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Only Legally Married People Get These Benefits and Protections

When same-sex couples won the right to marry everywhere in the U.S., with the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling, they got access to many benefits and protections they did not have before they could be officially, legally married. Single people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are still left out of all of those special privileges under the law.

I have often mentioned that there are more than 1,000 federal laws that benefit and protect only those who are legally married. The SCOTUS ruling noted that, too, and also listed some of the ways in which married people are typically privileged at the state level.

Here is that section, verbatim except for the fact that I’ve created a bulleted list out of their prose sentence.

“…while the States are in general free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples, they have throughout our history made marriage the basis for an expanding list of government rights, benefits, and responsibilities. These aspects of marital status include:

  • Taxation
  • Inheritance and property rights
  • Rules of intestate succession
  • Spousal privilege in the law of evidence
  • Hospital access
  • Medical decisionmaking authority
  • Adoption rights
  • The rights and benefits of survivors
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Professional ethics rules
  • Campaign finance restrictions
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Health insurance; and
  • Child custody, support, and visitation rules.”

That’s already quite a list and it is just a sampling.

Want to know more about what’s covered at the federal level? Check out “Can you name the 1,238 federal hat tips to marriage? Guest post by Onely” and “This is what it costs to be single” as well as “If you are single, every day is tax day: 19 examples” and “Now it’s really time for unmarried equality.”

There are more than 100 million Americans, 18 and older, who are not married. That’s a lot of people to be excluded from all of these benefits, responsibilities, and protections.

Hospital visit photo available from Shutterstock

Only Legally Married People Get These Benefits and Protections

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2015). Only Legally Married People Get These Benefits and Protections. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Jul 2015
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