Gay marriage should not be legal in the United States. Marriage itself should not be a legal matter, but a relationship between people. The hand of government adds little but confusion to what should be an important personal commitment.
Marriage in the United States has always been restricted, by age, by color, religion, intelligence and by familial relationship. Limits on marriage on the basis of color have been eliminated but part or all of the other restrictions remain in effect. Some states still require a blood test or other medical exam as a precondition for marriage.
In New Hampshire, marriages are forbidden to girls under the age of 13 and boys under the age of 14. Under age 18, teens need parental permission and consent of a judge. Marrying a first cousin is prohibited.
In Rhode Island, marrying a stepparent or a first cousin is forbidden. The various familial prohibitions do not apply to Jews, who are permitted to follow the rules of their religion. The laws of Rhode Island also spell out the specific rights of married women. Men may not marry until 18, but woman may, with parental consent, at age 16.
In South Carolina, with parental consent teens may marry at age 16. At 18 either sex may marry without parental consent. A person may not marry their stepmother or stepfather, and marrying in-laws is also prohibited.
Nevada is nationally known for quickie marriages and for much of the last century as a haven for those needing a divorce. There is no residency requirement for marriages but a person must be a Nevada resident for six weeks to obtain a divorce.
The Cornell University Law School provides a detailed table of state marriage laws with links to the relevant state statutes. The age of consent is 18 in all states but Nebraska, where it is 19. In Puerto Rico, the age of consent is 21.
At the other end of the legal life of a marriage, the American Bar Association has a website detailing the various divorce laws of the fifty states. Like the marriage laws, they are diverse and complex. This site also has a section on child custody and support laws.
Polygamy, one man with more than one legal wife, is not legal in the United States. Polyandry, one woman with more than one husband, is also illegal in the United States. The Ethnographic Atlas Codebook reports on 1,267 societies worldwide, of which four practice polyandry and 588 that practice polygamy.
Marriage and family law are a part of civil law. There is no right to an attorney. Poor people with legal issues surrounding marriage are either ignored or at the mercy of a litigant who can afford a lawyer.
My paternal grandfather was a serial bigamist. He married his second wife before the death of his first. He married my grandmother before divorcing his second wife. The law at the time took little note because everyone involved was dirt poor. All the laws in the world provided no protection for the women and children my grandfather left to starve.
Little has changed, despite increased lawmaking and dramatic enlargement of the family court system. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2007 only 63% of child support payments owed were received. In the Census Bureau’s Poverty in America 2009 report, 1/3 of those living in poverty lived in households headed by a woman alone.
Current laws vary by state so greatly that legal gay marriage will be burdened by the government as has more traditional one man – one woman marriage. When marriage laws apply differently to teenaged boys than they do teenaged girls, or to Gentiles than they do Jews, or it is easier to get married than to divorce, legal gay marriage is a choice that community should choose to reject.
Removing government from the marriage business allows people that wish to marry to discuss and choose which obligations they wish to enter in to as a part of their commitment. There exists a wealth of legal ways that people can create relationship obligations outside of marriage, wills, powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, trusts, life insurance and others. Planning a future together should be a part of a marriage and legal marriage offers no chance to do that.