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Professional Institute of Married People (PIMP)

A real institution of marriage
(+1, -1)
  [vote for,

This is derived from my previous idea.

People make commitments to each other. Sometimes these commitments have legal consequences, and are then called "marriage". At other times they have none and are not. This leads to a debate about gay marriage, i.e. should it be recognised as a legal entity? One problem with not recognising it is that there is no next of kin, and if marriage is not legally recognised this would then also be a problem in heterosexual partnerships. Other problems are property, probate and custody of dependants. However, the legal seriousness of marriage does seem to encourage commitment within it and deter people from marrying frivolously to an extent.

I suggest that this could be solved by making marriage a two-tier institution but without legal recognition. An institution akin to a professional body, guild, association or union should be constituted with membership which commits people to a code of professional conduct as a spouse, homo- or heterosexual, with bureaucracy, regular inspections and all the usual rubbish which comes with membership of a professional body or similar. This very bureaucracy and hassle deters people from joining frivolously. The advantages would be the ability to nominate next of kin, provide some kind of rudimentary pre-nuptial agreement, furnish couples with different kinds of marriage contract and allow some kind of second-tier relationship for people who feel it's necessary. There would be a sliding scale of joining fees and associate membership, and one could be thrown out for professional misconduct.

This would mean that the institution of marriage could still exist, have some legal force but would not be sanctioned or condemned by the government, thereby avoiding partisanship on the issue, and would still be daunting for people getting married due to the off-putting bureaucracy or hassle involved.

One of the options for marriage would still include a punitive and unequal contract between the partners.

nineteenthly, Sep 03 2010

And like a bunch of sheep, we let them enforce it !? http://en.wikipedia...Common-law_marriage
baaah [2 fries shy of a happy meal, Sep 03 2010]


       //one could be thrown out for professional misconduct// sp. two ?, ie: "Mr & Mrs Smith, we found evidence of garbage that hasn't been taken out, and those dishes in the sink are at least 2 days old; you're demoted back to dating..."
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2010

       I think you nailed this in the last idea - there are two "levels" of marriage - a joyous, romantic, social, sexual level, and a separate (but currently conflated) legal, contractual, property/probate/custody version. End of.   

       And in some ways that's kind of already the case. If a couple so choose, they can arrange a 'blessing' in one of a number of exciting faiths - and separately, choose, or not choose, to have it legally backed up by going to the registrar. Or, if they're more into the legals, and not the pomp, they can go direct to the registrar without all the messing about.   

       The whole part about gender roles (as was the bit about Marks & Spencers last time) is by-the-by as you point out in terms of same-sex marriages.   

       Personally, I'd like to see the sex-element taken out of marriage altogether and allow people who don't have sex, but who cohabitat and live in parternship (flatmates, close friends, various inter-familial relationships) should be able to enter into this 'legal-partnership' framework - should they decide that it would be beneficial to them. Why should the law in this regard be limited to people who feel the need to touch one another's genitals?   

       So yes, two levels of "marriage" - one focusing on the romantic/biological/faith elements, and the other, a purely legal partnership arrangement, no sex required. This is the ideal we should be working towards.   

       This way, Brittney Spears can go and have as many romantic Las Vegas marriages as she likes, without bothering the legal profession. Dereck and Clive can quietly settle their legal anxieties about life-insurance, and Betty and her long-time platonic friend Sally, who somehow came about sharing a lovely cottage in the country can be assured that the untimely death of one wont result in the homelessness of the other. And for those men and women who wish to get married "traditionally" still can by doing both - just like they can today.
zen_tom, Sep 03 2010

       //no sex required//well... sex *is* regarded as being right up there with food & shelter as a pretty strong driving force. Maybe we can start in on sublimated sex-drive vocationals: people dedicated to their calling to the exclusion of a people partnership: ministers, mad scientists, motivational speakers...   

       [zen_tom] so basically "more than one person sharing the same space at the same time", perhaps with "to the exclusion of spending their time spraying grafitti and wasting police services' time draggin them out of the gutter on weekend mornings" or summat.
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2010

       //sex *is* regarded as being right up there with food & shelter as a pretty strong driving force.//   

       Sure it is, but we don't have special laws and civil ceremonies that celebrate couples sharing the same taste in jam, or of appreciating particular architectural features? <rhetorical> Why is sex singled out as a *driver*? Of course, it's because of the biological reproductive element of a marriage - but in this modern age, we're not interested in "tradition", "duty" or "parenthood" - we're interested in "rights", "equality" and "freedom". Splitting marriage into two distinct bits, we get to pick the best of all worlds. From the progressive, to the traditional, and everything inbetween.   

       To clarify - for those who want a "traditional" wedding - they go to church, do the romantic bit, then afterwards, they sign the legal document. That's what happens already.   

       But, if we changed the legal bit to allow anyone who so chose, to enter into a legal partnership (they could form a corporation I suppose, but there are annual returns to fill out and the paperwork can be an arse) wherin they are allowed to share bank-accounts, be considered as a partnership in terms of property rights etc and generally work together on a financial, legal and economic basis. That's what a marriage legally affords couples who have sex with one another - but I don't really see the legal connection with property rights and sexual intercourse. If two people believe that they are going to spend a considerable amount of time together in that kind of cooperative relationship, then why not let them join in a legal partnership?   

       As I said before, we do it all the time in our professional lives when we create, join, or work for corporations, so why not have a kind of personal corporation framework - after all, that's all (the legal side) of what a marriage already is - it's just been tied to sex due to a long history of precedent. And since we live in a world of social and faith plurality - anyone can decide on what form a romantic, ceremonial wedding can take - whether it's man-woman, man-man, woman-woman, or man-woman-fuschia, if you can stand up and keep a straight-face for long enough to convince people you're not taking the piss, that's all you need.   

       I think the idea skirts close to this option, but veers away at the last minute, keeping the whole sexual/gender-role thing tied up with the property rights/legal thing - and is trying to solve the issue by making marriage a temporary 2-year contract. Much easier to split out the conflicting baggage currently bound together in the term "marriage" and treat the bits that are contradictory separately.
zen_tom, Sep 03 2010

       //we don't have special laws and civil ceremonies that celebrate couples sharing the same taste in jam... or... architecture//   

       There's certainly more laws on the books regarding agriculture, food distribution and preparation, and residential zoning than there are regarding human sexual practices, and regarding ceremonies, most people will have more housewarmings and harvest festivals than marriage ceremonies.   

       However, from society's point of view it becomes "well if there's two of them then they can take care of each other and we don't have to". The childrearing option of course adds "and they won't have any time to bother anybody else" as well as "and they're raising future members of (our) society".
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2010

       //There's certainly more laws on the books regarding agriculture, food distribution and preparation, and residential zoning than there are regarding human sexual practices// Yes there are, but none of them are ever been used to join a couple in anything remotely similar to "holy matromony" - or that grant them probate rights - I suppose that's my point - to avoid having too much sex in the law.
zen_tom, Sep 03 2010

       yahbut a) *you're* the one arguing that Agatha and Mildred who are together for a love of gardening, should have couple rights, and b) I wasn't equating a love of food or buildings with sex or couplehood.   

       That being said, "food and shelter" would be pretty high up on the post's list of things to inspect.   

       But there's also the question of "is this union within the moral statutes of society?"... a couple of dudes who are basically together to post bail for each other, or a hetero couple who's raising a bunch of pre-school terrorists would hardly be considered for validation.
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2010

       //yahbut a) *you're* the one arguing that Agatha and Mildred who are together for a love of gardening, should have couple rights, and b) I wasn't equating a love of food or buildings with sex or couplehood.//   

       a) Yes, I am.
b) Oh yes you were!

       (Or at least that's what I thought you were implying with //-//no sex required//well... sex *is* regarded as being right up there with food & shelter as a pretty strong driving force.-//)   

       But, re //"is this union within the moral statutes of society?"// - I'd make the corporation comparison again. If you and I choose to set up a corporation, we will be entering into a legal partnership that affords us specific legal, property and directorial rights - we'd have to submit accounts to be audited on an anuual basis, but it would otherwise be pretty similar to a marriage", in the purely legal sense - and it would have nothing to do with our sexual feelings towards each other.   

       So why not continue to provide the legal rights afforded by marriage (much the same as those afforded by two (or more) people starting a corporation) but remove the legal barrier requirement that the people entering into this legal partnership have to (be understood to) have sex?   

       If those dudes/terrorists wanted to circumvent the current laws, all they'd have to do is persuade enough people that they are sexually involved and bam, marriage ahoy. Why bother (in this day and age) with this sex-focused requirement on what is - in purely legal terms - a series of legal protections and responsibilities?
zen_tom, Sep 03 2010

       //oh yes you were// nah, just sayin' that there's a physical urge which tends to stick people together.   

       Hmm, actually I *was* comparing sex to food or shelter. All are very close to being physically necessary, and are more enjoyable with a partner. Carry on.   

       //dudes or terrorists// a bit of clarification: by "dudes" I was referring basically to two friends living together but not as life-partners in any sense: their combined effect on society isn't one of reinforcement. Likewise "terrorists": a couple who are together to destroy society (which I'm going to differ from people who are in fringe or niche positions and/or trying to change society).   

       hmm </ramble> I was thinking that while sexually active hetero life-couples' vocation society-wise is population, there needs to be other positions as well. There's the "superintendent couple" which takes care of an apartment building... Presidency of the US seems to be a child-neutral "couple" position or at least is portrayed as such in the media. </r>
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2010

       Have we all given up voting on ideas then?
nineteenthly, Sep 03 2010

       I think that you are missing out on a major political aspect of this.

States & religions tend to want their citizens/worshippers to propogate more little citizens/worshippers in order to keep the state/religion in being. Hence the reason that, historically, the state (which was/is often an arm of the religious establishment) has granted special legal status to marriage. So you cannot seperate sex from the legal aspects because, from the state's perspective, marriage is all about sex. You get married, you have children, the state rewards you.

Obviously you can have children outside of a married relationship but kids are expensive so the state harnesses human sexual urges by providing a financial & legal incentive for you to go right ahead and get breeding. As I see it (in my tired cynical way), a marriage certificate is just a license to breed and all the religious hokem that surrounds it is just there to distract from this reality.

When you get down to it, all the hoo-ha about same sex marriages is just the traditional powers objecting to giving the same legal status to people who aren't going to breed. If you do that, the argument might go, then what incentive is there to create more little citizens/believers?

Vote withheld, just to be annoying!
DrBob, Sep 03 2010

       Well, see this as a modest proposal then.   

       OK fine, i never fishbone so maybe i should never bun either.
nineteenthly, Sep 03 2010


       There is no reason why any two (or more) people cannot draw up a contract, stating exactly what they want. That contract can then be witnessed and (depending on local law) notorised. As such, it becomes legally binding.   

       This is already common in the form of pre-nuptual agreements, which go further by effectively overriding decisions which might otherwise be made by a court in the event of divorce.   

       My wife and I had a Pagan wedding, which we constucted entirely ourselves. We have since used the registry office to get 'legally' married because it makes a lot of things easier with wills etc.   

       We consider our marriage to be the Pagan wedding, while the registry office event was for legal purposes. If we weren't happy with the implications of legal marriage, we could have drawn up our own contract to state what went where in what event etc.   

       Rather than a two tier system, perhaps we could have a pick 'n' mix contract - tick boxes for 'equal ownership of all property' or 'no offspring' etc. as required. While this clearly lacks romance, there's nothing to prevent the couple from having their own ceremony for that purpose.
Twizz, Sep 03 2010

       Slightly off topic, yet strangely not.
Heck, just become a Canadian citizen. If you then take up residence in Saskatchewan you can already be in another marriage. Crazy I say.

       Shack up with someone for six months here, and our government will marry the two of you...with or without you consent.   

       The nerve of the bastards. [link]   

       [Twizz], as it happens we have a similar arrangement. We married in the register office first, then the day after had a humanist ceremony in the Friends' Meeting House which my father-in-law, who was a vicar, then blessed in the interval of silence we imposed for people to make whatever contribution they chose, so the conceptual status of our marriage is a bit complicated. This is partly what led to these ideas.   

       [Fries], that's a little disturbing. Do you also end up inheriting each others' property when you die or having to go through a divorce when you split up?
nineteenthly, Sep 03 2010

       The whole thing is starting to unravel. As the notion of personal liberty over societal regulation gains strength the government gradually looses the ability to categorize and enforce roles on citizens. The moment that the government stopped regulating consensual sexual behavior it became impossible to "regulate" marriage and thus reproduction. The culture wars in the US, and I imagine in the UK, distill into a battle between personal liberties vs. community standards.   

       Why not extend the unlimited benefit of theses "social goods" (directed inheritance, medical visitation, child/parent context) to everyone equally? If beyond that the individuals wish to enter into contractual sexual or property relationships then let them (with sensible limits on the parties/powers ).   

       The debate reeks of enforced normalization. Liberties for me! Everyone else must conform!
WcW, Sep 03 2010

       //the notion of personal liberty over societal regulation gains strength// [WcW] begging your pardon that's silly. Society strengthens its grip on some things while it relinquishes others. I mean, it didn't use to be the case that police would intervene to prevent you photographing a public building. And have you tried carrying homemade electronics through an airport lately? Making uninvited sexual advances to a coworker? Using a derogatory racial epithet in public? Driving with an elevated blood alcohol level? Smoking in any of the many, many places where that used to be fine, and no longer is?   

       On the other hand, you'll be pleased to know that, in the US, society has relaxed its regulatory grip over your right to carry concealed firearms, and, several US states have expanded your right to enjoy marriage without the interferance caused by other people enjoying other marriages of the wrong kind.
mouseposture, Sep 04 2010

       It kind of changes from place to place [nineteenthly] but basically, yes.   

       From Wiki answers, (take that for what it's worth);   

       "Basically, inheritance rights in the 'estate' of a person who died and was in a common law marriage, are pretty much the same as the inheritance rights in a 'statutory'marriage. Common-law marriages are not that common; they only exist in a very few states in the United States of America. As a general rule, and that is a very general rule, they work exactly the same as the statutory marriage.   

       When you are married, you are married. And you and your property and relationships are controlled by marriage, not the way you got there. "   

       It looks like that six month thing has changed to a year or so here depending on which province you are in.   

       I wasn't indicating that government wasn't becoming more relaxed, just that the enforcement of gender roles and regulation of sexual behavior was crumbling.
WcW, Sep 04 2010

       Oh, so it's the whole of Canada?
nineteenthly, Sep 04 2010

       All of Canada and parts of the States.
Quebec has laws about common law marriage but it is not part of their civil code and Saskatchewan is just a free-for-all where you can have multiple marriages.

       yahbut Ontario's legalized gay marriage. So... if you and your mate (not that kind of mate) are sharing an apartment, do you have to go and prove you're not gay every year ?   

       A few couples I knew used to take separate vacations every year just to avoid being in residence a full year and getting the "hideous married tag".   

       Meanwhile back at the ranch...
//two-tier//I think you need more than that. Besides the obvious divides (child-rearing vs not, contract length), there's also decisions about how the marriage treats other people:

       - various shades of fidelity
- surname conventions (a change in family name means the family(s) is officially involved)
- level of notification of relevant civil/religious organizations (put on their roster as being "married", thus receiving obligations and benefits, thereof)

       I also assume there'd be special deals: a couple comes in, says "we just want to shack up while we go through university" and gets the #4 (small life insurance policy and a will deeding only shared items, common phone landline, shared chequing account for household expenses and an Ikea credit card. As part of the package a counselor drops by every two months to ask "hows it goin'?" and on the off months an inspector shows up to count empty beer bottles, used condoms and cockroaches after checking the uni to make sure they're both still registered and attending)   

       not saying I'd join up but... [+]
FlyingToaster, Sep 04 2010

       Yes, actually i like that. Much more flexibility than is currently formalised and student membership available.
nineteenthly, Sep 04 2010


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