The issue of whether states should allow people of the same gender to marry has raised in my mind a much more fundamental question. For me, it highlights the flaws in having the government sanction relationships instead of legal obligations. So, for instance, should the state be involved in any way with the sexual activities of consenting adults? If not, then why is the sexual relationship of married people an issue at all? States have moved away from requiring grounds like adultery in order to obtain a divorce, and every state now has a no-fault provision. To me, there is a clear trend against having the state involved in our (adult, consensual) sexual interactions. That being the case, why does it remain relevant to marriage? And if adult, consensual sex is not the state’s concern, then why does it matter whether it is a man and a woman who get married, or in fact, whether their relationship is sexual or not? Why do states not do away with marriage, and simply legislate domestic partnerships if they feel there is value to having laws protecting individuals who wish to share the financial or child-rearing responsibilities of life together?
That is not to say that marriage can not exist or that people can not call themselves married. Marriage can continue to be the province of religions and should be expanded to non-religious contexts if people wish to do so. If the word “marriage” had no legal significance, anyone could perform the ceremony. This would appropriately remove the state from that sticky state-church connection. The ramifications of a marriage ceremony should not be legal, but social, which is what it feels like. The rights and duties that people seek from marriage should instead flow from compliance with the state’s domestic partnership laws. Such laws, in my view, should apply to anyone without regard to gender. It is even possible that there could be a provision which could allow for more than two people to be in a domestic partnership. Why not?
As my son, Mitchell, says: why can’t people call themselves married even if they are domestic partners? I agree. We are not legislating what people can say (freedom of speech!)
I would like to see a move toward domestic partnerships divorced from the concept of sex or sexual orientation. Let’s leave social definitions of their relationships to the individuals involved. As a mediator who believes in self-determination, this seems to offer the greatest options for self-determination among the population, free of the state’s unnecessary opinions about what social relationships should be.