I've been thinking about spousal hires since reading different peoples ideas in a variety of blogs. It's a complex issue.
Yes, it's good for people to be happy, and married people seem to be mostly happy when they can live in the same area and are appropriately employed (if they choose).
Some folks have argued that spousal hires take jobs from others, or countered that by saying that new lines are created for spousal hires.*
I live in a different world, because tt lines here are few and far between, and far more likely to be cut than added.
So what I want to ask: Are straight, married people systemically oppressed or discriminated against?
Do straight, married people need special treatment to address systemic oppression or discrimination?
I don't think so.
I also think that we need to recognize that straight married people are often given access to additional benefits? (In my world, this includes subsidized insurance benefits, tax benefits, inheritance benefits, hospital visitation, etc.)
Further, when departments in my world talk about "fit" in choosing the best candidate for the job, they generally mean "straight white people teach everything that's not specifically labelled ethnic or glbt." (In some departments, "male" is also part of the equation, but the English department I teach in seems to have been fairer in that area.)
In my experience, when a local department wants to hire a spouse, it hires the spouse as an adjunct and then when a line "comes open," sets up the search committee explicitly and the committee writes a job description for which that spouse is an ideal candidate. If a job description is written for a spousal hire, then that description pretty much excludes all unmarried candidates, including gay and lesbian candidates where they can't marry. (And my state is one that doesn't recognize gay and lesbian couples.) I think that's an ethical problem.
And that ethical problem goes beyond the objection that only one person could get the job, so the other applicants were mostly SOL anyway; the hiring in these cases has been predetermined. The other applicants were misled into wasting their money on sending their letters, and into wasting their energy preparing letters, interviews, presentations.
So while I recognize partners who want a job in the same area as a spouse, I think I'm ethically opposed to spousal hires the way they're done here.
*We also aren't really facing the superstar issue. If you're seriously considering a job offer here, you're pretty much by definition not a superstar. You may be wonderful, but you've already lost the superstar glow.