Flying Solo

If we are ever going to break down the borders that exist between people, nobody should be subjected to second class citizenship.

Those who are honest will admit that, in many circumstances, people are treated differently based on their religious beliefs or lack thereof, racial or ethnic classification, and even their weight. But how much consideration, if any, is given to the discrimination to which single, unmarried people are subjected in this society?

Does it sound silly?

Before I say anything else, I’ll state that I am not pushing a marriage agenda in order to achieve more fairness — far be it from me to do so, especially since I tend to think that many marriages would be better equipped to survive if couples lived in separate houses. I’m just saying… But having said that, I think anyone who wants to get married should be able to (*side-eye to all of you shameful folks who deny gay people the same rights as heterosexuals*) and those who do not wish to be legally shackled to their significant other should not be treated differently because of their single status.

Discrimination is defined in as “making distinctions on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit; show preference of prejudice.” Family law attorney, Ed Sherman, states that “unmarried couples have no legal relationship rights” and “every state has laws that govern and protect the rights and responsibilities of married people.” Mr. Sherman, who has written extensively on the subject of divorce, has discussed the rights to which unmarried couples don’t have access — but what about those who are simply unmarried, whether or not they are half of a couple?

Here are some of the areas in which ‘flying solo’ may result in discrimination:

~ Estate taxes: the tax code is structured such that married couples are able to leave assets to a spouse without paying any federal estate tax at all. This is not the case for singles; the tax rate goes up to 50% in when a single person dies with an estate over $2 million. Can’t we be equal even in death?

~ Employment:  This area is often considered more subjective. For example, ‘family values’ firms may believe all employees of merit are rewarded equally, however, marrieds are often given time off to attend family events that singles don’t have a need to attend. That ultimately means singles/unmarrieds may be expected to cover assignments for fellow workers who have the ‘real’ responsibilities that come with a spouse and family.

~ Benefits and salary: In a study of twins, economists found that the marrieds were paid roughly 26% higher than their single counterparts President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to achieve compensation fairness for women but unmarrieds are not a “protected class”.

~ Child custody:  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, singles living alone or with a domestic partner are subjected to adoption bias. Though efforts are being made in several states to strike bans on adoptions by singles, several states have stepped up their efforts to enforce the ban.

There are many more examples in areas such as housing and cohabitation, insurance and  zoning that point to an unequal system. Recent estimates state that 99 million people in the U.S. over the age of 18 are single — that’s 44% of all Americans — and the numbers are increasing as more people opt to remain single or put off getting married at a later age. Given the nation’s changing demographics, wouldn’t it make sense that we revisit some of these laws?


Image: Patou /



  1. Michelle Quevedo says

    Excellent article and analysis Brooklyn Dame! I read this on my iphone and then re-read it on my computer because I wanted to re-read those figures you mentioned on a bigger screen. Your article makes it clear that there is not only a marriage equality issue in the United States, but there is simply a Lifestyle equality issue that leaves its citizens on an imbalanced scale. Quite a fascinating article!

    • Brooklyn Dame says

      Thanks, Michelle! As a single dame, I know first-hand about the subjective issues. A former employer had salary differentials (which isn’t surprising when it’s gender related) but I was stunned that the unmarrieds could be submitted for bonuses but not “merit trips” because those were for marrieds and folks with families — not even bringing a sibling or parent would have been acceptable. Getting punished for choosing to remain single and/or child-free is simply unfair.

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