Now that the President has once again come out in favor of gay marriage (Illinois Senator -- pro; U.S. Senator -- anti; President -- evolving until two weeks ago), it has become the topic de jure.
It strikes me ironic that popular culture would suggest that gays are consumed with desire for same-sex marriage while heterosexuals are eschewing marriage in droves.
I am also uncertain why this issue is presumed to be a partisan political issue favoring Democrats. It seems to me that whenever a Democrat has a sex scandal, it is virtually always with a person of the opposite sex. Republican sex scandals inevitably seem to be same sex.
Under our constitution, the states have the power to regular marriage, not the feds. The states can literally permit or prohibit sanctifying with marriage whatever relationships they wish.
But what exactly is marriage? Why does it exist?
As our nation is Constitutionally secular, let's examine these questions with as little religious influence as the topic will allow.
We can be reasonably certain that marriage existed at least as far back as 3,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., as the earliest written histories make reference to it. We can also be reasonably certain that at some point in the mists of unrecorded history that marriage did not exist.
As a practical matter, there is very little restraining men from promiscuous behavior. Not women. Before the modern age, if all variables are random, a woman would have a statistical one in eight chance of getting pregnant with each encounter. Without some degree of security and certainty, women have a tremendous disincentive to engage in sexual activity.
With marriage, there is a relative certainty regarding paternity. To the extent that there is recorded history, we know that there has been a distinction between legitimate children and illegitimate children. Legitimate children have a right to inherit from their fathers. Fathers have a duty to provide for their children. Additionally, husbands have always had a duty to provide for their wives.
Human children are very labor intensive. Marriage allows a woman to have a sexual relationship and improves her chance of successfully rearing her children to adulthood. It also ensures that she is provided for while occupied with infants. It would seem that marriage came into existence to facilitate having and rearing children.
By the time of the Egyptians and Babylonians, marriage was considered to be a contract. There was an offer of marriage, acceptance, and the sexual relationship was the thing of value exchanged between them to bind the contract. Marriage would appear to be about contractually restraining the behavior of men to the benefit of children and mothers.
To call marriage a loving and committed relationship is grossly misleading. In my observation, the average person has a more loving and committed relationship with their dog than other human beings.
Marriage is not required to have a committed and loving relationship. Particularly these days, marriage is not required to have a sexual relationship. So how is a same sex relationship affected by marriage?
Looking at the contemporary institution of marriage, we see an institution enormously distorted from its historical purpose.
Today, it seems that a majority of people do not honor the lifelong commitment. With reliable available birth control, women seem to be substantially less inhibited regarding sex. Likewise, men seem to be less willing to exercise restraint and more likely to revert back to promiscuity as they are unlikely to be confronted with unintended children.
That said, marriage is more than having children. Marriage offers many secondary and tertiary benefits: Companionship, love, economic stability and much more. Unfortunately, most young adults are indoctrinated with the marriage ideal as portrayed on television. On television, the secondary and tertiary aspects of marriage have supplanted the primary.
Who doesn't want a relationship where someone is obligated to love, support and provide stability for you whether you are gay or straight?
I frequently provide wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other instruments to committed unmarried couples. If they treat each other with love and respect and execute the appropriate legal documents, unmarried persons can achieve all of the secondary and tertiary aspects of being married.
This is particularly important as they typically do not want to be restrained by monogamy, fear supporting the other, and desire the freedom to easily separate in the future.
Not every committed loving relationship qualifies for marriage. From the beginning of known history, every society has recognized that certain relationships cannot qualify for the sanctity of marriage. Siblings are barred from marriage because of the genetic consequences suffered by their children. Marriage to non-humans is barred, as the relationship is not capable of producing children. Same-sex marriages have historically been barred because the relationship does not naturally produce offspring.
Not every marriage has children. Not all children are the result of marriage. But marriage seems to be the province of relationships likely to result in children.