Monday, March 9
PACS: Civil unions for straight couples
A friend of mine, let’s call him Jack, who lives in Paris, France, emailed me that he has decided to tie the knot –so to speak as it turned out- with his girlfriend, Marie, whom he had been living with for five years. Jack moved to Paris after a messy divorce in the US, during which he lost a substantial amount of money to his ex.
Why do I say “so to speak?”
Because the couple did not opt for the traditional marriage but rather for a “civil union” solution, the one we have been reading in the news concerning gay couples. It took 15 minutes in front of a judge and they got their Civil Solidarity Pact (PACS) which gives them a half-way status between living together and getting married.
“Why did you choose such a half-solution? It must be a handful of people opting for this kind of thing” I sort of guessed in an uneducated manner. I understood that the law had been drafted mainly for gays, but since the language was rather ambiguous, it was also adopted by a few straight couples. “Not that few” Jack corrected me. Close to 150,000 couples chose it last year I was informed. It has an air of independence, it has incorporated financial advantages, and it is easier to terminate than a traditional marriage, Jack continued, obviously beaming on the other end.
“It sounds like a substitute for marriage” I pressed.
“But it is” Jack explained. “Don’t you love it?... This is how I declare my independence from society’s rules, expectations. Not to mention the mess of divorce. If either one of us wants to end it, I or Marie, go to the court, declare our wish in writing, and we are done. Neither one has any rights on the other person’s property or money.”
So I decided to do a bit more research on this PACS half-solution. I found that although it was designed for gay couples, 90% of "solidarity pacts" a year are now being made between people of the opposite sex. Indeed, as Jack said, it can be ended with a simple letter from either partner. And indeed it provides near-identical financial and benefits as marriage, like joint tax returns and qualification for deductions. However evaluation of this plan remains difficult as various privacy laws prohibit the collection of statistics on this particular arrangement.
As we observe the collapse of the nuclear family and the rising number of single parents, I wonder whether we are heading towards a PACS alternative in this country too.
Do you think the circumstances are ripe for such a shift in the US? Would you personally support it or oppose it?