With the ruling on Prop 8, the gay marriage debate has suddenly been brought back to life.
Well, I figure this is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on the issue.
First of all, the religious right is correct. Marriage is a holy and sacred institution. Perhaps, if that is what a particular religion believes, it should not be tainted or disgraced by the marriage of a same sex couple. On the other hand, what does the religious right think of Rush's three marriages? Or Republicans who get divorced?
The purpose of marriage (from a religious sense) is the raising of a family, is it not? So, according to most of the doctrines which oppose gay marriage, these couples should not be using birth control, right? Moreover, widows, divorced people, etc. shouldn't be getting married if the woman is post-menopausal, and unable to bear children, right?
In fact, in many of these religions, people probably shouldn't be marrying if the woman is employed full time outside the home, right? After all, women were intended to raise the family, right?
Well, the hypocrisy of the reasoning behind protecting the sanctity of marriage aside, here is my point. The whole institution of legal marriage is a disgrace to both the sanctity of marriage, and the liberty of individuals.
If a marriage is a holy union, why should you need the government's approval? What about couples who are in love, who have their creator's blessing, but cannot afford a marriage license, or for whatever reason are unable to attain one?
Some say that the issue is over a word. A less extreme view of my own perspective would argue that marriage should be changed to a "civil union" or "legal union" for both gay and straight couples, to take the religious fervor out of the argument.
My own, perhaps rather extreme, opinion, is that marriage as a governmental or political institution should be abolished. There are a series of "benefits," "drawbacks," and other effects which come with legal marriage. These should each be considered individually, and be up to the individuals involved to decide.
Many of these issues can be addressed with wills and living wills. Inheritance, hospital visitation rights, organ donations, funeral arrangements, medical decisions, etc. should go to biological family (parents or children), not to spouses, unless a specific arrangement has been made and legally documented prior to the situation arising.
Taxes should be based on living arrangements, not based on personal or romantic relationships or emotional attachments. Roommates (regardless of their domestic arrangement) who choose to live as a household should be able to file taxes as one, regardless of whether or not they are "married."
Health insurance companies and employers should decide who is eligible for non-employee benefits based on their policies, not based on a piece of paper issued by a court.
A couple of good examples before I stop rambling. Many adults never get married. Some get divorced and stay single. Some adults have long-term roommates. For instance, one woman I know has been married, and lived with her roommate for 30 years (almost as long as she has been married to her husband). They pay bills together, pay rent together, and share groceries. The roommate recently became unemployed, and is now being supported by my acquaintance and her husband. When the couple was raising their child, the roommate was there to support them and help them. Their daughter describes it as "almost like having a second mother." From a financial or tax standpoint, is she any less a part of their household than the husband?
Gay or straight, people should have the right (and responsibility) to make choices regarding individual financial, legal, and medical decisions. These should not be lumped into one institution, under a name borrowed from religion, and based entirely (at least in theory), on an emotional, sexual, and romantic relationship. Leave "marriage" and "unions" up to the people and their churches, and let the state worry about specific transactions.