A friend of mine posted this article, and I started to post a response to it but it ran, well, really long for facebook so I moved it here.
In response to comments in the article about the lack of records for same-sex marriages among women:
. . . and then there is a 19th-century living arrangement known as a “Boston marriage” which is when two “spinsters” shared a living space. In theory, this began among factory girls during the Industrial Revolution and it was a temporary arrangement however by the Victorian era in larger industrial cities, it was probably not so temporary a choice for many women. Since women historically did not accumulate wealth, acquire real property or, for that matter, vote, there wasn’t much interest in tracking their activities. Marriage in the legal sense is usually about property ownership and inheritance so not as monitored for female couples as for male. (Not to mention the pervasive hetero male fantasy that 2 women who are involved with each other are simply killing time until a man shows up, so female couples do not have the same cultural impact as male couples.) I’m not gay, I have many years of what is often termed “women’s studies” which de facto includes lesbian studies as a subset.
Back in the 70’s, an elderly couple wrote to Dear Abby (or maybe it was Anne Landers) talking about their desire to get married, reinforced by their religious beliefs, and their very real concern that a marriage would negatively affect their social security payments. The advice was, have the religious ceremony at the church without having a civil ceremony or registering their union with the government. Civil marriage is not the same as religious marriage. It is possible to have one without the other.
In many states the religious officiant has the right to speak for the government (“by the power vested in me by the state of whatever, I now pronounce you . . . “) although in other places there are two separate processes. That’s why people take the document presented by the clergy to the county to have the marriage recorded. Changing the legal definition of marriage does not affect the religious definition, which is set by each sect. In this country, Church and State are separate entities. Legalizing same sex marriage does not require moral approval by religious groups. There are many activities that are legal which may be morally objectionable to someone (eg. drinking, smoking, abortion, and the death penalty, to name a few that come immediately to mind).
Ethics may be the foundation of law, but it is almost impossible to legislate morality. As it should be.