--Guest post by Lilac Sunday, who is solely responsible for any annoyance created by the sentiment below
A bill permitting unilateral no-fault divorce has passed the New York state legislature. With Governor David Patterson's signature, the last holdout will fall, and every state will permit no-fault divorce in some form.
And that right there is the heart of the problem with the gay marriage debate. At the hands of straight couples, marriage has already ceased to be the institution that opponents of gay marriage are trying to defend.
Proponents of traditional marriage are fighting an uphill battle against the damage that has already been done to the institution of marriage by 24-hour wedding chapels in Nevada, Liz Taylor and Larry King, the cult of single parenthood, and, most importantly, no-fault divorce. Although there are still (and God bless them) couples who believe the words "until Death us do part" as they utter them, the idea of marriage as an institution is extinguished when one party can end the marriage clinically and without consequence via a stack of documents presented to a judge.
I therefore submit this modest proposal to resolve the gay marriage debate in a manner that preserves the institution of marriage while putting gay couples on parity with straight couples:
The only couples who are "married" are those whose union is performed by a religious institution which does not recognize no-fault divorce, and the state will have no authority to end the marriage by no-fault divorce. Everyone else, gay or straight, whose union can be ended by no-fault divorce, has a civil union. Because, when you get right down to it, an agreement whose conditions and boundaries are determined by legislative and bureaucratic fiat is a government dictat, not an institution.