Sebastian Zearing

how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal

Family Law

See more posts in the Policy series.

I would like family policy in the USA to reflect the realities of the many different kinds of families that exist within its borders and to be fair to the many parties involved. I think the state has an interest in promoting standards that create reasonable provisions for the common issues that arise in familial relationships regarding the transfer of property and other rights in the event of death or the creation or dissolution of unions, and thus I do not side with marriage privatization advocates.

Same-sex marriage

Given the existence of the romantic, sexual, and other bonds between many real homosexual couples and the distinct similarity of these to those shared by heterosexual couples, marriage should be fully and equally extended to same-sex couples. This includes adoption. Adoption agencies already have standards for adoptive parents, and these will effectively prevent inadequate same-sex couples from adopting children.


No-fault divorce should be an option for any partner at any time (with reasonable waiting provisions). One big change involves the division of assets upon dissolution of the marriage. At-fault spouses and spouses who initiate no-fault divorce should receive down to and perhaps including 0% of the marital assets, and should be extremely suspect regarding custody rights of any children. This would encourage spouses to remain faithful to the marriage and reward the spouses who are, while leaving a clear option to escape if circumstances warrant that. The percentage or other splitting criteria could be varied depending on the causes of the divorce, in order to protect spouses who cannot establish fault of the other partner and yet require monies to secure at least a minimally comfortable lifestyle.


The estate tax should be progressive and very steep (90%+ for amounts over several million dollars) in order to prevent the accumulation of wealth by those who have not worked for it, and encourage philanthropy by those who have.

I have no strong opinions about inheritance law, but I’ll supply some. More inclusively across socioeconomic strata, non-fungible (perhaps except real) assets should be divided at the will of the deceased. A certain fraction of the fungible (perhaps also real assets) (say 50%) should be divided evenly among the heirs, with the remainder at will of the deceased.


I see no specific changes to be made here except regarding same-sex marriage.


With the furor over the recent polygamy ruling in Utah, I feel I should address polygamy directly. There are highly functional, authentic polygamous families in America. However, the existing marriage law is not nearly as easily generalizable to multiple individuals as opposite-sex marriage is to same-sex marriage. There are various ways to be polygamous: one man can be married to several women at once, one woman can be married to several men at once, one person can be married to several others (of whichever sex), several people can be all married to each other, one person can be married to several others who are married to several others creating a chain, and countless other situations. Combinatorial explosion is real. I would not object to the introduction of a meticulously crafted polygamy law, but I would just as soon let the Utah ruling rest: you can only have a marriage license with one other person, but you can cohabitate with as many consenting adults as you like.

Perhaps the sister wives can get a gay marriage.


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