When public officials, religious leaders, and general zealots insist on the sanctity of marriage being supported and even included in the law of the land, they are exposed as uninformed hypocrites by the reality of the world and the history of marriage itself.
Sanctity of marriage implies some moral, religious basis for the institution. Well, in some religions it is a sacrament so marriage is considered very important. Of course this doesn’t really address the fact that a couple can be legally married totally independent from the church simply by going to a Judge, a Justice of the Peace, or the Captain of the cruise ship. Is marriage a sacrament or a legal concept? If it is a legal concept, then the State may recognize the religious marriage as if it had performed the ceremony itself. But let’s face it, the ceremony is just decoration, the signatures on a legal contract are what constitutes a marriage.
Historically, religious and civil laws have been far less separated than they are today. Marriage, as an institution, was given the sanctity of the church and the control of the civil authorities fundamentally to assure the continuance of the wealth of powerful families. If there was no strict way to tie a woman to a man, then there may be offspring that could challenge the normal inheritance path. After all, remember that marriage was fully developed in a time when women were chattel—uneducated, without any legal rights of their own.
I ran across a comment in Parade’s End that seems apropos, if a little dated:
… if it came to marriage, ninety per cent of the inhabitants of the world regarded the marriage of almost everybody else as invalid.
Of course I immediately thought of the current gay marriage controversy but it was only in the mid-70s that I planned to marry my second wife and we were told by the church that they not only wouldn’t marry us but furthermore that the wouldn’t recognize the marriage. Well, it was easy enough to find an alternative church that had a more liberal view of marriage. Besides, it was the signatures on the official government documents (including the original marriage license) that made it a sanctioned marriage, and no amount of flowers or organ music was going to change that.
So many other anomalies in the history and reality of marriage have been documented that I don’t feel the need to go into them: Biblical concubines, church sanctioned polygamy (it’s in the Bible as well as Salt Lake City), laws against inter-racial marriage, legal and religious supported exogamy, divorce rates, increasing numbers of single persons living alone or with partners without concern for marriage, homosexuality and homosexual couples, out of wedlock births, teen pregnancies, etc.
To consider homosexual marriage as the evil which will destroy the sanctity of marriage is ludicrous and the right-wing should take their heads out of their asses and drop this bogus issue. As an institution, marriage is destroying itself. The addition of gay partners in the marriage game may actually strengthen the institution. So if you are insisting on the sanctity of marriage, maybe you should be rooting for the gay population.
Marriage is a social contract and as such it provides certain benefits to those that engage in the institution: equality under the law demands that the marriage contract not be limited or restricted. An amendment to exclude certain citizens from marriage would be immediately declared un-consitutional. The churches can continue to discriminate as they wish, but anyone covered by the Constitution of the United States must be allowed to sign those legal documents which create a legal marriage.