The Y2Gay Problem

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Why is this database needed? Mostly for spousal benefits tracking, I presume.

The obvious solution is to have a partnership benefit available to one other person, designated by the employee. It’s simple to have a ‘beneficiary’ link. Coordination of benefits is no more complicated in this arrangement than in any other, but you don’t have to worry about reciprocity or make it dependent on marriage. (I seem to recall that Apple did this even before gay marriage.)

The civil law might require that the employee not choose a beneficiary other than a spouse if there is one, or might even as a condition of a divorce require that the employee choose a former spouse. (I can even imagine a situation where the employee is in trouble if s/he remarries, because of competing claims to a benefit.) But the employer doesn’t need to be deputized to enforce the law absent a complaint.


There’s also the matter of surnames; I am Bob Shaw and my wife is often called Mrs Shaw, but is mostly known by her own surname. I also answer to her surname for the sake of simplicity. Her mother took her father’s surname, and sometimes my wife is given the title of ‘Mrs’ and her own surname.

That’s without any divorces, half-siblings, adopted children, gay couples, gender changes or whatever (at least, that I know of!).

Oh, and I recently discovered that our vet has used both our surnames to identify our cats, but always in different combinations.

Names are hard to start with, and are only going to get harder.


From the article:

Final thought
The real crime is that I’m not allowed to marry my database.

Sounds about right.


The way I handled it years back is to have a family record of the domestic unit, the adults have their own individual records, and are joined via a family-adult record which defines the relationship in the family as well as their status in that family (head of household/spouse/etc.) Same goes for children. In this society children can be part of two families (i.e. visitation).

adult ---- family/adult — family — family/child — child

Not really all that complex.


In Québec, some thirty years or so ago, they changed the law: you keep your name when you get married. Problem solved.

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Really, my wife kept her name and it has not been an issue at all. I get called Mr herlastname at the safeway on occasion as the safeway card has her name on it but no real problems.


won’t someone please think of the children!!! :anguished:

oh. wait. you did. :smile:

your family table seems like a nice solution!

the author suggests you might want a history of marriage, but then in that case maybe a single table (eek, no pun) could record the event of marriage and divorces per individual? ( and, maybe other major life events could be recorded there as well. )


The first place to start with this is to abandon the assumption that the wife takes the husband’s last name at marriage. Certainly it’s still an option, of course, but really anyone should be free to change their own name at anytime (assuming it is not done for fraud purposes.) Stop treating married sets (of however many members) as a single entity. Our vet lists our cats under both my name and my partner’s name without the least bit of difficulty. One of my rules of database design is to not creating unnecessary data restrictions. The assumption that a family has the same last name falls into that category.


As somebody who has worked in IT for 20+ years, I think the article is nonsense.

Organizations don’t maintain separate tables of males and females. They’ll have a table of customers/members, and in many cases they don’t bother tracking a gender. (There might be a Mr/Mrs, but of course titles like Dr. or even Rev. are gender-neutral.)

Sometimes there’s a next-of-kin/emergency-contact address, but these are just as likely to refer to parents, children, siblings, neighbours as they are for spouses.

Some organizations track family members for benefits, but again, there only things one cares about are that someone if part of a family (or once was, in the case of divorcees who continue to share benefits: so you can have an ex-spouse and current spouse receiving benefits).

Other times you may associate a bunch of people with each other as part of a “group” (e.g. travel bookings), but there’s no requirement they be married or a family. They are just as likely to be strangers going on a tour, or unrelated people sharing the same address.

Organizations have been supporting “non-traditional” family groupings in their software for a long time… because they’ve had to, regardless of whether some governments or institutions refuse to accept them.

Often times you don’t want to put too much “business logic” that restricts how people can be added to these kinds of systems, because you’ll get weird edge cases that cause you to lose customers, publicly embarrass the organization, or even lead to a court case. So it’s better to be flexible about what goes into a database, and then run regular reports looking for unusual data.

As for changing names, well, people change their names for a variety of reasons, and not just marriage. If nothing else, because there was a typo in the system. It’s a non-issue.

Even for some badly designed software that tries to enforce “traditional” marriages in databases, people will probably be able to enter same-sex partners as husbands/wives when they are wives/husbands until they can update their systems.

There’s no “Y2Gay”.


Why one other person? Isn’t the assumption of monogamy also kind of a relic of tradition in the same way the assumption of heterosexual marriage was? Even if polygamy remains illegal at present, if we are going to update software infrastructure, why not make it as flexible as possible in order to be robust to future social change?


Obviously, it is impossible to disagree; my point was, though, that even with the least complicated situation things can rapidly get complicated!

National Insurance / Social Security numbers might be better!

Ralph 124C 41+ anyone?

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How is the law even involved in that? In the US its basically just a formal name change via marriage license with no guidelines behind it. You could effectively take any name you want, whether its one of the participant’s actual surnames or something completely unrelated. Two friends of mine are getting married in October and they are (rather obnoxiously if you ask me) planning to combine bits of both their surnames to come up with a new one. Another friend of mine took his wife’s name. Most of my married friends have simply kept their own surnames, though a few have opted to go the traditional route of wife takes the husbands name. A lot of people hyphenate. I’ve been firmly advocating that marrying friends go the route of taking each other’s surname as an additional middle name, no hyphenation, while maintaining their own surnames. All of that is kosher. I’m reasonably sure I could use the marriage name change to start officially going by Lord Chesterfield Dinosaur Ex-vee-eye if I wanted to. The law here has no stake in who takes what name, only making sure that the name change formalized and legally recorded so that it doesn’t cause issues down the line.

My only “rule” when I got married was no hyphenated name cause that personally annoys me.
Oh yeah also no Christopher Cross to be played at the reception.

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Yeah this strikes me as faintly ridiculous. I’ve done some accounting work, I’ve seen just about every tax and business related form out there, and at another job or two worked with a lot of banks, insurance companies, unions and other business or organisations that keep databases and member lists and what have. I have never seen a form or database that deals with marriage in anything approaching the way suggested here. Typically noone gathering this information has any actual interest in “tracking” marriage in this fashion. The standard is something like this:

Marriage status: Single, Married, Divorced, N/A
Spouse name

Its already totally non-gendered so the same forms can be used by either gender. If gender is recorded its only for the person filling out the form, the spouses gender would be recorded separately on the spouse’s own paperwork. But that’s only going to be a thing for services that need to know your gender, like health insurance. Where spouse’s entries/info are connected its typically not through that marriage status entry, but through stuff like member/policy/whatever numbers or some other easy to query marker applied by the organization. Where there’s a change in status the forms are simple re-filled out, old info is typically discarded or relegated to some sort of referencable storage.

In fact its these exact features that have allowed married gay couples to file join tax returns at the state level since the minute gay marriage was legalized in their state. And once the fed’s started recognizing same sex marriages as legal filing joint federal returns. All on the same paper work, and with (AFAIK) no changes in paperwork or the IRS’s databases or systems at all.

Unless the org in questions needs to know a particular bit of info they aren’t going to bother collecting it an tracking it in a complex fashion. Your bank does not need to know your gender, or the gender of your spouse. Just who you are and who they are or that they exist. I can’t think of anything outside of maybe research, or perhaps whatever specific gov office deals with marriage licensing, that needs to know who’s married to who when, when they divorce, and who they re-marry then tie all those bits and bobs into an interlinked “marriage web”. What possible purpose would that serve?


Quebec follows the Napoleonic Code unlike the rest of Canada (Louisiana does too?) so laws work differently there. After the law about this was passed, you had to initiate an official/legal name-change process to change your name, which costs a bit of money. At the same time, the law dropped the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in favour of spouse (époux, épouse - “married person”).

Almost everyone in Quebec who marries just keeps their name. In the rest of Canada, I think, at the time of marriage, you can officially change your name for free. I’ve never been married, so I’m open to being corrected about this.

I find it weird that someone would look forward to adopting their spouse’s name. It feels very chattel-ly.

The history comes with the family-adult family-child records have a start stop date (in my database) any change makes a new record, old one has the start/stop datestamps so you can find them with an additional date query (latest versions don’t have an end-date). Solution came from years of frustration when families always had some odd exception to the norm and staff always wanted to compare then to now.

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Here come the camelCase marriages.
“Celebrating our union and ES9, we invite you to (let’s say) SklarBrothers.wives_1.this and SklarBrothers.wives_2.this .U. SklarBrothers.enum #! The Theyall”
or maybe instead
“We found a karyotype and kink near you that may be compatible! Swipe up to make an egg sac for this match at”

If you play Christopher Cross at the reception I am not going.

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If a couple has children, what name do they get?