Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Marriage in America Is Wrong

 

Marriage equality has become a sticking point for many Americans, primarily from the conservative side of the spectrum. As we get closer to the point where SCOTUS could arguably settle the dispute, I have been thinking about why we have ended up with the entire argument in the first place.

The basis of the marriage equity camp’s argument is the 14th Amendment, while those opposed tend to argue on the basis of the First Amendment (even though we haven’t really gotten to the point where lawsuits are being filed to force religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriage.) Ben Carson ended up in a minor situation with the Southern Poverty Law Center over the fact that he publicly stated that gay rights organizations should not be able to define marriage. Sadly, I can’t bring myself to agree with him, at least not in the context of state recognition of marriage.

And that is where we’re getting marriage wrong.

The state shouldn’t be in the business of marriage in the first place, but it’s simply not going to be ousted from it at this point. Maybe in the future Americans will dissolve the IRS, and essentially remove the necessity of the state recognizing marriage at all through changes in insurance, wills, property rights, etc. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, so I’ll deal with what we have.

Now, generally speaking, couples that wish to be married go to a county courthouse to apply for a marriage license. Then, they have that paperwork made legal either by a state-appointed official, or a religious leader. What would happen if religious leaders were able to give couples that marriage license directly?

Of course, the primary objection would be about the fees that are typically charged by county governments for that license. The reply to that is simple enough — instead of the couples paying it directly, it would still be paid on their behalf by the religious leaders issuing the marriage licenses. Most churches already charge some sort of fee for marriage ceremonies, so it shouldn’t be a very big deal to add another line to that invoice, so to speak.

Why would this resolve the issue? It’s simple enough. If states would allow religious leaders to issue marriage licenses, they could also explicitly reaffirm the First Amendment protections that churches enjoy. No state should be able to force a church to perform a marriage, right? Some churches already refuse to perform marriage ceremonies between heterosexual couples on various grounds, and no we do not see lawsuits over that.

If the goal honestly is to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage, this is the best solution. There is nothing sacred about the state. We should be primarily concerned with protecting religious rights in this argument, not worrying about what the heathen government does.

There are 37 comments.

  1. EThompson Inactive

    It’s simple enough. If states would allow religious leaders to issue marriage licenses, they could also explicitly reaffirm the First Amendment protections that churches enjoy. No state should be able to force a church to perform a marriage, right? Some churches already refuse to perform marriage ceremonies between heterosexual couples on various grounds, and no we do not see lawsuits over that.

    Excellent point and I will take it a step further. I refuse to discuss my POV on abortion, but I will vehemently declare that it is an issue no longer accessible to the legislative or executive branches because it was a judicial decision. I think we can all agree that John Roberts has no intention whatsoever of allowing Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

    My point here and I speak from the perspective of my pro-life ob/gyn who has repeatedly discussed this issue with me is this: He refuses to perform abortions and as he mentioned, it is “damned difficult” to find any doctor in Florida (outside Miami) who will. It is a personal, moral and interestingly, a business decision as well. My doc has no desire to upset his mothers and invite protesters and negative press. In other words, the pro-lifers seem to be doing an effective job in my part of the world here.

    • #1
    • February 13, 2015, at 4:43 PM PST
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  2. kylez Member

    I think we can all agree that John Roberts has no intention whatsoever of allowing Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

    Why can we all agree on that?

    • #2
    • February 13, 2015, at 4:54 PM PST
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  3. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison Post author

    kylez:

    Why can we all agree on that?

    Thank Kermit Gosnell for that. He was an anomaly that would arguably become status quo if abortion was made illegal.

    • #3
    • February 13, 2015, at 4:59 PM PST
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  4. EThompson Inactive

    kylez:

    Why can we all agree on that?

    You kidding me? His ruling on Obamacare was pretty indicative of a Supreme whose priority is protecting the Court from controversy. Period.

    • #4
    • February 13, 2015, at 5:06 PM PST
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  5. Max Knots Member

    Liz. You’re onto something here. An elegant solution. But would the LGBT activists accept the result?? It seems to me that they want the force of government to enforce their desired outcome.

    • #5
    • February 13, 2015, at 5:41 PM PST
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  6. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison Post author

    Max Knots:Liz. You’re onto something here. An elegant solution. But would the LGBT activists accept the result?? It seems to me that they want the force of government to enforce their desired outcome.

    Whether they accept the result or not, it places the argument where opponents of gay marriage can hold the high ground. One way or another, this is a battle that will need to be fought – defense of Freedom of Religion.

    • #6
    • February 13, 2015, at 5:45 PM PST
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  7. Ward Robles Member

    Punting on gay marriage to take away a distracting political issue is tempting, but what are the implications? The government ‘s interest in marriage licenses is make sure that you are eligible to be married, such as not already married to someone else or not actually the person you are representing yourself to be. Marriage certificates are an important piece of identification. Even so, marriage scams are not all that uncommon. Phoney or at least insincere marriages are a fairly common form of elder abuse in which the payoff may be an a short-term play to empty the bank accounts or a longer term project for a home or other inheritance or survivor benefits. When people want out of a bad marriage, they turn to the court system. Unravelling marriages in our complex financial system takes up a huge chunk of court resources.

    Cultural conservatives have misread public sentiment. Americans’ impulse is to support people who just want to pursue their own agenda without forcing others along. Why not tap into this impulse and make a deal? We will support your right to marry if you support our right to follow our ancient religious teaching and have only traditional marriages in our own voluntary religious organizations? A California ballot proposition along these line would be a big winner and put cultural conservatives in a much more favorable light in the larger political culture.

    • #7
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:12 PM PST
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  8. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison Post author

    Brimmer:Cultural conservatives have misread public sentiment. Americans’ impulse is to support people who just want to pursue their own agenda without forcing others along. Why not tap into this impulse and make a deal? We will support your right to marry if you support our right to follow our ancient religious teaching and have only traditional marriages in our own voluntary religious organizations? A California ballot proposition along these line would be a big winner and put cultural conservatives in a much more favorable light in the larger political culture.

    You’ve said what I’ve said here, just shorter. As for the issue of legalities, there may still be states out there that accept a Baptismal Certificate for proof of age, which implies that the state can trust religious institutions in legal matters. What about churches that choose to accept gay marriage?

    • #8
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:20 PM PST
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  9. Gary McVey Contributor

    The churches are not going to be forced to perform gay marriages, period. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to scam money from gullible conservatives.

    • #9
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:31 PM PST
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  10. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    This idea won’t work and would more likely create the very problem you seek to avoid. First off the issue with SSM at the federal level is one of recognition by the federal government – this would not solve that issue and you would still need a court ruling or act of congress. Second by making religious organizations agents of the state you would subject them to the 14th amendments requirements for equal protection under the law. Churches could indeed be forced to perform gay marriage.

    • #10
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:44 PM PST
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  11. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison Post author

    Gary McVey:The churches are not going to be forced to perform gay marriages, period. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to scam money from gullible conservatives.

    I’m far too cynical to make a broad statement like that, especially while I watch the courts continually take more secular stances on other issues regarding religion. Do I think it will happen soon? No. But I can’t say it will never happen. So, I’ll agree on your contention about scamming money out of conservatives.

    • #11
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:46 PM PST
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  12. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison Post author

    Jamie Lockett:This idea won’t work and would more likely create the very problem you seek to avoid. First off the issue with SSM at the federal level is one of recognition by the federal government – this would not solve that issue and you would still need a court ruling or act of congress. Second by making religious organizations agents of the state you would subject them to the 14th amendments requirements for equal protection under the law. Churches could indeed be forced to perform gay marriage.

    Churches are voluntary organizations of individuals with similar beliefs. It would be difficult at best to force the 14th Amendment there. What I’m saying here is suggesting a way for states to meet federal demands under the equal protection clause on marriages performed by state employees/agents – judges, justices of the peace, etc.

    • #12
    • February 13, 2015, at 6:52 PM PST
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  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    You are making them Agents of the state and thus they would need to treat all people who apply for licenses equally.

    • #13
    • February 13, 2015, at 7:01 PM PST
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  14. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Liz Harrison:

    Gary McVey:The churches are not going to be forced to perform gay marriages, period. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to scam money from gullible conservatives.

    I’m far too cynical to make a broad statement like that, especially while I watch the courts continually take more secular stances on other issues regarding religion. Do I think it will happen soon? No. But I can’t say it will never happen. So, I’ll agree on your contention about scamming money out of conservatives.

    Yeah, me either. I did a very quick search, “Denmark decided two years ago that it was acceptable to force churches to perform gay marriages. … Danish parliament voted by an overwhelming 85-24 margin to compel churches… priests may opt out of performing the wedding service for theological reasons. However, a bishop must arrange for a replacement.”

    The future is whatever Justice Anthony Kennedy says it is…

    • #14
    • February 14, 2015, at 3:55 AM PST
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  15. Basil Fawlty Member

    Gary McVey:The churches are not going to be forced to perform gay marriages, period. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to scam money from gullible conservatives.

    No need to “force” them. Just seek “voluntary” compliance through the enlightened application of the tax code and anti-discrimination laws. Like with the Boy Scouts.

    • #15
    • February 14, 2015, at 5:46 AM PST
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  16. Merina Smith Inactive

    I think the most likely scenario is that churches will not be allowed to perform legal marriages. That will have to be done at city hall, then churches can solemnize as they wish. But of course, the real push has been to marginalize anyone who believes in marriage and that it forms a foundation that assures that as many children as possible will have their biological mom and dad. Thinking that this is best has become a sign of “bigotry” that cannot be promoted in polite (read leftist) circles. It is hard to imagine a worse way the Supremes could have handled this issue. They have assured that it will be divisive and that real bigotry (from the leftists) will continue as far as the eye can see. In the meantime, they’ve given the green light to all manner of third party reproduction, which amounts to buying and selling babies away from their biological parents. What could go wrong?

    Mormons solemnize marriages in our temples, only open to worthy members. I can see us actually dropping the word “marriage” for the word “sealing” since the idea is that couples are sealed to each other and their children for eternity.

    • #16
    • February 14, 2015, at 5:54 AM PST
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  17. Basil Fawlty Member

    Liz Harrison:

    kylez:

    Why can we all agree on that?

    Thank Kermit Gosnell for that. He was an anomaly that would arguably become status quo if abortion was made illegal.

    Gosnell was an anomaly only by degree. And it seems odd that a crime which occurred under Roe v Wade should be an argument against reversing Roe v Wade.

    • #17
    • February 14, 2015, at 5:55 AM PST
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  18. Amy Schley Moderator

    Basil Fawlty:

    Gary McVey:The churches are not going to be forced to perform gay marriages, period. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to scam money from gullible conservatives.

    No need to “force” them. Just seek “voluntary” compliance through the enlightened application of the tax code and anti-discrimination laws. Like with the Boy Scouts.

    And there’s already precedent with threatening to strip Bob Jones University of its not-for-profit tax status for not allowing black students. First churches will attempt to avoid the public carrier laws by only performing weddings for members. Then a gay couple will lie to become members and Anthony Kennedy/IRS will sympathize and poof! Any organization that discriminates against gays will lose its not-for-profit status.

    I just hope that churches that don’t want to bend on this point are starting to get their financial house in order to survive.

    • #18
    • February 14, 2015, at 5:56 AM PST
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  19. Merina Smith Inactive

    Oh yes, Amy is absolutely correct. Tax-exempt status is on the way out. Obama and the lefties have been salivating over that money from the get-to. Our comfort has to be that persecuting religion always backfires. It makes people more committed.

    • #19
    • February 14, 2015, at 6:28 AM PST
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  20. GrannyDude Member

    The Cloaked Gaijin writes: I did a very quick search, “Denmark decided two years ago that it was acceptable to force churches to perform gay marriages. … Danish parliament voted by an overwhelming 85-24 margin to compel churches… priests may opt out of performing the wedding service for theological reasons. However, a bishop must arrange for a replacement.”

    Danes don’t often attend services, but Denmark has an established religion, and a state-supported church. If an organization is paid for by the taxpayers, the taxpayers—through their elected representatives— have the right to a say in what that organization does. (Separating church from state thus protects religion from government).

    “If states would allow religious leaders to issue marriage licenses, they could also explicitly reaffirm the First Amendment protections that churches enjoy.”

    Merina writes: “I think the most likely scenario is that churches will not be allowed to perform legal marriages. That will have to be done at city hall, then churches can solemnize as they wish. 

    I think so, too. Moreover, I’ll welcome the change: as an ordained minister who performs weddings, it’s always struck me as peculiar that at a wedding, les etats c’est moi (Fronch Fries, anyone?) and I can legally marry people… though I can’t grant a legal divorce.

    I can preside over a funeral but I don’t sign the death certificate, I can ceremonially welcome a child into my church community, but I can’t sign off on an adoption: why does the state presume that I have the expertise to evaluate and sign off only on this one, binding and extremely consequential legal contract?

    Given that presumption, why didn’t the government trust me to decide whether to marry gay couples before same-sex marriage was legalized or, for that matter, to make my own “expert” determination now about whether a polygamous or polyamorous “marriage” should not only be performed in my church but recognized by the state?

    This all gets even sillier (or, arguably, corrupting) when you consider that the state is required to be so undiscriminating about who counts as “clergy” that it recognizes online ordinations.

    • #20
    • February 14, 2015, at 8:06 AM PST
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  21. The Dowager Jojo Member

    You can hardly get me to shut up about how wonderful my husband is. But if I had it to do over, I don’t think I would marry him, because really, for me, there is no such thing as marriage any more. We are not religious and don’t go to church. When we married (justice of the peace) everyone knew what marriage was…even agnostics. It had a social and cultural meaning. I don’t think it has to be religious to have meaning, though a worthwhile religion should recognize it somehow.

    If legal changes reflect the current social and cultural meaning, to me that new meaning is unintelligible and unpersuasive. Culturally it’s just an enhanced “going steady” announcement, not a commitment to making a life and a family together. I don’t care if I am married for the cultural meaning any more.

    Of more effect, I don’t care if my children are married. My son is living with his girlfriend. Two years ago I would have agitated quite vigorously to get them to marry, based on what I understood marriage to be. But now I can’t imagine why they should, and could not give them any good reason. I asked my son if they plan to make a life together. He said yes. That is now as coherent and meaningful as a legal marriage to me. But I am sad that my children have to make their way in a world where traditions which used to organize society in a beneficial way have been modified to uselessness.

    Strong protection for religious freedom might protect a coherent meaning for religious marriage, but gay marriage has already erased it from the secular or civil version of marriage. Of course many or most advocates did not intend or expect that result, but some did- and did not care, or even welcomed it.

    • #21
    • February 14, 2015, at 10:17 AM PST
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  22. GrannyDude Member

    Jojo—I would tell your son that being married means a whole lot when one of you dies. Or at least, that was my experience, upon being widowed.

    Societies concern themselves with marriage because a marriage is not only the basis of a new “nuclear” family, but connects two previously unrelated families into a new extended, mutually-supportive family undergirded not (only) by affection but by duty and honor. This is, as you say, the basic way we organize society for everyone’s benefit. When my husband died, everyone understood that I was his next-of-kin, his medical and burial decision-maker, his default heir, the co-owner of shared property and the one who was given the folded flag at his funeral.

    I’ve got young friends who live together, are committed to making a life together, even have children together…but they aren’t married. If they break up, they’ll have all the miseries of divorce, and when one dies, the other will grieve…but he or she won’t have the automatic protections and support socially and legally provided to widows/widowers. And believe me—it will matter.

    • #22
    • February 14, 2015, at 11:17 AM PST
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  23. Rachel Lu Contributor

    Also, just to add, the defense of marriage as a man-and-woman institution is not based on the First Amendment. That makes it sound as though the completely commonsensical idea that effectively every human society accepted until yesterday is what needs special protection and justification. Let’s not get things backwards.

    • #23
    • February 14, 2015, at 11:25 AM PST
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  24. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Rachel, thanks for saying better what I was trying to say, except that you did not put it as pessimistically. When the focus is on a rear-guard religious freedom action, the secular battle has been given up as lost, but traditional marriage made sense from a social as well as religious perspective.

    • #24
    • February 14, 2015, at 12:24 PM PST
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  25. Herbert defender of the Realm,… Inactive

    And the people who wished to be married, but not through a religious organization, what options would they have?

    Btw those opposed to SSM aren’t arguing using the 1st amendment, they are making an appeal to history, or are trying to project what might go wrong with the idea in the future.

    • #25
    • February 14, 2015, at 12:28 PM PST
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  26. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Kate, the legal benefits may still be worthwhile to many people. So marry when the legal benefits outweigh legal risks/penalties. Friends and family will recognize their bond either way.

    • #26
    • February 14, 2015, at 12:31 PM PST
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  27. Merina Smith Inactive

    Jojo and Kate, this is a very interesting conversation. I’m a religious person and believe that marriage has a God-given purpose, so I would never consider living with a man outside of marriage nor would I be comfortable with my children doing so, but it is important to recognize what the result of destroying the understanding of what marriage is has done. There have always been very few requirements for marriage–gender complimentarity, permanency, usually an age requirement and in our nation (except for Mormon polygamy, which was never legal) the number two. And it has always been understood that a big reason for these requirements was to provide stability for any children born to the couple.

    As Jojo and Kate both pointed out, marriage was a respected institution because it provided protection for children especially, but also for both men and women regarding property and the like. The first thing that broke down was the understanding that sex should be reserved for marriage–the 60s went after that. The next domino to fall was permanency with so-called no-fault divorce. If anyone could leave at any time for no reason, well, the “contract” didn’t mean much. Now they are going after complementarity and I’d say fidelity is also on the chopping block, as stated outright by many in the gay lobby. And of course the understanding that a family consists of husband, wife and any children born to them is now “bigoted”. Third party reproduction is now hunky dory and look out anybody who suggests that a child might want to know his or her father and mother. Is it any wonder that most of us think the number two is hardly sacred? And is it any wonder that Jojo questions the point of marriage?

    • #27
    • February 14, 2015, at 4:31 PM PST
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  28. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    Merina, you and Jojo may question what you see perceptions of marriage have become, but that says nothing about what the perception of marriage is by the two people who exchange vows sincerely. It is a choice by them and it is their choice and their honor to live up to their vows to one another. Those vows create a state of consciousness that binds them and God together, and nothing can change that reality unless they permit it. A couple can be as old-fashioned as they want to, either today or a hundred years ago. Griping about a sickness that infects others does not affect the happiness of those that are happily going about living in that state of consciousness.

    When two people come together and they have an obvious disparity of means, and maybe for many other reasons, living together creates a temptation for one person to take advantage of the other. They do not have the property protections afforded by the legal institution of marriage. I don’t pretend to understand the subtleties of a premarital contract, but I consented to going through with it because it would offer some peace of mind in the event of an early split. I don’t believe in living together before marriage for another reason. Even more precious than a person’s earthly belongings, a person’s emotions can be abused if they are not clear from day to day what their intentions are regarding the other person and whether they intend to make a permanent life with the other person. I have seen it. Such apprehensions are put to rest when the two people make their solemn and public vows to one another in a marriage. And only after that happens, then it’s okay for them to move in with one another and start the rest of their lives together.

    • #28
    • February 15, 2015, at 2:23 AM PST
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  29. Merina Smith Inactive

    I agree with you Ray. But from the social and communal perspective, which is very important as Kate points out, the meaning of marriage has been greatly stripped away. In general, people think nothing of premarital sex or living together, do not necessarily expect marriages to be permanent and have removed what once existed in legal structures to ensure that (no-fault divorce is contrary to that expectation) and now have greatly weakened the expectation that children are part of marriage–it’s now mostly about adults–or that it is best for children to be raised by the two people who created them. So the definition of marriage and legal structures that kept all of this in place and protected people emotionally and financially, not just those entering marriage but their children as well, have been terribly weakened. It’s great if the couple still holds strong beliefs about marriage and their own vows. I do and I’m glad to hear you do. But the societal support that used to assure that most people held those views is substantially weakened except in communities, like religious communities, that still hold them. It’s a great tragedy that leads to terrible sorrow for a lot of people, but that’s where we’re at.

    • #29
    • February 15, 2015, at 5:31 AM PST
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  30. The Dowager Jojo Member

    Ray, I agree that a man and a woman should not live together unless they are committed to making a life together. Casual living together can be very destructive, to the woman in particular, and a total disaster in the event of a pregnancy. There are two sides to a healthy marriage culture: marriage is an attractive and valued arrangement whose purpose is understood and respected, and it is a nearly mandatory arrangement for men and women who are going to live together. Socially mandatory if not legally mandatory. In most of America, the socially mandatory part has evaporated over the last thirty years. That was the most destructive development, but one could hope it was reversible. People like me hoped for that, and I felt it was important to my family that we were legally married and I stressed the importance of marriage to my children.

    But I no longer understand legal marriage as the way for a man and a woman to confirm that they are forming a family, since it’s been extended to people who can’t form families. And that extension kills the hope of making marriage essentially mandatory again. Same sex couples will never be shamed for not legally marrying, because there’s no reason beyond their own preference that they should marry. So how can we shame heterosexual couples for not legally marrying? That would imply that marriage meant something altogether different for them, which it does, but the law says it does not. So I can’t respect legal marriage.

    In my opinion Kate’s friends who have promised each other they will make their lives together and have had children together are married, in the sense I understand the word. They should get the legal recognition if and when its advantages outweigh its disadvantages, but it won’t be what makes them married.

    Legal marriage and real marriage are still connected in my mind but more by habit than by rational basis, and I could not put my heart into arguing with a young couple that legal marriage is essential.

    • #30
    • February 15, 2015, at 6:35 AM PST
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