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Each of these important aspects of human life, in turn, can exist outside of marriage, and they can even exist all together outside of marriage, as is evident from the fact that many unmarried couples live lives of intimacy, friendship, and mutual responsibility, and have and raise children. Married people get a lot of government benefits that the unmarried usually do not get: favorable treatment in tax, inheritance, and insurance status; immigration rights; rights in adoption and custody; decisional and visitation rights in health care and burial; the spousal privilege exemption when giving testimony in court; and yet others. When people get married, they typically make a statement of love and commitment in front of witnesses.Nonetheless, when people ask themselves what the content of marriage is, they typically think of this cluster of things. Most people who get married view that statement as a very important part of their lives.But much of the officially sanctioned marrying currently done in the United States is done on religious premises by religious personnel.
Same-sex marriage is currently one of the most divisive political issues in our nation.
In November 2008, Californians passed Proposition 8, a referendum that removed the right to marry from same-sex couples who had been granted that right by the courts.
In the United States, however, as in most modern nations, government holds those keys.
Even if people have been married by their church or religious group, they are not married in the sense that really counts for social and political purposes unless they have been granted a marriage license by the state.
Being able to make it, and to make it freely (not under duress) is taken to be definitive of adult human freedom.
The statement made by the marrying couple is usually seen as involving an answering statement on the part of society: we declare our love and commitment, and society, in response, recognizes and dignifies that commitment. For many people, a marriage is not complete unless it has been solemnized by the relevant authorities in their religion, according to the rules of the religion.
Given all this, it seems odd to suggest that in marrying people the state affirmatively expresses its approval or confers dignity.
There is indeed something odd about the mixture of casualness and solemnity with which the state behaves as a marrying agent.
Nor do people even have to lead a sexual lifestyle of the type the majority prefers in order to get married.
Pedophiles, sadists, masochists, sodomites, transsexuals—all can get married by the state, so long as they marry someone of the opposite sex.