Why Is It Still Acceptable To Discriminate Against Singles?

singlism, single discrimination

During National Singles Week, we explore a lesser-known form of discrimination: singlism.

Social Security even cares more about married people's dead bodies. Surviving spouses get a $255 "death payment" that can be put it toward funeral expenses. When I die, forget about it. There is no such payment for single corpses. I suppose the reasoning is that we single people "don’t have anyone," so who would come to our funerals anyway? Just toss our bodies into the nearest ditch.

At a time when Americans spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and the number of unmarried Americans is closing in on the number of married ones, it is increasingly inappropriate for the law to recognize so few of the important people in our lives. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example, married people in eligible workplaces can take time off to care for their spouse, but single people are not covered to care for — or receive care from — the most important peers in their lives.

Taxes are another big cost of single life. There is much moaning about the purported "marriage penalty" in income taxes, but the angst is misplaced. When a married couple filing jointly and a single person have the same taxable income, the single person always pays more in taxes than the married couple, even though the married couple sometimes includes just one wage-earner.

Single people also bear the full brunt of estate taxes. If I and that close friend or sibling lived together for many years, buying a home and amassing a substantial estate, the law would treat us as strangers when one of us died. That very issue motivated the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. Edith Windsor, who was married to a woman, was assessed more than $360,000 in estate taxes when her partner died. A surviving spouse in a traditional marriage would have been exempt. Ms. Windsor thought that was unfair, and in an historic ruling, the Supreme Court agreed.

As we applaud all of the ways in which DOMA ruling granted first-class citizenship to a wider array of married people, we should be mindful of the 102 million single people of all sexual orientations still left behind. The problem with singlism is not just that it is practiced, but that it is so often perpetrated without apology or even awareness. No dinner guest would propose, in mixed company, to have a heterosexuals-only dinner or a whites-only dinner. Suggesting a couples-only event should be equally scandalous.

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Bella DePaulo (PhD. Harvard) is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. Visit her website here.

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