Single File: Emancipation Proclamation
The unmarried are in the middle of a global revolution, largely unheralded by our media, that has, with unerring grace and dignity, moved most of the world's developed countries to adopt laws giving them broad protection and rights. It is sad irony that America, heralded for its pioneering spirit and respect for human rights, is still woefully behind the curve in granting legal recognition to a way of life that has imprinted our culture with a new morality.
Most developed countries have already enacted protective laws for their unmarried. France has the civil solidarity pact, known as PACS, for same- and opposite-sex couples joining lives outside of formalized marriage. The pact extends rights in the areas of taxation, inheritance and next-of-kin notification. Portugal, likewise. Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have enacted laws legally recognizing unmarried couples, granting them protection and rights. Even China, not known to accommodate changing trends, is showing signs of later marriage and an increasing shift to singlehood. And the contagion widens into Eastern Europe, where a growing youth culture is prodding government for greater legal recognition.
But this is no clarion call for free love. The truth is, being unmarried in no way equates with amorality. The basic decency/conservatism in most of us remains when marriage bonds are untied. My nationally representative survey proved this conclusively, best illustrated by responses to its final query: "Ideally, which would you prefer, one love for a lifetime or one at each stage of your emotional development?" A resounding majority of respondents (87%) preferred one lifetime love. Even though their own marriage had ended and a wide choice of mating partners is available, after a brief spurt of swinging proves unsatisfying, the monogamous instinct prevails. Certainly, this is a death blow to the swinging-single fiction!
Morality may affirm the character of the unmarried millions bending the world in their direction, but it is still not at the heart of their revolution. No, this trend, while focused on individuality, is much bigger than any one person. Hundreds of millions of law-abiding, decent men and women are shedding the stifling roles and expectations of marriage as vestigial structures. Rejecting the usual form of marriage isn't for all of us, but it is the wave of the future and merits our respect.
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