Years ago, here in Santa Barbara, I went to a debate about same-sex marriage between Jonathan Rauch and Maggie Gallagher. Rauch, author of Gay marriage: Why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America, of course took the pro side. If the name Maggie Gallagher is, to you, an infamous one, then you already know that she opposes same-sex marriage.

As I remember the event, early on, Rauch posed a question to the audience: How many believe the government should simply get out of the marriage business? A fair number of hands went up. He said, in some polite way – forget about it; that will never happen.

He may be right about that, but in the interim, the idea just keeps bobbing up again and again. Below are two examples just from the past few days. Rajiv alerted me to the article from Slate (thanks, Rajiv) and I just discovered the one from the Huffington Post.

The title of the article in Slate by David Boaz is simply, “Privatize Marriage.” Here’s some of what he said:

“Why should the government be in the business of decreeing who can and cannot be married? …why should anyone have – or need to have – state sanction for a private relationship?

“Make [marriage] a private contract between two individuals…Under a privatized system of marriage, courts and governments would recognize any couple’s contract – or, better yet, eliminate whatever government-created distinction turned on whether a person was married or not.”

Sally Kohn’s piece for the Huffington Post (originally published by the Women’s Media Center) is called, “Prop 8: Let’s get rid of marriage instead!” Following the Prop 8 ruling, she argued,

“perhaps the next step isn’t to, once again, expand the otherwise narrow definition of marriage, but to altogether abolish the false distinction between married families and other equally valid but unrecognized partnerships.

“No, that doesn’t mean I want to marry three women at the same time or a goat. It means that I think I should be able to decide what constitutes my family – whether it’s me and my same-sex partner and our toddler, or me and my elderly mother and father, or me and my best friend who want to care for and love each other but not necessarily to be intimate. The job of the state is to protect my family and our rights – not decide that two parents plus kids makes a family and everything else is an exception to the rule at best.”

When I asked, over at Living Single and at the Huffington Post, why you should have to be part of any kind of a couple in order to be accorded the same basic benefits and protections as married people, some readers expressed hostility. Why can’t I just celebrate the Prop 8 ruling and not try to make a singles issue out of it, they asked. I like something else Sally Kohn said in her critique:

“While certainly worth celebrating, the Proposition 8 ruling says that gay people are equal to straight people as long as they act like straight people. But the fundamental right to be treated equally, even if you are and act different, remains beyond reach.”

That last sentence isn’t just about GLBT individuals.

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