Get Government Out of Marriage
So today is the one-year anniversary of gay marriage in Massachusetts.
Unsurprisingly, gay marriage in Massachusetts has divided not just America in general but also gay activists. Some think that it shows that the civil unions granted by some other states are actually reinforcing gays' status as second-class citizens; others think that it's stupid not to take the full advantage of whatever rights one can get, civil unions included.
I think the one-year gay marriage anniversary drives home that the states should stop issuing marriage licenses period. It's becoming increasingly clear that people want two, radically different things from marriage: first, a sacrament and, second, a set of secular rights. There's no reason for one institution, particularly a governmental one, to provide people with both.
As a sacrament, marriage should be the domain of religious communities. The government shouldn't get to determine whether you've been properly circumcised, baptized, or introduced to the inner mysteries of the thetan. So there's no reason the state should be judging and solemnizing the sanctity of your sexual union. Your imam or your priest or your rabbi can keep on conducting marriages, but that's none of Uncle Sam's business. (And why is Uncle Sam such a confirmed bachelor?)
The call for secular rights is about two things: dignity and economics. Dignity is a consideration because gay people don't like the government's claim that "marriage is good, but it's not for you." They resent being second-class citizens. Fine, but take marriage off the table for all citizens, and we're all riding in first class.
As an economic unit, marriage is only one of many possible, viable arrangements that can and do help to safeguard the well-being of those involved, including any children. Right now, there are a host of secular rights that go with being married, but there's no reason that these couldn't be granted individually or collectively by a binding legal document. Of course, maybe it would make sense to preserve the notion of domestic partnership, at least until we have a health care system in this country that doesn't encourage you to get married so that your partner can get dental.
But there's no reason to call that "marriage." And there of plenty of good reasons not to.