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[references to marriages made for various reasons]

Such dynamics rarely produce real marriages. Rather, they usually produce public facade of "marriage" behind which the supposed "husband" has a "mistress" and the supposed "wife" has a "consort," both probably known to the other supposed "spouse." Such relationships are shams.

Precisely. Marriage is something personal, and private. The only people who can define what their marriage IS are the ones participating in it. Having the state say "this is a 'valid' marriage and this one is not" is a bit ridiculous, since they lack the ability to see into the hearts and minds of the participants. I know of state-sanctioned "real" marriages that have all the negative aspects you described, plus a good dose of abuse, neglect, and cruelty thrown in to keep it interesting. I know of "immoral" or "invalid" marriages that are based on mutual respect, love, understanding, compassion and each partner believing that they are improved simply by being with the other. The state can't differentiate, and I think it shouldn't even begin to try.

[reference to civil unions between any adults]

Further, I see no reason to limit such relationships to only two adults. I object only to the use of the term "marriage" to refer to such relationships because such relationships are not really marriages.

It all depends, again, on how you define "marriage".

That said, I do think that our civil society has a real interest in promoting, supporting, and strengthening real marriages because a real marriage is the natural environment -- and the best envirnoment -- in which to bear, nurture, and raise children.

I agree, again, depending on your definition of a "real" marriage. I maintain that one man and one woman who lack respect for eachother, are abusive and cruel, neglectful of their children, and disinterested in their development are NOT good parents, despite having all the sanction of a "real" marriage, as defined by the state. The state has a HUGE interest in promoting, supporting, and strengthening any relationship based on love, tolerance, patience, understanding and compromise. THOSE are the traits that make good parents, and lead to good children.

Again, I think the government should get OUT of the marriage business. Sanction "personal unions", and NOTHING else. If people want to get married, let them do that TOO. The state's interest is in encouraging stable relationships, which leads to happy and productive citizens. The state shouldn't decide which relationships are in any way "blessed" or "real", any more than they should decide which religions are "blessed" or "real".
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