In the first place, marriage qua marriage is not the holy of holies many people make out. True, it is one of the "seven sacraments" but many historians argue that, until comparatively recently--perhaps the last couple centuries--most poor people were not married in church, or even on the steps of the church, because they had no money to pay the clergyman's fee, and so either just moved in together, establishing what has become known as "common-law marriage," or had some kind of folk ceremony like "jumping the broom," both of which were socially deemed legitimate.
Second, let's not even get into the "sanctity of marriage." Deplorable as it might be, marriage is no longer "till death do us part" for half or more couples.
Third, I have never heard ANY argument, let alone a coherent one, from anyone, attempting to explain why letting homosexuals marry in some way cheapens or dilutes heterosexual marriage. This is always stated baldly as a fact, so there, and no one even attempts to explain why this is so.
Fourth, the idea that marriage (and by extension, sex) is for procreation only, was way off base from the beginning, and is totally outdated now. This position always left out the economic grounds, which historically ranged all the way from combining Princely fortunes to the poor man recruiting a helpmeet for the farming. (These days, I've known a number of happy couples get married so as to combine insurance coverage--.)
Economics is a major reason why we SHOULD allow gay marriage. Like the piece of grit at the center of a pearl, the sacrament of marriage has accreted thick layers of laws, regulations, rights and privileges related to the married state. Like the pearl, these accretion layers are not made of the same stuff as the center, but have been tacked on for numerous social and political reasons.
Really, giving legal status to a religious ceremony--the only one, that I can think of--should have been forbidden under separation of church and state, but I doubt that the Founding Fathers ever even considered that because, after all, everyone does it, right?
So, my proposal would be that we should "divorce" (so to speak) the sacrement of marriage from all those laws that refer to it, and replace all reference to marriage with "domestic partnership." A domestic partnership would be formed by filing papers at the appropriate office, just like a business partnership, and be dissolved the same way, with accounting and division of assets. Some additional procedure would need to be provided for custody of minor children, I suspect. Membership in a domestic partnership could be limited to two people of legal age to contract, regardless of sex or other consideration.
(The reason I would limit it to two people at least at first is that we haven't really even had any discussions of how heirship and custody sharing might work in families of more than two "parents" and until someone comes up with some models to discuss, we are not ready to go there.)
Then, if the partners want to have the union sanctified by their church, congregation, or coven and call it a marriage rather than a partnership, they can do so, but this would confer no additional legal status or benefits.
Pretty radical, I admit--but also rational, sensible, and fair.
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