Same-sex couples can share love, not marriage

March 23, 2011

In their op-ed, Lanae Erickson and Jon Cowan ("Don't make it about 'rights,'" March 21) are about halfway there. Like most involved in the debate about same-sex marriage, they conflate the rich cultural and religious aspects of marriage with the very pedestrian issue of the qualifications to obtain a civil marriage license and ceremony.

Lifetime commitment, love, fidelity, vows … none of these shows up in the civil code. The code requires only that the couple be of opposite sex, not be closely related, not be currently married, and be beyond a certain age. Two people who have never met can get a marriage license, although they do have to appear together for the ceremony which, by the way, does not require any vows or expressions of love or commitment.

The writers want to move the debate from "rights" to "love and commitment" but the debate is about a civil license that has nothing to do with the latter issues.

Of course they are smart to steer the argument away from "rights" because, as we get beyond the hype and emotionalism, the "rights" issue goes up in flames. The state requires ongoing generations of responsible, productive citizens to survive, and the only mechanism that has proven able to provide that is the traditional family. The laws about marriage and the privileges it provides are clearly intended to encourage traditional families. Since same-sex couples cannot perform that function they don't have any more right to that license and those privileges than an 18-year-old high school drop-out has to a medical license or a shoe store has to a restaurant license.

Same-sex couples have every right to make whatever vows of love, commitment or fidelity they deem appropriate. However, their activity as a couple serves no purpose for the state, so the state has no reason to offer them any more privileges than those extended to all other unmarried people.

Ms. Erickson and Mr. Cowan have a real dilemma. Their in-depth survey finds that people do not relate to the "rights" argument for same-sex marriage, but if they did look at it seriously, they would see that the gays want the rights and privileges without providing the associated service. When they drop back to the "love and commitment" argument, they are trying to find love and caring in a dry as dust civil statute.

Ted Hartka, Phoenix

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