I've been thinking about this for a long time, but with the new attention given to Gay Marriage and Civil Unions, it's time to put this idea out there. We need to decide as a culture whether marriage is a religious sacrament or a legal arrangement.
In our current system, it is both. The problem is that the religious side wants to control who is allowed to participate. The State has an obligation to provide equal protection under the law. Those two views simply are not compatible. So, is it a religious institution? If it is, then the government should not be involved at all and there can be no restrictions on marriage except the individual's religious beliefs. If it is a legal arrangement, then again, it has to be provided fairly, so you can't really restrict the form that it takes. Either view dictates that people be allowed to define marriage for themselves within the structure of their beliefs or choices.
Our attitudes toward marriage make very little sense. You can't enter into a binding contract until you are 18, but some states will let you marry legally at 13. Apparently, someone decided it was more difficult to get a rent-to-own dishwasher than it is to choose the person you'll spend the rest of your life with. How the State can approve a match that would under reasonable circumstances be considered child abuse, I don't know. Consider the Mormons.
The Mormon faith is perhaps the largest religion of purely American origin. In its original form, it encourages polygamy. In order not to be driven into the sea, the official church agreed that they would not practice polygamy, and those who do are excommunicated. According to our Constitution, the State did not have the right to impose that restriction. As a result, certain renegade Mormons do practice polygamy, with Utah officials mostly looking the other way.
I respect the Mormons because they take their faith seriously. They study hard, they walk their walk, and they seem to be nice people. I think that we should honor our Constitutional spirit of plurality and let them marry as they please. One problem, though, is that in the current underground of polygamy, girls in their early teens are being forced into plural marriages by their families. Of course, if they had to be 18 to get married, and if polygamous marriages were legal, this wouldn't be a problem. See where I'm going with this?
If marriage is such an important institution, let's reserve it for responsible adults. Among consenting adults, let's have fairness in the Law and therefore equal access to insurance, inheritance, healthcare, parental rights, tax cuts and the other privileges that are currently reserved for "Husband and wife". As an American citizen, I am quite capable of deciding to whom I will or will not commit. It is not the government's role to parent me. My religion of choice has no gender restrictions, or quantity either. If I want to be monogamous, polygamous, polyandrous, or just plain plural, that's my right.
America is about freedom, above all. People are fond of saying "it's not in the Constitution" - usually where privacy rights are concerned. What they forget is that the Constitution, in its wisdom and beauty, specifically reserves to the People all rights and liberty not delineated therein. In other words, if it doesn't say so, it's your right.
They didn't have to mention privacy for us to have privacy rights. They simply did not restrict those rights.
To love whom we love is the most basic of rights. It makes us human. It improves our lives and by extension, the society. No one has the right to infringe on this liberty.
It's only fair.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.