On the way home from work I was thinking about Sideon's post about gay marriage. I was wondering why it seems to upset so many people, especially religious people, and it got me to thinking about the "traditional" purpose of marriage.
When I was growing up I reached a certain age when my father carefully and very sensitively explained to me that I should NEVER be in bed with a girl unless I was married to her. I was especially NEVER, EVER supposed to be in a bed with a girl without my clothes on! Uck. Why would I want to do that?
In Mormonism, as with most Christian religions, and probably most other religions and cultures extra-marital sex is a really, really bad thing. Of course, the reasoning for this is pretty simple. Sex can result in pregnancy which produces children and children are usually better off being raised in a stable relationship with two parents. Marriage was the step people took to formalize a stable, committed, long term relationship suitable for raising children.
So, sex and marriage are traditionally pretty inextricably intertwined in most people's minds with marriage being the prerequisite for having sex.
This all makes a lot of sense until you attach a lot of other things to marriage. From a legal standpoint marriage has evolved into a complex contract that confers all kinds of rights and responsibilities. I hazard a guess that if all of the implications were disclosed to the parties getting married a lot of them would hesitate before signing. Heck, it seems pretty ridiculous that a car loan has more disclosure and paperwork than probably the most complex legal contract most people will enter into during their lives.
Of course, the sexual aspect of marriage becomes irrelevant in an age where sex only results in children when you're trying to have a kid or if you're irresponsibly stupid. And of course homosexual sex hasn't ever resulted in a pregnancy, as far as I know.
So here's the disconnect. Many people in committed relationships want to formalize that relationship and enter into the legal obligations and receive the legal protectionis traditionally given to married couples. That seems pretty reasonable and in fact completely unobjectionable.
So why are so many people getting bent out of shape by it? I think it is because they believe that it's a sin to have sex outside of marriage and that if you allow homosexuals to marry then you are condoning homosexual sex. They believe that homosexual sex is a grave sin and they don't want the law to be seen as condoning it. But the idiots seem to miss the fact that gay and straight people are boinking like bunnies without being married. Marriage, for most people, is simply not about sex anymore except to religious people.
My solution? I think that the state legislatures should require marriage licenses with full legal disclosure of all of the terms and conditions of the marriage contract. If the want they can call it marriage for traditional straight marriages for all I care and something else for everyone else. But the law shouldn't have anything to say about consenting, adult sexuality. The law should be about the law. The legal aspects ought to be handled like any other contract with standard terms and conditions and the religious or ceremonial aspects should be completely separate with no legal implications whatsoever. In that world, couples could get married in a church or their backyard and it would mean absolutely nothing before the law until they sit down and sign the marriage contract and file it with the government.