Gay Marriage History Essay

But marriage, it soon becomes evident, is no single thing. The institution of marriage houses and supports several distinct aspects of human life: sexual relations, friendship and companionship, love, conversation, procreation and child-rearing, mutual responsibility. (We have always granted marriage licenses to sterile people, people too old to have children, irresponsible people, and people incapable of love and friendship.

Impotence, lack of interest in sex, and refusal to allow intercourse may count as grounds for divorce, but they don’t preclude marriage.) Marriages can exist even in cases where none of these is present, though such marriages are probably unhappy.

Finally, the debate is not about the religious aspects of marriage.

Most of the major religions have their own internal debates, frequently heated, over the status of same-sex unions.

Unlike private actors, however, the state doesn’t have complete freedom to decide who may and may not marry.

The state’s involvement raises fundamental issues about equality of political and civic standing.

To get this privileged treatment under law people do not have to show that they are good people.

Convicted felons, divorced parents who fail to pay child support, people with a record of domestic violence or emotional abuse, delinquent taxpayers, drug abusers, rapists, murderers, racists, anti-Semites, other bigots, all can marry if they choose, and indeed are held to have a fundamental constitutional right to do so—so long as they want to marry someone of the opposite sex.

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To be told “You cannot get married” is thus to be excluded from one of the defining rituals of the American life cycle.

The keys to the kingdom of the married might have been held only by private citizens—religious bodies and their leaders, families, other parts of civil society.

So it has been in many societies throughout history.

In the United States, however, as in most modern nations, government holds those keys.

Even if people have been married by their church or religious group, they are not married in the sense that really counts for social and political purposes unless they have been granted a marriage license by the state.

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