Unmarried Equality

SOLO | Gordon Morris | Singles Advocacy


This episode seeks to explore the singles advocacy movement with Gordon Morris, who is aiming to breathe new life into Unmarried Equality, a nonprofit at the crossroads of the singles’ rights movement. Alongside guest co-host Christina Campbell, a fervent supporter of single living, Peter McGraw explores the roots and future of singles advocacy, from the pioneering “Singles Bill of Rights” to today’s push for societal acceptance. Discover how you can join this crucial cause for equality.

Listen to Episode #214 here


Unmarried Equality

Welcome back. While singlism does not rise to the level of oppression as racism, sexism, and heterosexism does, we still live in a world built for two. There are systemic challenges facing singles, especially with regard to tax policy, housing, work, and, of course, the widespread belief that single living is a less than state of the world.

The SOLO movement is raising awareness and educating people about the myths of single living and that it can be a remarkable life for many people, including myself and my guest. My guest wrote me the following message. “I am trying to reactivate Unmarried Equality, a 501(c)3 nonprofit currently on life support. I need people willing to be board members to restart the organization. I feel there is great value in keeping the organization alive to act as a center to coordinate the many diverse singles advocacy groups and activities.” I am planning one last attempt to restart the organization prior to shutting it down.”

These are serious words indeed. They were written by the retired president and CEO of Toye Corporation, a manufacturer of security systems in Los Angeles who was also an officer in the US Army for two years during Vietnam. However, he is here to talk to us about his participation in Unmarried Equality. Welcome, Gordon Morris.

Thank you, Peter.

We’re joined by a special guest co-host who has previously appeared on the show and is an active member of the SOLO Community, which you can sign up for at PeterMcGraw.org/SOLO. You may recognize from the Not Lonely Onely episode. She also happens to be the co-host of the blog, Onely. She was also on The Self-Contained episode. As a fierce advocate for singles, I welcome her perspective and her help. Welcome Christina Campbell, AKA CC.

Thanks, Peter. It’s really good to be back on the show, and I’m very excited for this episode because of course, Gordon, our guest, is basically like a rock star in the community. This is really exciting for me.

Are you fangirling a little bit right now?

A little bit. Yeah. When Lisa and I started Onely so many years ago, we were doing our background research on the whole singles advocacy movement. Basically, the only activists out there at the time that we could find were Bella DePaulo and Unmarried Equality. Just seeing Unmarried Equality there with their website really professional looking and full of factoids about single living and the discrimination against single people, it was so validating for us as we were just getting our blogs started. Yeah, it’s like talking to a rock star in many ways. It’s very exciting.

I’m hardly a rock star, but Unmarried Equality has been around for a long time. I only joined in 2009, but it was founded in 1998. It’s been around for many years and we went on hiatus in 2018 because I couldn’t find any more board members. Serving on nonprofit boards is not necessarily a picnic. You’re expected to do a little bit of work and a lot of people are afraid and have a, “I’ll volunteer, but I don’t want to be on the board,” attitude. We had a very active board.

We had a fantastic executive director named Nicky Grist, who was just dynamite. She was amazing. She was in Brooklyn, where she ran the organization for a number of years. She got this fantastic six-figure job offer from the Urban League. We can’t let you hold yourself back because, basically, we were paying her a very small salary.

Gordon, don’t say how much because Christina is a possible board member here. We don’t want to scare her off in the first five minutes of the show.

All right, but this was our executive director. This was a paid position. She was on the payroll, but she basically was in a part-time position. She was working more than full-time. She’s just dynamite, really professional. After we lost her, we got a new executive director, and she was wonderful, too, but she didn’t have a lot of background in fundraising. When you’re running it a nonprofit, you have to be able to fundraise. She did a lot of good things. She changed our name. Our original name was Alternatives to Marriage Project, which was the name they used.

We didn’t like that name because it was a backward and negative. Our new executive director found a consultant to work for free. They made us a new logo and they came up with a new name. They said the Unmarried Equality was a better fit than the Alternative to Marriage Project which is an awkward name. Our corporate name is still Alternative to Marriage Project. Some of you may have heard of that name, but we changed it to Unmarried Equality. That’s just a DBA, if you like to know the nonprofit lingo. Either name works as far as our website and so on.

What I did is I made a deal with Bella DePaulo and I said, “We got to keep this thing alive,” and of course, Bella didn’t want to be on the board either, so I said, “I’m trying to hand this off to someone. I’m in my 70s. I’m managing four nonprofits now. They’re little and I finally retired, but I still have free time. I’m not going to be around forever, so I need to hand this off to somebody.” We had one board member, and two of us left, and she drifted away. We had an attorney from San Francisco very briefly. Since then, I am the board, which is not a good situation.

More like a desk.

I got Bella to write a little blog on our website once a month, and she has been doing that since the organization started.

She’s a gem.

She’s fantastic. She’s been keeping things alive, but it is really time now to find another person to take over. I’m more than happy to be involved, but I really need someone to revitalize the organization. We need a real working board. To be on a board is not a big deal. Normally, you’d be talking about one board meeting a month for a couple of hours, but we do need a couple of people. We need a treasurer, someone who knows how to manage money. It’s very important.

Obviously, a president or whatever or a board chair or whatever. That person just has to be an organizer and a delegator to say, “All right. Are you going to do this? Okay. You going to do that,” and so on. Those are two key positions that we have to have someone with some real qualifications. The rest of the people just need to be dedicated to the cause. That’s the thing.

Before we get to Tom Coleman, who’s a central character in this story., I want to talk to the narrator, Gordon Morris. Before we get to Tom, I want to find out how you got involved and how you’re carrying the torch. You talked about how you’re carrying the torch now, but how did you pick up this cause?

Actually, it was because of Tom Coleman. What a segue. I signed up for the group Unmarried America years and years ago and never really did anything. I’ve never heard about it. At the time, I don’t think I was even living in LA. Tom lived in LA. Unmarried America and Alternative America Projects shared their email lists. Unmarried America found me through Tom Coleman, and they were looking for board members, so they recruited me to be on the board of Unmarried Equality and that’s how I got involved. We had several board members turning over every couple of years and get new board members, but I stuck with it and stayed on the board. That’s how it happened.

Are you a lifelong bachelor?


When did you know this was your life? Was there a particular age or a particular situation where you like, “I think Gordon Morris is a lifelong bachelor and that’s okay.”

It’s not actually a definite right now. In theory, I can meet Mr. Right. I’m gay, by the way, and it is hard in the ‘80s before the internet to be gay. I was in the army with a top-secret clearance and it was gay. I didn’t even recognize it back then.

You’re good at keeping secrets, clearly.

I came out when I was 35, so I was a late bloomer. I may meet Mr. Right. I have some very close friends and my best friend and I are like an old married couple. He has a partner, but we argue all the time and talk like a married couple and we joke about it. I have a wonderful circle of friends and I’m quite happy the way I am, but always leave the options open, but whatever.

In our world, we have different designations, different types of singles. There’s the Just May Single who wants to ride the escalator, but it’s okay if it doesn’t happen. There’s like the No-Way Single who’s like, “I’m going to prioritize other types of relationships rather than romantic or sexual ones.” There’s like the Spicy New Way folks who are open to romance and/or sex, but it’s going to look different than the traditional marriage. It’s a big tent.

It’s interesting because the singles, and I wanted to run these numbers by you because it’s a very old numbers, according to the census many years ago, we’re 45% of the adult population in this country, about 112 million people. Do you folks have any updated numbers?

Yeah. The numbers are higher. It’s now close to 50%. I think 48% or 49% of US adults are single, and then it’s like 127 million, more or less.

I figured it would be about the same and so we’re a very unusual group because when you think of minorities, you normally think of 10% or something like that. We’re almost a majority and yet we’re still second-class citizens. It’s so strange. The reason I mentioned Tom Coleman is he had a theory about why we have problems engaging singles in groups, like Unmarried Equality, and in politics. I wanted to throw this out. It’s probably another topic for another episode, but I sat down with him. A lady named Karen Reid did a national singles day program in Los Angeles and we met.

We were trying to get Congress to establish a national singles day every year. We met about 50, 60 people there. At the first meeting, Tom spoke. The second year, I spoke and then it went away and I don’t think Karen was successful. I had a chance to sit down and have a long chat with Tom, and he’s been involved since 1987. Actually, in 1972, he was involved with the Bar Association writing a single’s rights document.

Bill of Rights.

That actually got proposed to the student’s Bar Association probably when he was in law school. Tom has been involved for a long time. We sat down. I’m just totally powerful phrasing this because it was many years ago, but he said, “Here’s the reason why it’s not as easy to engage singles. If you’re African-American, if you’re Jewish, if you’re LGBTQ, these are statuses that is not changeable.

It’s immutable.

I’m not saying you want to change it, but I’m saying you don’t have a choice. You can’t change these things. Single people, however, are a different breed. As you just mentioned, Peter, there are all kinds of categories. If you have a problem being single, very simple, just go get married and have children. Problem solved. Throw the baby out with the bathwater. Who cares? We have this psyche deep in our subconscious and we’re brought up with this as children. This isn’t the US. It’s the world saying that your sole purpose in life is to get married and make children.

That’s the number one priority and anything else is not acceptable. That’s deep in our subconscious where we don’t even realize it’s there. That’s the part of the brain where it’s all automatic responses. It’s really important to get down into that subconscious and say, “What’s down there? We got a clear some of that stuff out and get the intellect to agree with the subconscious.” I don’t know. It certainly resonated with me that it’s a difficult task to engage singles. If you look at the Unmarried Equality “success story,” we have 127 million. At the time, it was 112 million. We had on our mailing list 10,000 people.

I don’t want to be negative here, but years of trying to recruit singles and get people engaged and all we have to show for is 10,000 people on our email list who says, “There’s something we’re not doing right.” Tom Coleman basically had the same experience. He had a person funding Unmarried America. By the way, they still have a website. It’sn a very good website, UnmarriedAmerica.org. Tom didn’t tell me this. There’s a story I heard. This donor over the years gave $1 million and Tom tried everything he could to get engagement with singles.

We have our task ahead of us, and I see some light at the end of the tunnel. I see particularly with women that we have women CEOs now. We have women who are in careers and not having children. Maybe they’re having children all so but this whole getting married and having children isn’t the number one priority anymore. I see a time when maybe it is time to restart Unmarried Equality and get it going again. I’m going to do an eBlast. I’ve compiled about 100 names right now and recent email addresses. The 10,000 email addresses are old. They’re probably not very active anymore.

Anyway, anyone who’s interested and even considering maybe being on the board but has no commitment, just go to Unmarried.org, click the Join button, and add your email to my list. I’ll do an eBlast and try to get everything going again and get people interested in being on the board. If we can get 4 or 5 people who want to be on the board, then we’ll get things going again.

I think Christina has questions about Tom Coleman. Are you fangirling over Tom Coleman, too?

Both. I’m fangirling over lots of people and ideas right now, and there’s a lot going on in my little head. I’ll try to bring it out in a way that makes sense. Gordon, when you were talking about Tom Coleman and the fact that he was saying it’s hard to create a singles lobby because the identity of being single is one that changes, I know that some people talk about the fact that marital status or romantic relationship status changes could actually be a way of getting people into the lobby. We could say, “A lot of people spend much more of our lives single than married.”

The identity does change. It’s not static, but the fact that we can change that identity just creates a way of telling people, “No, this is not going to be who you are all the time and you’re going to actually be single for a lot of your life,” just the way people who are ill or disabled, we think of that as a temporary situation, but it’s not. Health is not our default situation. Illness or different compromises in your ability is a default situation. Marriage is not our default situation. Being single is a default situation. As I’m talking, it’s making me think like I’m comparing singlehood to disability or illness and that’s not what I’m doing, but you see what I’m what I mean.



One of the things that is certainly the case is that the world has changed, and our institutions have not kept up with their perspective and policies. I’d like to cite this. In 1960, 78% of adults were married, and 90% would go on to get married, and the average age of first marriage was 21. Singlehood was a liminal space. It was the short period of time after you became an adult. Within three years of becoming an adult, the average person married. Now, obviously, the age of first marriage is approaching 30. Moreover, people aren’t remarrying at the same rate. You get divorced.

The remarriage rate is below 50% now and it was close to 80% back in the day. To your point, Christina, and it may be something that is temporary for some people, but they’re spending a lot of their life in this “temporary space” and the world’s not very accommodating to them, which is the work you’ve been doing, Gordon. I want to back up for a second. Tom Coleman established Unmarried America and you came to your organization, Gordon, which is Unmarried Equality through that organization.

Tom was a lawyer and in 1972, he proposed a Singles Bill of Rights. I want to ask, to your knowledge, if something special happened at that period of time in human history. I ask this for the following reasons. There’s a decent number of books now on single living. Christina, for example, was a co-host for one called Self-Contained, which was a memoir. Bella DePaulo has a dozen books or so, and there are others out there.

When I started the SOLO project, a bachelor friend of mine gifted me a book called The Challenge of Being Single. This book opens with a very familiar passage. It’s like if you feel less than, if you feel like you don’t belong because of your singlehood or whatever, you’re not alone. You’re part of a group of 43 million single people in the United States. When I was reading this, I was like, “43 million? When was this book published?” By the way, it was co-authored by two women, a professor at USC and a journalist who wrote for Cosmopolitan.

I flipped to the publication page. It was published in 1974 by a professor woman at USC who actually had a course by the same title, and another woman who was a journalist who wrote for Cosmopolitan and elsewhere. I remember reading this book and many of the topics still are exactly the same now, 50 years later. I just remember, “They were early.” I see this Single’s Bill of Rights in 1972. I’m like, “Was there something happening in the world that was turning people’s attention to this topic or is it just a coincidence?”

I don’t know. Certainly, it appeared that Tom was in law school at the time. It was the student’s law group or something. I don’t have the email in front of me, but he was with a group of students that proposed this bill of rights and they had a resolution and it was accepted. At the time, I don’t think he was even graduated from law school yet. He was in college. I think college is a time of reflection for a lot of people. It’s a big change for many people, so that could be it, but Tom certainly was an activist that goes way way back and maybe he read that book that you’re talking about. I’m still in touch with him so I might ask him what inspired him.

Speaking of Tom Coleman and his inspirations, I am interested in knowing what may have made him make the leap from gay marriage rights to single’s equality because even nowadays, a lot of people haven’t made that leap in their heads. They are fully for LGBTQA people to have equal marriage rights, but they don’t really take that to the next step in that maybe single people should have all the same rights as married people or those rights shouldn’t be tied to marriage at all. Coleman made that leap very early on, but what made him make that leap?

I can only suggest that it was the same as mine. In other words, remember Tom is gay. I don’t know when he got his partner, but I think he’s been with his partner for a long time. I was involved in Unmarried Equality for the same reason he was, that gays at the time were not legally allowed to marry. That was a justification. Moreso, I didn’t even want to get married, but certainly, the point was that was something that obviously should be allowed and it wasn’t. That was the reason that I was on the board of Unmarried Equality.

Tom, undoubtedly at the time, was motivated by the same thing that I was. Both of us were in the same boat. We couldn’t get married even if they wanted to and that’s where you start. Then the next step up, of course, is the fact that singles are even in worse shape than LGBTQ people. What happened with Unmarried Equality, we were pushing domestic partnership as an alternative to marriage. We made some progress in that and there were a number of states and cities that allowed domestic partnerships.

Once the Supreme Court ruling came down saying the same-sex marriages were legal, then a lot of those domestic partnership things started to unravel and we said, “No. A domestic partnership is something separate from marriage.” It’s a different concept and a lot of people would find it a value, but I think one of the major arguments against same-sex marriage was the insurance companies.

They didn’t want to automatically have to cover the person’s partners. We, obviously, as singles, have the same battle. We’re paying the retail price for everything. People that are coupled, either married or not, if they can put a deal together where they’re a pair, they get a better price and more discounts and so on. I suspect that was Tom’s motivation. At least it was mine, anyway, when I got involved in the movement. From there, it blossomed into more.

Can I follow up on what you asked Christina because I want to try to articulate this for someone who’s not aware of the background of this? I want to make sure I can say this right. We still live in a world where married people get many more benefits. Christina wrote this famous Atlantic article. It’s very well known. That article is about 1,000-plus legal benefits the single people can only get if they get married.

I think the reason the article is “famous,” as Peter said, is because Lisa, my co-blogger, and I did the math and found out that it’s very easy for a single person to spend at least $1 million over their lifetime, if not more, than their married peer based on just a couple of these discriminatory laws. By the way, when the court case came up, I think, in California for same-sex marriage, it was a lesbian lady whose partner passed away and she was losing $300,000 worth of Social Security benefits because she was not entitled to marry. That’s just one benefit, so absolutely, it’s a huge amount of money.

The idea, though, is that gay, lesbian couples could not marry, so they could never get that benefit. Also, the other thing is you want to be seen as equal citizens, too. There’s a principle that’s added to this. There’s a practical element and a principal element to it. The practical element is we are a partnership. We should be able to get these same benefits. Obviously, this landmark case that the Supreme Court passed changed all that. What you’re referring to, Gordon and Christina, is this leap is why should marriage have these special privileges to begin with?

Why don’t we treat everyone equally and give them equal access to benefits and equal opportunity? Why are there 1,000 extra laws for married people? People don’t make that leap, which is the case. This is obviously what Unmarried Equality wants to do, which is to elevate the status of single people and have this reflected in laws, work policies, and obviously in the zeitgeist of the day, which is that we don’t feel bad for single people. We don’t celebrate married people because of their relationship status. Have I said this correctly?

Sure, absolutely.

I just wanted to say that again, because you’re inculcated in this world, even a reader this show might not make that leap.

There’s some people who are very very progressive and might not be part of the singles advocacy community. There are people who are very progressive and part of the singles advocacy community, and they may not have made that leap yet. They may be aware that, “You shouldn’t put down the single people’s lifestyle,” but they may not be aware that it’s actually really systemic and ingrained institutionalized singlism, institutionalized discrimination against unmarried people.

I think an important way to create this single’s lobby that Gordon was talking about and Tom Coleman had tried to create with his single Bill of Rights is to make it is to encourage people to make that mental leap that all of us here on the show have made that it’s not just about marriage equality for gay versus straight couples. It’s about equality for everyone regardless of marital status and it’s about separating. I always say separate sex from the state, separate the government from people’s romantic relationships. If we can decouple that in people’s heads no pun intended, we can make further steps toward creating a single lobby.

Gordon and Christine, how do we do this? How do you create a single’s lobby? How do we make this massive change that has not happened in the years since The Challenge Of Being Single was published?

A big part of this whole issue has to do with children. Why did marriage evolve to be what it is now? It’s a practical thing. The numbers I’ve heard is it costs $300,000 to have a child. It doesn’t even include college. Many of these laws revolve around having children. There are single people that have children, too. Some of the practical reasons for marriage, but they also played around children.

The decoupling process is rather complex because some singles have children and some don’t, but the rationale for all of the benefits that people get is that it’s easier for them to raise children. Let me give a little history of the LGBT movement in California when we had a proposition and they banned same-sex marriage. We were all shocked because you said California’s liberal. How can this happen?

I was on some phone calls where I was talking to people. I was talking to a Latina lady and she listened very intently and I said, “It’s discriminatory to say one group of people can get married in another group can’t.” She listened very intently and then finally, she says, “I’m sorry. I have to go with my religion.” Deeply ingrained in all of this is religion. We developed a program to make same-sex marriage legal in California when the new proposition came out. We started going door-to-door, talking to people face to face. We had a script and we were dealing with the religious issue because religion is deeply ingrained. It’s one of the many issues that you have to work with if you’re going to convince people that there is something besides marriage.

How do you do that?

As they say, we were successful in California talking to people one at a time, but to just put out a big phrase and slogans and so on may not be enough. You have to address very specific deep cultural values and assumptions about what is involved and you have to deal with the fact that there are children involved. How do you compare singles to people who do have children, singles that have children and singles that don’t? There’s a lot of dimension to it. I think we’re at a stage where people are going to at least listen now, whereas before, they wouldn’t.

What role can big media play in this? I know that Unmarried Equality or maybe it was Unmarried America had some success in that there was a big Business Week story about them at the time that Coleman was trying to amp up that Singles Bill of Rights. I feel like if we could get these ideas into very large media outlets like The Times or the Post, that would give some really good data points and some good resources for people in our community to spread to people and our friends and relatives who might not see things the same way that we do. That said, it’s not always easy to get a lot of play in the really big publications. Do you think that’s something we should aim for, Gordon?

Definitely. We got calls all the time from a journalist wanting to interview us and there’s a practical problem with it. We had hotline phone numbers and everything set up on our website. The problem is a journalist comes up with an idea, “All right. I’m going to talk about singles or I’m going to talk about gay rights or whatever.” They’ll call us first thing in the morning and say, “I have a 2:00 deadline.” You have to be on that phone right away, and you have to be ready to answer any questions they ask. You can’t just have anyone answering the phone. You have to have someone who’s knowledgeable and experienced in doing it.

What did the founders of Unmarried Equality decide? I said, “We don’t even bother with the local newspapers anymore. It’s just too much work and too much time.” Anytime the New York Times calls or any of the big papers were on it right away, they do call because there are a lot of journalists that realize these issues and they will call and we have to be available. That’s definitely one aspect.

Another aspect I’ll suggest is this. The entertainment industry. As far as LGBTQ rights, my own opinion is the only reason that we are where we are now is because of the film industry. LGBT people were totally invisible, just like single people are totally invisible, but as soon as you start having movies, stories and series where they have LGBT couples and you find out that they’re normal human beings with normal problems and they have kids and just everything else, it changed minds beyond comprehension.

I really credit the entertainment industry for profoundly helping our situation, and they can certainly help the single situation, too, with more stories about single people and their relationships. I think that’s a pivotal thing. We have to get through to the people in the entertainment industry and they’ll run with it. They really will.

That is amazing because I have an idea. There’s this nonprofit called the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity. Amazing work. They basically provide fact sheets and information for writers and people in the entertainment industry who want to present stories that are not based on crappy stereotypes or skewed in unhealthy ways against marginalized groups. I know that they have a lot of fact sheets for all sorts of different underserved communities or marginalized communities, but they don’t have one for single people.

I think maybe readers could reach out to the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity and say, “Can you all have a fact sheet for writers who want to write well-rounded single characters?” Craig Wynne from Happy Bachelor wrote the book How to Be a Happy Bachelor. We tried to get them to do a fact sheet but have not heard from them yet, but maybe if a bunch of people in the singles advocacy community hit them up, they would engage.

Tell them I have all the stats.

Peter has all the stats.

I want to say something that might be controversial to the two of you. To me, I think there are three paths forward. The first path was the one that we’re on, which is just a grassroots. More and more people learn or get educated to tell two friends and you get this hockey stick action. The problem with that of course is that we’re not anywhere near the hockey stick. We’re better than we were 50 years ago, but it’s not mainstream at this point. This was just a matter of time.

Statistically, there are just going to become so many single people that it is going to be impossible to ignore, and they’re going to start voting in their interests, and politicians are going to be scrambling. They’re going to stop talking about families. They’re going to start talking about people. It’s just a switch of a word and so on.

The second one is, and you alluded to it, Gordon, and that’s money. If you have deep pockets, you can get a lot done because now you can do paid media. You can start actually doing advertising. Now, with social media, you can hire a bunch of influencers. You can make this thing viral. The trouble, of course, as you know, is that there aren’t singles institutions with big pockets. Unless we can find a billionaire with very deep pockets and a heart of gold for the SOLO movement, that’s the next one.

I have a slightly different opinion about the third one, which is I think that this is related to your Hollywood example. I’m going to expand Hollywood to American businesses more generally. One of the things that’s really striking, and I have an article about this that’s under review, is how American businesses are completely asleep at the wheel about this demographic shift.

The problem is that the people at high levels in Corporate America are very traditional. They tend to be married and have kids. The major decision-makers are still living in a ‘60s mentality, but once they start figuring out that there’s money to be made from this group, you start showing them in advertising and making products for them. I think you’re going to start to see that very same shift in the same way if you could figure out how to do a single rom-com, so to speak.

I always joke that one of the best SOLO movies was Casablanca. It was a love triangle and the lead didn’t end up with the girl. The movie ends with this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. If you could create more movies like that and more TV like that, but then you can also show people in your ads living remarkable single lives and start creating vacations for them and start creating products for them, start creating housing for them. I think that’s going to be a major shift. I’m not poo-pooing the idea of lobbying and so on, but I think I might be showing my own bias with my little editorial here.

No, I think it’s a very good point. One of the arguments for the LGBTQ marketplace is that, in general, we have a very high disposable income because we don’t have any children. We don’t have that huge expense. There are companies that will market directly to us and you’re starting to actually see ads with same-sex couples, which is really new and they are targeted. Certainly, there are certain markets that appeal to singles, maybe travel, for example. Married people travel, but it’s hard to travel when you have a lot of kids. It’s expensive and so on. You can’t get them out of school or whatever. There are markets that you can cater to singles. Corporations, if they make a buck, they’ll market. It’s a matter of convincing them and packaging some of the markets that would appeal more to singles.

What is the next step in raising awareness among commercial industries? Peter, you do a lot of this. What can we as individuals do and what are our larger goals as a community to convince commercial industries that they need to switch their priorities?

I don’t have an answer to that. It’s a wonderful question. I can only speak to what I’m doing. By the way, I’m not sure I’m going to be successful. Now that the book launches wound down, I’m looking for opportunities to speak, give talks, and write articles that just keep shouting, “Look at the opportunity here.” I also have another article under review about workplace policies and management practices.

These corporations are built on a 1960s model. Everybody believes in equal pay for equal work, but if you’re a single person and you’re doing equal work as a married counterpart, you don’t get the same benefits. You get lesser benefits. They are essentially compensated better than you are because they have a spouse. To me, that’s wrong and it’s bad business. If you want to recruit and retain top talent, you should recognize that half of the workforce is single.

It’s just that the problem is that the top talent doesn’t always realize that singlism is a thing. I know when I was being hired by the company I used to work for, I didn’t realize there was such a discrepancy in the way they treated unmarried versus married people.

That’s why the key is pointing this out over and over again. That’s what I can do because it’s in my wheelhouse. I think that one of the things that still gets stuff done is to respond and say where the single people are in their ads. Why are we responding to politicians who talk about families and reminding them that that’s only part of their constituents? Gordon, I thought about these things more than I ever have. What’s your reaction to that compelling question?

It has been a challenge all along. We have been successful. We had a benefactor at Unmarried Equality, and he was an IP lawyer. He funded a lot of our projects. There are a lot of private family foundations where the people who administer them, the smaller ones, are single and they certainly would be motivated to throw some money out there. This is one guy who funded us for years. Tom Coleman had the same situation. He had one person who funded his organization for many years.

We tried to get a big grant from a foundation, and Nicky Grist, our executive director, worked very hard. The big foundations re very hard to get money from because they know everyone knows about them and there’s so much demand, the supply is inadequate. She got so close. She was ready and we had tentative approval, and apparently, the board of the foundation turned over and their goals shifted and we didn’t get the grant.

To me, the smaller foundations, particularly for singles, are going to be the way to go because we got 127 million of us out of there. Some of these people have to have family foundations, and they will help support us with some of this advertising you’re talking about, putting the word out, networking, and all that. You need manpower to do that. To restart Unmarried Equality properly, we need an executive director because the board can’t really do the day-to-day work.

Executive directors make six figures. That’s the average. What we did is we all got someone part-time and whatever. If you can find someone that’s working 2 or 3 jobs, maybe they’re the executive director is free at a nonprofit or whatever, you can get by with that. A lot of it is fundraising, and you need to focus on that, but there are people out there who can help us. Finding them is the trick that takes some time and some work.

That makes me wonder, trying to find these people, trying to find funding, reaching out shouting as Peter was saying, you’re doing it over and over again and constantly they’re getting ignored or rejected. Gordon, how do you deal with that? How did Unmarried Equality deal with just what, from my experience and what I would imagine is your experience too, just constantly shouting out into the void and not always getting a lot of substantive feedback back?

I didn’t know whether I experienced that or not. We had these 10,000 supporters who were very supportive. They were obviously engaged. Most of them gave small donations. We had a few people give large donations, but the people who responded back were all very positive. The people were interested in helping. What Nikki Griff used to do for us, I’ll tell you a war story, she was a tough slave driver. She made the board call every single person on our list and asked for money once a year.

I hate asking for money, but you have to do it. You have to keep the organization going. You have to keep the lights on. You have to pay the bills. This was in 2008, during the really bad recession. We’re dutifully making our phone calls, and a lot of people have said, “I love your organization. I will support your organization. When I get my job back, I will send you some money.” These are the phone calls we had, but we didn’t have anything negative.

The people are really interested, understand, and are supportive. There’s just not enough of them. What I felt we were not able to do somehow is to get our word out somehow to everyone else to get the message out. That’s where we really needed to find some new methodology. It’s ways to get the message out because we need more than 10,000 people. If you look at the numbers, even if we got half of the single people behind us.

We can move AARP. American Association of Single People, that AARP.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. It really isn’t.

Actually calling it the American Association of Single People would be a strong main change, to be honest. It is interesting. I have to be honest. I have not thought as deeply about this as Christina has, obviously, who’s been at this for how long, Christina?

I don’t know when Lisa and I started Onely. I think it might have been around 2009.

Gordon is obviously much longer than that. I’m super appreciative of you two because you were first through the wall and it makes my life a lot easier coming, in a sense. I’m a psychologist by training, so I tend to think about the individual. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a political scientist. I love you launched a podcast to try to help the individual. My joke was if I could just help 1 person then the show is worth it because it’s helping me at the same time, so that’s 2 people.

I have come up with a plan or even a perspective about how to facilitate this. When I had a chance to chat with you and to try to help save this organization, I was like, “Yeah, of course. Let’s do it.” The headwinds are very real. One of the lines that I often use with married people, and I don’t know Gordon, is if that’s something that you folks have or Christina, you’ve talked about it, but whenever I talk to married people about singlehood, I will often say to them and sometimes to do it by a show of hands.

I’ll say, “Who here knows a single person in their life who loves someone in their life who is single and who believes that this person may be single for a long period of time?” Everybody’s hand is up to that. Someone has a sister. They have an aunt. They have a grandparent. They have a child. They have a close friend in that way and so it’s a way to point out there’s people you love who are having challenges that they don’t have to be having.

I want to add one other thing that would be helpful to the movement and that is PR. Gordon, you had mentioned being available to the media. I know Bella DePaulo does a lot of media. I try to answer, no matter how big or small, media requests that I get, but that’s waiting for the incoming. One of the ways to make a splash is to do something that’s newsworthy. I think a revamp of the Singles Bill of Rights is a splashy thing. It’s the kind of thing that journalists like to write about in a sense. Christina, you actually have an update from the SOLO community about that very endeavor.

Yes. This is super exciting. Tracy Houston from your SOLO Community, Peter, and Madeleine Crown, have been spearheading a group effort to collaboratively write a Singles Bill of Rights that basically says, “This is why single people are not treated equally. This is how we’re not treated equally and these are the rights that we have which need to be acknowledged in culture and in our laws and to an ongoing project,” but it’s very exciting.

I think it’s going to be really great because then this is what Tom Coleman was trying to create when he proposed this Singles Bill of Rights to the ABA’s Law Student Association. I think he was trying to create a handy go-to reference, a handy data set that he could cite, that he could share with people, that he could share with supporters, that he could share with people who didn’t support his cause, and that’s what we’re hoping to do now. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit further than he did.

He was facing some obstacles that were not. It was just a completely different decade and completely different world, but I did want to ask, Gordon, in the SOLO Community who are working on the Singles Bill of Rights, what should we consider so that we don’t make mistakes that maybe Coleman did in the past or maybe that Unmarried Equality did in the past? What should we do differently now? What should we do the same as you guys have done in the past?

Both of you make a very good point that this Singles Bill of Rights is a marketing tool we can use to put out there. It’s a different way to list the 1,000 rights that were denied. You don’t want thousands on the list. You want the big things.

The Singles Book of Rights.

Maybe almost need to make it like a spreadsheet and put the money on the right side because here’s the thing, it’s all about the money. Let us be practically here. There are a lot of other issues, but people can all understand the money straight up and that’s the thing you can’t argue about. You can argue about all sorts of benefits and this and that, but if you compare a single person and a married couple and what the differences are, that’s what I would highlight.

Of course, you need to use the journalistic style. The most important ones first because those are the ones that are going to get the attention. When people read a document, as they go down, they tune out and space out and whatever. The first couple have to be really strong and worded just right. I think it’s a great idea, and we all need to have it prominently displayed on our website.

I’ll put it on our website and ask other people in our communities to put it on their website. What we discussed when we were drafting this is what we should have first, like should we have the social, cultural, and psychological impacts of being discriminated against? Should that be the beginning, or should we just jump right into medical and legal discrimination, where the money is, and where the laws are?

That’s a conversation we’re still having, but Gordon makes a good point. People understand money. If you say, “We created an imaginary single person and an imaginary married person and looked at their lifetime expenditures, and the single person spent way over $1 million more,” people understand that. Generally, you still get pushed back.

In this article that I wrote about the workplace, one of the things that I say in it is that you should not have policies in which if someone gets divorced, they become worse off.

That’s an interesting idea because it’s not that way now.

I think that’s something that resonates. If you get divorced, now suddenly, you are financially worse off, not just because you have to split your things, but because you lose benefits, you lose tax benefits you lose, Social Security, etc., all these kinds of things. I think that’s an additional way. It’s also a way to make it matter to marry people because, as a married person, they think, “If I got divorced, I’m actually going to be punished for getting divorced by default.” That’s an off-the-cuff idea. Obviously, Christina will do a podcast about it to get the word out.

As we wrap up here, I want to actually ask the two of you to speak to our audience. For some people reading this, they’ve never even thought of doing advocacy work about single living. They’ve been too busy trying to be comfortable becoming single than themselves. That’s why they’ve been drawn to the show. To the degree that they want to get more involved in the movement and try to help their fellow SOLOs, besides the obvious one, which is join Unmarried Equality and contact Gordon to be considered for the board and all these other aspects, what are the little things that people can start to do to start to dip their toe into single’s advocacy?

I think you mentioned this previously, Peter. It’s a one-on-one situation. I think you really need to make your friends, acquaintances and family understand the amount of discrimination singles are experiencing because they have no idea. It just has never even entered their minds. I think everyone single needs to have a standard little spiel, a little list of things they can tell people about.

“This is what it’s like being single and it shouldn’t be that way.” The first step is to start changing people’s minds one at a time. Hopefully, later on, they’ll get more engaged and want to be in an organization or whatever. I think the first step is to make people understand how much discrimination there is against singles because people have no idea. It never entered their mind.

I think I completely agree with that and I wanted to add that his idea of being prepared to give a short spiel about singles rights, I would say practice the spiel a little bit because I’ve been doing this for years and still sometimes and someone hits me with something singlelist, I’ll just freeze and I won’t be able to put my words together. Maybe practice a little bit so you’ve got your elevator speech on standby. I have two other ideas.

Back earlier in the episode when Gordon was talking about the entertainment industry and how that really went a long way towards LGBTQ activism, I was talking about the TTIE, that group that provides fact sheets for writers who want to present single or present marginalized groups in non-stereotypical ways and in fairways, I would say right to TTIE and ask them, “How are you helping writers and entertainers present singles in a fair life?”

I would say that and I had another idea. In 2010, the New York Times did an article where they used all their massive New York Times resources to do a very in-depth study of the finances of an unmarried gay couple and a straight married couple. This was pre-gay marriage. They compared their lifetime expenditures just like the article that Lisa and I did that Peter was talking about before, but they did it in the New York Times way.

They looked at all sorts of factors and did all sorts of manipulations of the data to make sure they really had a statistically significant comparison of these two hypothetical couples. They found this gigantic difference in the lifetime spending of each of the two hypothetical couples. I think we just need to do that for a married person and an unmarried person. Lisa and I tried to do that. We did it for the Atlantic, but we didn’t have the resources of the New York Times behind us, so it’s just me and Lisa Zooming with each other, trying to make the case that singles get financially screwed.

We made it, and I think we made it fairly and accurately, but it would mean so much more to have the New York Times do that same study. As we were talking about before, like the Singles Bill of Rights, such an article would give us a nice chunk of data and a nice story. You can just give people the link and say, “Look at this. I’m not crazy. This is really happening.” I would love it if anyone knows anyone at the Times or any large media outlet really that they could pull some strings with or encourage to do this project. I think that would be amazing and so helpful.

I’m going to keep that in my back pocket because, occasionally, what happens is I get a call for one thing and then while I’m on the line, I pitch the journalists on something else. That seems like for the right ambitious journalist. I’m going to keep that in my back pocket as a pitch. I know exactly what you mean. For The Humor Code, my first book, my co-author and I did the funniest cities in America list. It was like we had six people working on the project. We did surveys. We did all this stuff and it was published in the New York Times. We got calls from every city that was on the list.

It was like a big PR hit, but it was an exclusive for the New York Times and they dedicated resources to a beautiful page and all that stuff. I get what you mean, Christina, but if anybody’s connected, that would be good. This was such a different episode, I think. It was professionally different, in a sense. Christina, thank you for your advocacy work predating my involvement in the SOLO movement, obviously supporting the show as a guest co-host, and then being an active member of the SOLO Community. I find you such a valuable resource.

Thank you. I really appreciate that.

I just find it so motivating to listen to you and to see what you’re working on.

Thanks. This has been great. I’m so glad you asked me to co-host this episode because, like I said, it’s very exciting for me to meet someone who’s been involved for so long in Unmarried Equality.

My pleasure to be here. I’m glad we were able to get together.

Gordon, I want to say thank you for your generosity with regard to the time that you’re giving to this episode, the time that you’ve given to the movement, and regardless of what ends up happening with the organization, I appreciate your effort to try to revitalize it.

I think it’s worthwhile doing, so we’ll see who comes forward. That’s the main thing.

Who wants to be the director of the American Association of Single People that all single people, when at age eighteen, get a mail telling them that they’re members? They get discounts. By the way, this is not a terrible idea. This is not a bad idea. I might go run out and buy AASP.com. Gordon, thank you so much for your time and your efforts. Thank you, by the way, for just helping make our lives easier, pre-dating us singles and the work that you would have done. I appreciate it.

I’ve met a number of pioneers in the LGBT movement and it’s fascinating to see how far back that goes. You have to start somewhere. It’s just a work in progress, and I think the time right now is to move ahead.

With that, I’ll say thank you. Cheers.

Thank you.


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About Gordon Morris

SOLO | Gordon Morris | Singles AdvocacyGordon is the retired President and CEO of Toye Corporation, a manufacturer of security systems in Los Angeles. Having spent over 30 years in sales, marketing and engineering in various corporations throughout the U.S. He was also an officer in the U.S. Army for two years.


About Christina Campbell

SOLO | Gordon Morris | Singles AdvocacyChristina Campbell co-founded the singles’ advocacy blog Onely.org, long before singles’ rights were cool. Her essays about marital status discrimination have appeared in The Atlantic and elsewhere. Her extended essay And Sarah His Wife, about mental health, misogyny, and colonial America, won the Michigan Writers Chapbook Contest. An excerpt from her memoir about invisible illness was a finalist for Craft’s Creative Nonfiction Award, and she is currently seeking representation. She lives in Northern Virginia with her infrared sauna and two semi-geriatric cats.