A news segment about Unmarried America was aired last night on WCCO-TV in Minnesota.  To view the segment, click here.
















Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Unmarried America:
Equal Benefits For Singles

A story posted on the website of WCCO-TV in Minneapolis (and broadcast last night on its news show) reports that in the 1950s, 80 percent of America was married. Now, barely 50 percent of America is married.

Unmarried America is on the rise. Single people are looking for respect, and for the benefits they say married people get every day.

“Being single, I don’t feel like a second class citizen. I feel like an ignored citizen,” said Craig Berdan, a single American.

Single Americans are becoming the new not-so-silent majority. They are 86 million strong. They are unwed, and unhappy about not getting a piece of the financial pie that married couples seem to enjoy.

“Our society is geared to thinking of married couples,” Berdan said. “TV is about finding a mate, movies are about finding a mate. Everything is about finding a mate and being with somebody.”

Berdan, 39, is a member of “Unmarried America,” a national organization fighting for the rights of single adults.

“As a single driver, I pay a higher premium in some states than a married person would,” said Berdan.

The unmarried are united on other issues, from apartment digs to the grave. Singles are challenging zoning laws that limit the number of unrelated people who can live together.

Pensions come with big penalties for singles. If a married worker dies before starting to receive the benefits, a surviving spouse can inherit them. For singles, they go back into the pot.

“Just being a couple, it doesn’t seem to me that in itself entitles you to special benefits,” said Carol Tauer, 70. She too is single, and a member of “Unmarried America.”

The fight for single’s rights isn’t reserved for just the young.

“I can see there are some things about Social Security, there are things about the tax code particularly that treat single people differently than married people,” Carol said.

For example, singles call the “marriage penalty tax” a misnomer. They said it’s hardly a penalty.

For slightly more than half of all spouses, marriage actually slashes tax bills, according to a study at the University of California, Fresno.

The workplace is also a problem, according to “Unmarried America.” The group says single people wind up making an average of 25 percent less than married colleagues because of health care, retirement and benefits.

Ultimately, however, it may be the general lack of status afforded to unmarried people that amounts to their greatest gripe.

President Bush calls marriage the “most fundamental institution of civilization.”

But, singles such as Carol, say they don’t want special favors. They just want to be treated equally.

“It just seems it would be more fair if people were treated as individuals with special benefits to go to children and people who are raising them,” said Carol

Some things are changing in favor of “Unmarried America.” Some Fortune 500 companies let single employees add household members to family benefit plans, even if they are not related