The comments on my previous post didn't really deal with the difference between fact (what we perceive to be) and truth (what does that mean). They dealt with marriage and what constitutes marriage.
For Christians living in the United States, there are two different kinds of "marriage." The first is legal marriage - marriage recognized by the state. This is where the state recognizes that the two (for now) people have entered into a special relationship where they share power of attorney and rights of survivorship. Spouses inherit without paying inheritance taxes (again, for now) and there are many legal benefits that a spouse enjoys (such as joint ownership of property aquired during the marriage, etc.)
There is also the religious marriage - or for you catholic types out there, the Sacrament of Marriage. I will discuss the religious aspects of marriage in another post. This post will be concerned simply with the secular institution of marriage.
Right now, both forms of marriage are under attack - primarily by heterosexuals who desire sexual freedom, but still want society's sanction for their lives.
So, what is marriage and why should the State give special priveleges to married couples
Marriage is supposed to be the life long union of husband and wife. Even civil marriages assume (or they used to assume) that the union was going to be life long. It was never designed to be "two people who love each other" or a temporary ("starter") union.
So why do I say that marriage is under attack? It is not under attack because of "gay marriage." Gay marriage is the result of downfall and failure of our culture to understand marriage, not the cause of the downfall of marriage.
Today almost 40% of all births occur outside of marriage and approx 50% of marriages end in divorce (this includes 2nd and 3rd marriages that have a much higher failure rate than 1st marriages).
We have changed marriage from a lifelong commitment to live together in sickness and health, till death do us part into a temporary commitment that we keep until a better offer comes along. We have changed the definition of "love" from caring for the other in good times and in bad times to an fleeting emotion of affection that affirms our personhood and contributes to our self-perceived psychological health. Anything that causes us to think less of ourselves can be (and should be) jetisoned from our lives like so much garbage.
We have turned marriage into a temporary partnership - much like a limited liability corporation where any party can leave the partnership at will - and, if you have a good enough lawyer - take the majority of the assets of the partnership with you!
I believe that it has been the unintended consequence of "no fault divorce" that led to the downfall of marriage as an institution. Our society now sees marriage as just another disposable item that can be discarded the moment it no longer meets our needs.
The natural consequence of marriage being disposable is that it is no longer really held in high regard. Too many in society simply don't care.
Into this culture comes the request of homosexual men and women to also have marriages where the state grants all the rights that they grant heterosexuals in marriage. With how our society now views "marriage" this is not unreasonable. In fact, it is perfectly reasonable.
So, why does the State give benefits to marriage? The State gives special privileges to married couples for two reasons. First, the family that starts out with husband and wife is (generally) the best place to raise children. Put in biological terms, the institution of marriage evolved as a trade off. The husband and wife promised mutual sexual fidelity to each other as a way of caring for the children and for the husband to insure that the children he provided for were his. This arrangement goes far back into time. The second reason is that stable partnerships are of great benefit to society. Health and wealth and happiness are all higher among married couples (especially long term married couples) than they are among similarly aged single or divorced persons. Society functions better when its members are happier, wealthier, and healthier. This alone should be a good reason for society to encourage (e.g. provide benefits for) marriage.
What I would like to see is for marriage to regain its place as a life long union - where it is difficult to get a divorce and where no-fault divorce is not allowed. Apart from this, the state could offer a "civil partnership" where any number (why should partners be restricted to two?) of adults can join in this partnership and gain some limited benefits - such as power of attorney, the right to inherit without taxes, the right to be covered by employer health insurance, etc. It should be rather easy to join into a CP and rather easy to get out of one.