Marriage benefits that make you go hmmmm…

Some of the benefits of marriage seem especially arbitrary.

In the U.S. Census project I consult on — which includes focus groups on relationship identification — I noticed some examples of non-married straight couples taking a cavalier attitude toward the privilege of being able to pretend they are married.

One man in a long-term relationship said, for example:

For credit card applications or for medical, we wouldn’t say we’re married.  But to get a reservation at a restaurant, or if someone were to ask me at work if I was married, I would say “yes.”

The symbolic benefits of heteronormativity, then, are realized through the benefits of marriage. That appearance of normalcy, of the accomplishment of married life, is one — just one — of the things so many gay and lesbian couples want with legal homogamous marriage.

In the news now is another case of gratuitous rewards for marriage that make you say hmmm….

According to University of California rules,

U.C. students from out of state must meet three requirements to establish residency — physical presence, intent to stay and financial independence — a complicated process that takes at least two years. The independence test is the hardest to pass. When students marry, they can automatically claim themselves as independent, provided their parents do not claim them as dependents on their taxes. After that, gaining in-state tuition is a breeze.

The Bay Citizen was able to identity nine couples who admitted to marrying to beat the tuition rap. Elaine Davis, from Utah (pictured above), was desperate after her good-faith efforts to establish residency:

When Berkeley still denied her residency (living in an apartment owned by her father disqualified her as independent), Ms. Davis married a childhood friend. She saved $38,000 in out-of-state tuition over two years.

Those nine couples alone have saved (or, from the taxpayers’ point of view, cost), an estimated $350,000.

5 thoughts on “Marriage benefits that make you go hmmmm…

  1. This can cut both ways. Other in-state tuition requirements (e.g. Michigan–at least a few years ago) allow for a cohabiting partner to gain residency much faster than a married partner. For example, married couple comes to Michigan for wife to attend school. Husband finds a job and works for a couple years and then decides to go to school, but since he initially came for his wife’s schooling he is ineligible for in-state tuition. A cohabiting couple, on the other hand, would have no such problem as the male partner would be eligible after the two years of work. In fact, only after the married spouse finds a job or they get a divorce (and the husband works for a couple years) could the husband get in-state tuition. Maybe they have changed the rules by now, but, in my own experience, the rules stopped several spouses from going back to school while their spouses were in school.


    1. Mike, I don’t understand this. How/why would the state know why the husband came to live there in the first place? Why would that matter at all? This makes no sense to me.


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