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Guinyard>> The debate over gay marriages has placed the State of
California right at the center of the media spotlight. So much
attention is being placed on it that other issues are being ignored,
including equal rights for unmarried people. We spoke with the
Executive Director of Unmarried America who shared his thoughts and
concerns with Life and Times.
Tom Coleman>> People, if they want to get married, that's great. That's up to them. Marriage is good for many people, not for everyone. There are many people who never get married, some who get divorced, some who become unmarried because the spouse dies. There are eighty-six million unmarried Americans and it seems interesting to me that so many feel that, in order to get equal rights in this society, they have to get married. So you have this huge push from the gay community to -- not all, but a lot -- to get into the institution of marriage because we want our rights. Our position is that equal rights should not depend on marital status, that the promise of equality applies to everyone regardless of marital status.
Toni Guinyard>> But is your argument being heard? I've heard a lot and everyone has heard a lot about gay marriages taking place, but I hear very little about this unmarried movement.
Tom Coleman>> Right. It's not as sexy an issue as gay marriage. Gay marriage is a hot-button item. It's being used in the presidential arena, the election, as a nice hot topic to try and trap people into one position or another for political advantage and so on. The media loves it. It's a darling of the media because it's interesting and it's emotional. Whereas unmarried America, it's a long, slow, steady process of trying to gain equal rights. The percentage of households, for example, that are headed by unmarried people is increasing. It used to be around the 1950's about seventy-eight percent of all households were headed by married couples. That has changed and changed and changed and now we're like fifty-fifty. Half of the households in the nation are headed by unmarried people.
There's one other reason I think that gay marriage is in the forefront and equal rights for unmarried people is not in the forefront. That's the emotional part of it and the political dimension on the part of those fighting for it. The gay community is very politically organized and involved and have been pushing the marriage issue politically for a long time.
Unmarried people are going about their everyday lives. In being single or unmarried, most of them don't think of it as a political issue. It's a way of life, a way of being, you know? So we have to actually educate the single and unmarried people that they're being denied equal rights in the various ways in which they are because it's often so subtle or so ingrained in the system that people take it for granted.
The gay community is educated and polarized and in favor of and very politically charged. It's highly emotional and it's an exciting thing to be involved in. Unmarried America is a slow, ongoing, long process for gaining equality and it's not the sexy
issue of the moment.
There are eighty-six million
unmarried Americans now, forty-two percent of the workforce is
unmarried, and people have been slowly complaining, fighting back
little by little, so that we see, for example, many employers are
now shifting their work-family programs and calling them work-life
programs and realizing that everyone has a life outside of work
regardless of whether you have the traditional family or you're
married or whatever. And more employers are going to cafeteria-style
benefits plans where they're giving equal credits to all workers to
be used for benefits, whatever they might need, and pick and choose
regardless of their marital status or family configuration.
Our movement in Unmarried
America is designed to help the individuals, the couples and the
families. People who live alone should be getting equal pay at work,
not just those who are couples. A single parent, for example, who
has an adult child living at home, should be able to put that adult
child on her health benefits plan at work. The fact that they're not
a gay couple or they're not in a romantic relationship should have
Partners. We're partners in life.
You start using old-fashioned
terms that sound nice and, you know, frilly and lovely and all of
that, but there is some type of connotation that's been built into
it of inequality and I say, you know, in the vanguard, let's do
We're gaining momentum, but
it's a slow, steady battle. That's okay. You know, someday you or
somebody else will be interviewing me when I'm older and grayer and
I'm barely able to get out of my rocking chair and I'll probably
still be in it and