The Survival of Nonmarital Relationship Statuses in the Same-Sex Marriage Era: A Proposal
Volume 87, No. 1, Fall 2014
By Jessica R. Feinberg, Associate Professor, Mercer University School of Law [PDF]

Based on recent achievements by the same-sex marriage movement and current societal attitudes, it seems clear that it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is recognized by every jurisdiction within the United States. When this occurs, society will be left with an important decision regarding whether the widespread legalization of same-sex marriage marks the beginning or the end of the discussion in this country regarding adult relationship recognition. Hopefully, it will mark the beginning of the discussion. Individuals face incredibly limited options when
it comes to legal recognition of their important relationships. The federal government and the majority of states recognize only one relationship status, marriage, leaving couples with the narrow choice of marriage or nonrecognition. It is time for the United States to follow the lead of other countries in creating an effective and comprehensive system of adult relationship recognition that does not depend solely upon marriage. There is ample evidence that marriage is in trouble in the United States. An increasing number of individuals are eschewing marriage for nonmarital cohabitation, those who marry do so later in life, and the divorce rate continues to hover around fifty percent. As marriage rates decrease, more individuals are left in the unfortunate position of
having inadequate legal protections for their relationships. Many people likely would benefit from the introduction of a third option; namely, a state-based nonmarital relationship status that offered a true alternative to marriage and was recognized by the federal government. This Article offers an innovative proposal for a new system of nonmarital relationship recognition in the United States.