it's a no-brainer to judge a relationship based on how stable people are in their own right as well as together. For my situation, the fact that I have C.P. is further proof that unmarried couples can have a long-term, stable relationship because 70 percent of marriages end in divorce when there is a disabled child.

On another point, why is it necessary to have a commitment ceremony at all when what's important is the day-to-day life?

-- Katrina Greschner

I made the decision to cohabitate with my boyfriend this year and it has been exactly what we needed -- not to "get married" but to completely share our lives together minus the pressure of planning and paying for an expensive wedding.

I don't even want a wedding because the thought of having my dysfunctional family there for a day is enough to make me never consider a wedding again. Not to mention we cannot afford a wedding unless my parents pay for it and that would feel like selling my soul to the devil, all for a wedding that I don't feel we even need.

My parents reared my siblings and me in an ultrafundamentalist home, so not being married actually feels a lot more comfortable to me because of the traditional overtones/oppressions it implies to me.

My boyfriend and I are life partners; we know this so intimately and deeply. Yet it is so difficult for many coworkers and friends to understand that a bond/commitment like this could exist outside of marriage.

I rejoice over the newly published lawyers' report and this organization that is protecting citizens who have chosen to live their lives in thoughtful, creative freedom of choice.

This article was a positive experience for me as I am heartened by a growing awareness of a diverse family acceptance in a time when the Bush administration brashly imposes its fundamentalist agenda onto entire populations of well-meaning American citizens.

-- Colleen Santoro

I've never been able to understand why Americans cling to this strange idea that life will be perfect if only they obtain the magic piece of paper that reads "happily ever after," when the evidence to the contrary is right before their eyes. My parents (and a lot of other folks I knew) had the license and they were clearly miserable -- never mind the ever-growing number of kids I knew whose folks were divorced -- yet more than one person literally laughed in my face when, as a young person, I said I didn't think I'd ever get married.

The last laugh is mine, however. I now live with my partner in Seattle, a city that leads the nation in unmarried domesticity (four of 10 couples here compared to one of 10 couples nationwide). God has yet to smite us or to destroy our fair city à la Sodom and Gomorrah. Even my family has stopped hassling us about getting married. I guess after six years of this they're finally convinced we mean it.

Thanks for the great article. Now I'm off to check out unmarried.org.

-- Kamilla White

[Read "Over My Dead Body," by Janelle Brown.]

These activists seem compassionate and very willing to help the less fortunate. Regarding the activists going to Iraq, what about chemical and biological weapons? The article did not address how these individuals will cope with that situation. What benefit will a human shield serve in the midst of nerve gas?

-- Catherine

Why was there such an urge to profile the members of the human shield movement as all college-age radicals without any serious evidence? The only quote said "roughly a third to a half" were under the age of 30. Meaning half to two-thirds of the activists are over 30. That sounds like a fairly average age range.

I have meet many middle-aged and elderly people engaging in similar activity as well as many middle-aged and elderly people that engaged in less direct action in Israel.

Stereotyping activists is too often a way to dismiss them. It is also usually inaccurate.

-- Chris Brown

The human shields are just another group of lefties who support the murder of Jews.

-- Daniel A. Greenbaum

[Read "NARAL by Any Other Name," by Sheerly Avni.]

When I saw the new pro-choice ads, I was mildly horrified. To me, this trivializes the meaning of choice, making it a choice little different from choosing what car to drive or blouse to wear. I think this will play into the hands of the other side.

I like the notion (which I thought was the position of the pro-choice movement) that says this choice is a very serious one that a women would not make lightly, and that some women will choose against abortion -- but the point was that wrestling with this decision should be left to the individual woman, not to the government.

We've always said being pro-choice was not necessarily the same as anti-abortion. To say you were pro-choice said nothing about your views on the morality of abortion. For me this meant I could easily be staunchly "pro-choice" without ever having to arrive at a painful, personal decision on the morality of abortion (my being a man).

To suggest the woman's choice is little different from choosing between brands of breakfast cereal will only help the other side cast "pro-choice" in the dim light of modern hedonism trumping a serious regard for the hard work of moral maturity. The movement would best stick to emphasizing the idea of keeping the government out of the moral decisions individuals must make for themselves.

-- Larry Hallock

Emphasizing "choice" may be brilliant marketing, but it is also intellectually and morally bankrupt. There are lots of choices we do not have. We have no choice about discriminating against women in employment, applying corporal spousal discipline (now there's a euphemism), having more than one spouse, paying taxes, building on (or even walking our dogs on) land that is home to endangered species, or serving alcohol to our minor children. We cannot choose the width of our stairs or the height of our ceilings. We cannot choose whether to spend money to have air bags installed in our cars.

There are solid reasons we do not have these choices. Abortion-rights proponents cannot just repeat a single word without explaining why the state should not be able to regulate that choice even when it regulates so many others.

Of course, the rhetoric of abortion-rights opponents makes no more sense. That verse from Jeremiah, "even before you were in the womb, I knew you," is a better argument against biblical literalism than it is against abortion. If it were true then abstinence would be almost as great an evil as abortion.

So why are abortion-rights proponents and opponents equally unable to articulate their position?

-- James Eschen

By Salon Staff

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