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Political: Government and Marriage (Friends with Legal Benefits)

In this video, Elizabeth Brake (Arizona State University) considers the question "Should friends share legal benefits?" This is part 3 of a series on Government and Marriage.

Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Brake, Associate Professor, Arizona State University.

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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Lee Yoon
    Wow this is really interesting. It would be great if i can share legal benefits with friends. But, doesn't this policy have high possibility to decrease birth rate?
    I think maintaining proper birth rate is important to maintain society. Kids will lead next generation. If there are not enough kids, isn't difficult to develop?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • primosaur sapling style avatar for user David Mayrose
    Very slippery slope...you need to discuss the law of unintended consequences. While liberalizing the definitions (and benefits) for a small percentage of the population certainly benefits them, what are the long term consequences for society as a whole?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

hello my name is Elizabeth Break I teach philosophy at Arizona State University and today I want to talk to you about France with legal benefits in the previous talk I suggested that the best rationale for marriage like law with in political liberalism is to protect stable caring relationships these are valued from within the different religious and ethical beliefs found in a liberal society but this fashion al attributes equal value to friends and small group relationships as it does to romantic couples same-sex or different sex if there is no good reason to restrict the significant benefits of marriage to romantic couples and by a good reason I mean one acceptable from within the different religions and ethical beliefs that make up a liberal society then restricting marriage like benefits to romantic couples is a form of unjust discrimination it might not be obvious by people who are just friends would want marriage like rights but let's consider a case from Canada in 2012 as reported in Canada's Globe and Mail a 73 year old American woman MS in Ferrara was deported from Canada despite her 30-year relationship with an 83 year old Canadian woman Ms Sandford miss in Ferrera even took care of the older woman who suffered from dementia now in Canada at that time these two women could have married but they weren't lesbians they were just friends and presumably didn't think of themselves as spouses so their relationship had no legal standing even though it had lasted much longer and appears more caring than many marriages in the last 40 years in the US people have moved into different family forms let's look at US census data as of 2005 for the first time more than 50% of women were living without a spouse and as of 2009 over half of 25 to 34 year olds had never married extended family members like nieces or cousins or in-laws made up over 8% of households and from 2005 to 2009 households in which members weren't related grew faster than households with traditional family when people build their lives around non-traditional caring relationships they deserve equal access to the marriage-like entitlements which protect those relationships if the rationale for marriage like law the purpose which justifies it is protecting caring relationships than all caring relationships deserve equal access this doesn't mean casual acquaintances that you know from the coffee shop or whole tennis teams it means intimate relationships with mutual concern for welfare in which the parties want access to these entitlements in order to continue their relationship like the two friends in Canada in fact law and society discriminate against friendships and against people without romantic partnerships in many ways single taxpayers and workers subsidize legal benefits of marriage and employee benefits like health insurance for married people media portrayals of single people are often stereotypical the crazy cat lady the slobby bachelor in ways which would be considered offensive if the stereotypes were ethnic having a romantic partner is taken as a marker of maturity in a way that having close friends is not even though having close friends can involve responsibility socially friends don't get treated as equals of spouses or romantic partners and many families and social circles friends aren't extended an invitation to events like Thanksgiving dinner while romantic partners or spouses automatically our friends just aren't written into the social script the way romantic partners are these attitudes might prevent us from recognizing that for some people close friends play the role in their lives that spouses or romantic partners play for other people and when they do equality requires that they have equal access to the kind of entitlements available through marriage in the next lecture I'll move on to another group which faces social stigma and lacks legal protections polyamorists you