Vail Daily column: Gay marriage: More work for lawyers?
July 21, 2015
A very old joke goes like this:
Two guys are talking. And the subject turns to gay rights. One guy asks the other if he thinks that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry.
"Sure I do," he says.
It's not the answer the first guy expected. He collects his thoughts then asks, "Why's that?"
Without missing a beat, the second guy says, "It's a matter of equal rights … Why should straight guys be the only ones who're miserable?"
Not that I believe it.
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Just ask my wife.
First, let me say, it's about time. Gay marriage? Why not? It is a right so fundamental, so basic to human dignity — to love whomever you choose to love — it's a wonder it was ever debated at all. Alas, The Supremes have sung and Justice Scalia's ugly screed notwithstanding, the right of every American to marry whom they please is at long last the law of the land.
Here's the thing, though. Like the Freedom Riders in the '60s, gay activists have marched and agitated and protested to fully own their rights. But I have a hunch that maybe lawyers are behind it, too.
Why, you ask.
Well, it's like this. There are about a million ways that lawyers are involved with marriage and family matters. Lawyers who wade into these waters — myself included — are practicing "domestic" law which sounds more tranquil than it sometimes is.
Domestic matters can range from co-habitation agreements (contracts entered into absent marriage — OK, I cheated by including this one), pre-nuptial agreements (contracts entered into in contemplation of marriage), post-nuptial agreements (contracts entered into following entry into marriage), divorce (oops, things have gone wrong), adoption (no 'splainin' needed), donor agreements (without both sides necessary for the making of a baby, someone's got to do it), surrogacy agreements (hiring someone to carry the baby when doing so yourself isn't possible), contracts over the right to frozen embryos, custody matters, and much, much more.
And until now, many of these matters were restricted to those of the opposite sex.
What percentage of Americans are gay?
It's hard to say.
A recent Gallup poll claimed, "The American public estimates on average that 23 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian." However, notice the key words here; "the public estimated … " Which makes it far from fact. The poll goes on to say, "These estimates are many times higher than the 3.8 percent of the adult population who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Gallup Daily tracking in the first four months of (2015)."
So what's the real number?
Exactly it's … a lot.
But for my thesis here — that lawyers are at least partly behind the newly-realized right to marry — let's use a conservative 5 percent.
Bear with me.
U.S. News said, on Dec. 31, 2014, that there were 320,090,057 Americans. More or less. And if you take the growth rate from last year, we're adding about 6,401.8 new Americans a day. Now, admittedly, the very young 'uns can't quite get married yet but we're not aiming here for scientific exactitude. So let's just presume for our purposes, taking into account that we have grown by 1,299,565.4 Americans since the new year kicked off, using our 5 percent figure, there now being 321,389,622.4 of us, approximately 16,069,481.1 Americans are gay. I'll leave you to sort out the 0.1.
So, presuming they pair off, like in Noah's Ark, by twos, then there are 8,034,740 pairs and one guy who's left out.
WORKING WITH NEWLY MARRIED COUPLES
The American Bar Association says in 2015 there were 1,300,705 attorneys in these United States. Figure half of them are actually practicing law. And figure maybe 10 percent of those practice family or domestic law full or part time. So out of 650,352.5 practicing attorneys, maybe — at the most — 65,035.25 will be dealing with the glut of newly married couples.
OK, now. One last calculation.
If there are 8,034,740 newly enamored pairs who may just marry and 65,035 domestic lawyers, then presuming all these potential clients are evenly spread out among the lawyers, then every blessed domestic lawyer in the United States will see 123.54 new clients.
I told you. Lawyers are behind this …
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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