Gay Marriage In The United States Essay
Nor is the debate, at least currently, about the civil aspects of marriage: we are moving toward a consensus that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples ought to enjoy equal civil rights.
The leaders of both major political parties appeared to endorse this position during the 2008 presidential campaign, although only a handful of states have legalized civil unions with material privileges equivalent to those of marriage.
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.
The state’s involvement raises fundamental issues about equality of political and civic standing.
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.
Government plays a key role in all three aspects of marriage. It seems, at least, to operate as an agent of recognition or the granting of dignity. Clergy are always among those entitled to perform legally binding marriages.
Religions may refuse to marry people who are eligible for state marriage and they may also agree to marry people who are ineligible for state marriage.