Marriage has lost its cultural significance


In light of the recent ballot box victories for same-sex marriage, the archaic definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman is obsolete.

Although the legal benefits of marriage make it appealing to tie the knot, the institution of marriage is unnecessary. While the decisions in Maine, Maryland and Washington undoubtedly represented a victory for same-sex couples, marriage is not needed to legitimize relationships.

In fact, marriage is on the decline nationwide. According to Pew Research Center polls, only half of all American adults are married, which is a decline from the 72 percent of the national population who were married in 1960.

Yet, America is far from a society of singles: cohabitation is on the rise among straight as well as gay couples, according to Pew Research Center. Instead of focusing on becoming legally married, many of today’s couples are creating lasting relationships without walking down the aisle.

And why should they have to? At its most basic level, a relationship is a bond formed between two people. It does not require acknowledgement through the fanfare of a wedding. Although a ceremony is a declarative sign of togetherness, it does not ensure a relationship’s success or longevity. In America, for example, over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the eyes of the law, however, a marriage carries more weight. Legal boons such as social security benefits, joint tax filing and estate planning privileges make couples eager to get hitched.

Most states do not afford cohabiting partners these benefits. While the savvy couple can still arrange their assets to be mutually beneficial, some privileges, such as hospital visitation rights, cannot be mimicked. This antiquated system must change. In an age when marriage has lost its national significance, cohabiting couples should enjoy the same legal rights as married couples.

Despite the sentimentality associated with traditional weddings, the modern couple does not need a ceremony to solidify their bond and ensure their rights. Marriage is old-fashioned and redundant; it holds no sway over a couple or their place in society. Like the decoration on a wedding cake, it is merely ornamental.

  • Dave

    Kind of a silly article. While it is true that the number of people who are married is declining, the fact that 50% of American adults are married is a pretty clear indicator that it holds cultural and/or religious significance for a huge number of people. Ms. An may not find any such significance for herself, and that’s fine, but she should not speak for the millions of people who feel otherwise. In the past year, my own son has gotten married, as have several of his friends; the institution is far from dead. And if Ms. An wants to cohabitate with somebody, get the state-granted benefits and protections that married people get, and do it all without the fanfare and walking down the aisle … she can get a civil marriage. No matter what it’s called, if she wants those benefits from the state she will need to register with the state … as is the case for any state-granted benefits. And that’s really all a civil marriage represents. What she’s asking for already exists.