The Survival of Non-Marital Relationship Statuses in the Same-Sex Marriage Era: A Proposal

46 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2014 Last revised: 11 Mar 2015

See all articles by Jessica Feinberg

Jessica Feinberg

University of Maine - School of Law

Date Written: 2014


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 the majority of jurisdictions 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 non-recognition. 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. Increasing numbers of individuals are eschewing marriage for non-marital cohabitation, those who marry do so later in life, and the divorce rate continues to hover around fifty percent. As marriage rates decrease, increasing numbers of 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 non-marital 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 non-marital relationship recognition in the United States.

Keywords: Non-marital relationship recognition, marriage

Suggested Citation

Feinberg, Jessica, The Survival of Non-Marital Relationship Statuses in the Same-Sex Marriage Era: A Proposal (2014). 87 Temple Law Review 47 (2014), Available at SSRN:

Jessica Feinberg (Contact Author)

University of Maine - School of Law ( email )

246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States

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