Washington-based professor Stephanie Coontz lets it all hang out in a NY Times> op-ed on marriage:
Why do people – gay or straight – need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.
The Evergreen State University educator goes on the explain how marriage become institutionalized, evolved from interfamilial arrangements to an elaborate church-and-state endowed institution. Dissecting the utilitarian aspect of marriage, Coontz concludes:
Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep – who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.
Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples – gay or straight – decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.
Hopefully the “tradition” worshiping Republicans will take note…