Marriage and Perry v. Schwarzenegger

Frank Rich has got a nice piece on marriage, divorce and family in the Times. Here is the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/opinion/13rich.html

Rich points out that denial of the right to marry to gays is the last legally upheld explicit discrimination in the US. Perry v.
Schwarzenegger is a case before the courts in which the legality of California’s ban on same sex marriage is being challenged. It is likely that this case will work its way up to the US Supreme Court.

There is something that I do not understand about all of this – something I have not been understanding for years. Public opinion polls would suggest that the American people (especially folks under 45 or 50) are more comfortable with homosexuality than they are accepting of gay marriage. I would suggest that this is because many Americans see marriage as a religious as opposed to a secular or civil union. I don’t believe this but all the same I get it. If marriage is a matter of faith for you, to have the government legislating the terms of marriage can feel like an attack on your beliefs and values. In light of this, why not take a different approach?

Why not get the US government out of the marriage business altogether? That is what I’d really like the Supreme Court to do – give marriage to the people and religious institutions to sort out amongst themselves. No more marriage licenses. It seems so obvious to me that I cannot understand why this option is never even discussed. I mean, really, what is the State’s interest in marriage? Isn’t it in ensuring that those who undertake financial, legal and familial partnerships correctly meet their obligations to one another and providing recourse when this is not the case? Why couldn’t the US just offer domestic partnership (or even incorporation for households of more than 2) licenses to everyone interested in undertaking the legal obligations of domestic
partnerships? Folks who wanted to take their license to a house of worship (or Vegas) for a wedding could do so, provided that religious institution was willing to recognize that civil union.

Growing up we had some neighbors who are older women, now in their mid-70s who never married or had children. I have known them my entire life. They have been together as long as I can remember but, as far as I know, they are not sexually or romantically involved. In my mind, that should be irrelevant in the eyes of the law. They own property, vacation and attend church together. When one is ill, the other cares for her. As they are aging, one of the two is failing more quickly than the other. I find it baffling that a household like the one I have just described and the relationship between these two women (older than Al & Tipper’s marriage) should be denied standing as a union whether or not it would be recognized as a marriage by the church those two women attend so faithfully.

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