Five better ways to use the billion dollars the government has spent on marriage promotion

cartoon of a hand placing a wedding ring on another hand

Marriage may (or may not) be funsies, but it’s not sound economic policy.

Because there’s obviously nothing else we could be doing with the money, the federal government has spent nearly one billion dollars since 2001 on marriage promotion:

Since 2001, the government will have spent about $800 million on the Healthy Marriage Initiative (HMI) by the end of the fiscal year. That year was when the Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children & Families decided that strengthening marriage was one of the nine main priorities for the agency. Spending increased by $117 million between 2000 and 2010, including a $150 million boost as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, peaking at $142 million for 2009. HMI programs can use the money on marriage education, skills training, and mentoring programs, as well as public advertising campaigns and high school education programs.

Even though it seems like a (sad, terrible) joke, promoting marriage as a federal policy priority for getting women out of poverty has a long and sordid history in the United States, even though it’s actually a pretty useless waste of everyone’s time and money – to say nothing of the heavy dose of moral superiority with which these initiatives just ooze. This is the history that marriage equality is a part of, don’t ever get it twisted.

There’s probably a good reason for every dollar wasted on marriage promotion to focus on something else, but here are five solid policy priorities that would actually advance economic justice for women:

  1. Paid sick and family leave for all workers
  2. Increasing the minimum wage
  3. Truly universal access to health care (single payer what!), or at least fucking expand Medicaid in all the states
  4. Universal access to child care
  5. Increase the power of organized labor

But we don’t have money for these things, right? Right.

1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVerónica wants to live in a world beyond marriage.

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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