Marriage is pretty awesome. Aside from getting to spend your life with someone you love and cherish, you get a laundry list of legal and other benefits when you sign on the dotted line:
- visitation rights and can make medical decisions, unless otherwise specified in a living will
- benefits for federal employees — many of which are also offered by private employers — such as sick leave, bereavement leave, days off for the birth of a child, pension and retirement benefits, family health insurance plans
- some property and inheritance rights, even in the absence of a will
- the ability to create life insurance trusts
- tax benefits, such as being able to give tax free gifts to a spouse and to file joint tax returns
- the ability to receive Medicare, Social Security, disability and veteran’s benefits for a spouse
- discount or family rates for auto, health and homeowners insurance
- immigration and residency benefits, making it easier to bring a spouse to the U.S. from abroad
- visiting rights in jail
(ganked from HowStuffWorks because I’m lazy)
I’m probably over-generalizing here, but it’s my impression that the “Defense of Marriage” types out there feel that these benefits are only proper since marriage is the foundation upon which our whole society is built (at least in their eyes) and “sacred” in the eyes of God. Because it’s so important, there should be a big bag of legal perks that come along with it even though those perks have nothing to do with why they feel marriage is “sacred.”
That last bit is really important because it accomplishes exactly the opposite of keeping marriage “sacred.” It kind of works as long as your church can dictate what kind of marriage the state will recognize. Even then, it’s still a terrible idea to get the state involved with providing legal privileges to your brand of marriage.
First of all, you’re getting the state involved in defining what kinds of marriages are legally recognized. Eventually, your church is going to lose its stranglehold on the government. Since marriage is a legal thing, not a “church” thing, you don’t have any say if the state decides to change the rules. If you’d never involved the state, this wouldn’t be a problem. Your church could recognize whatever brand of union you wanted and the state would have no say in it.
The bigger problem, though, is that be creating legal incentives to get married that have nothing to do with the reasons your church thinks people should get married, you are encouraging people to marry for reasons that have nothing to do with the sanctity of the institution. Citizenship, tax benefits, insurance, etc.-these have nothing to do with some sort of Godly union or being fruitful and multiplying. Even if you keep the state from recognizing same-sex marriages, you’re just encouraging people to enter into sham marriages of convenience in order to get the benefits.
The best possible answer, for all parties, is for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether. Let the state recognize whatever legal partnerships people want to form and leave the sanctity bit to the churches. The institution won’t be cheapened by allowing same-sex partnerships; its already been thoroughly sullied by getting the state (and business) to offer financial incentive to enter into it.