Another minority that claims me as a member is the hardy little band that still believes in marriage. When I said "I do," I did. And I still do.
I have never made the mistake of thinking that what suits me best must ipso facto be best for everybody. So I am content to let every joint tenant select his own moral code, without guidance from me.
However, society has recently been producing many forces that encourage people to choose unwedded bliss instead of marriage, and I think this is unwise. The law should not take sides.
For example, consider several of the revenue laws that have been written Incongruous Assembled. Some of these laws have the effect of extracting more in taxes from some married couples than those couples would pay if they were living in what use to be called sin. Other tax laws reduce the benefits paid to people on Social Security who had the bad business judgement to marry instead of just shacking up at age 70.
More recently, Congress decreed that if one spouse has already claimed the "once in a lifetime" special tax treatment on profit from the sale of a personal dwelling, the other spouse will be denied that benefit. As a result, people who remarry late in life are sometimes rudely jolted.
Let us say a widow sells her home after her husband dies. She moves into a rented apartment and claims the once-in-lifetime tax benefit on the real estate profit.
Later, the widow meets a man whose wife has died. They marry and he wants to sell his house, which has appreciated greatly in value, and use the proceeds to retire to the Sun Belt with his new wife.
He is startled to discover that he can't claim the special tax treatment because he is now married to a woman who claimed it before he ever knew her. However, if he learns of this provision of the law in time and if, as a result, they decide to live together without marrying, he saves thousands of dollars in taxes.
The tax structure does not tell the whole story, of course. Just yesterday I received a letter from an Annandale man who wrote: "If you use any of this, please do not publish my name. It would embarrass my new wife.
"For 21 years, I have held an automobile policy with State Farm Mutual.
"My driving record is spotless. I never had an accident. I never filed a claim. I paid my premiums faithfully. On time.
"Last January, I was notified that State Farm would not be renewing my policy. It seems the lady I married in June of 1979 has been involved in an accident and had been charged with 'driving while under the influence.'
"My wife does not drink. That was her problem. She had attended a business meeting during which she drank two glasses of wine with dinner. Two glasses of wine would not have bothered a drinker, but apparently it did bother her to some extent. On the way home, she was involved in a fender-bender. No injuries, but she acquired a 'record' as a drinker.
"The charge was legitimate, despite the fact that it gives an erroneous impression of my wife's drinking. I could understand why State Farm would not wish to insure a woman with such a derogatory entry on her driving record.
"But was that good reason to cancel my policy?I had married her after the date of her offense.
"I pointed out to State Farm that her car was titled in her name, mine in my name. We could have two separate policies. I would retain mine with State Farm and buy 'risk insurance' for her. I went so far as to suggest that State Farm could amend my policy to exclude coverage for any other driver of my car.
"The company's reply was devastating. It said it was not permitted to exclude my wife because Virginia has a 'non-exclusionary law' that forbids such exclusions. So I am now paying $600 a year for my auto insurance and $1,056 a year for my wife's. You might want to alert your readers to all this. If ANYBODY in the family is canceled, the insurance companies (which all use a central reporting agency) will see to it that the entire household suffers -- the innocent along with the guilty."
I can't find it in my heart to criticize anybody involved in this incident not the husband, not the nondrinking wife who on one occasion did a foolish thing, not the insurance company, not even the state legislature that passed the "non-exclusionary" law. But doggone it, all of these innocent people and events combine to create one more reason for not getting married, and I'm beginning to worry about whether marriage will be able to survive the hostile environment we are creating for it.
I would like to be remembered for a week or two after I die, but not for being the last married man in a world prejudiced against marriage. It would be much more rewarding to be remembered for the enemies I have made.