Long before civil governments granted marriage licenses, men and women had been getting married for generations. Most had their unions sanctified in a church or other religious institution.
Yet, too many advocates of gay marriage whine that, until the state acts, they can’t married. Hogwash. No, most states still won’t recognize their unions as marriages, but, long before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court mandated in 2003 that the Bay State recognize same-sex marriages, gay men were living together with their partners — and lesbians with theirs, with many calling their unions marriages and their spouses, husbands and wives respectively.
“I would like for our four children to grow up understanding that their daddy and their poppa have made that kind of a lifelong commitment to each other,” he said. “Marriage is the word that we use in our society to convey that idea.”
You mean, his children wouldn’t recognize that commitment if the state didn’t recognize their union as marriage? (He’s not the first to make this kind of claim.) Theirs must be a pretty weak relationship if they need state sanction to show their commitment.
Now, there are many strong arguments to be made for state recognition of same-sex marriage. Saying that without it the state’s sanction you couldn’t convey your commitment is not one of them. And yet, that is part of the Ninth Circuit’s argument in overturning Prop 8.
It is important that we distinguish between state recognition of marriage and the institution itself. And yes, state recognition confers many benefits.
Even without that recognition, gay people remain free to marry. And state authorities won’t arrest them for doing so. Or demand that they move to another state. They just won’t accord them the benefits they offer to different-sex couples who elect marriage.