The main point of discussion has to do with marriage with a capital M, as opposed to breaking down the components into a commitment ceremony, a set of explicit legal agreements (wills and powers of attorney and such), mushy romantic stuff, etc. And I have to admit, I honestly don't seem to be able to hold a firm position on this one. Some days I think one thing, some days I think another. I feel brainwashed, and fuzzy -- it's irritating.
So here's a question for you -- if you're married, or planning to marry, or think you might want to get married at some point -- if you're emotionally invested in the idea of marriage, do you actually also want the government automatically involved?
It's convenient, sure, that getting married entitles you all at once to each others' health care, and the right to visit in the hospital (and make whatever decisions might be necessary in the case of your partners' incapacity), and shared custody of children, and possibly tax breaks (though lots of married couples I know seem to do better financially if they file separately anyway). But if the country moved away from that model (if couples could sign up for some of the elements of that stuff explicitly, in some other way than Marriage), would you find it upsetting?
Would you feel like your marriage weren't 'real', if it weren't sanctioned by the state? What else would be going through your head, if you were married by a minister, or a Las Vegas casino, or a close friend whom you respected and admired? Would it matter whether you did it in private and didn't tell a soul for months (hello, Karen), or whether you had a huge crowd of your friends and family and announced it over the net?
I know that in England (and Australia?), the actual legal marriage rate is far lower than in the US, but that there are plenty of long-term couples contentedly cohabiting. I wonder what's happened there that hasn't happened here. And whether it'll happen here eventually.