On July 24 New York became the sixth state to offer officially recognized marriage licenses to same-sex couples; but it didn't recognize same-sex marriage. Why? Because there is no such thing. Though we hear these sexual orientation-oriented matrimonial distinctions ad nauseam; common usage does not confer definition. What saying "gay" or "same-sex" marriage does confer is that the social worth of gay and lesbian individuals is subordinate and inferior to their heterosexual counterparts.
As humanists, such degradations are not in the complement of our intentional vocabulary. As humanists, we should stop saying "gay marriage" and "same-sex marriage" and call it what it really is: marriage.
I'm a humanist celebrant who has had the honor of performing marriage ceremonies for both same and opposite-sex couples, and I can tell you that the only essential difference between these unions is the gender combination of the dolls on the cake--that and the harassment and disproportionate difficulties experienced by the lesbian and gay couples from those creating and capitalizing on this issue to suit their own agendas.
So what is marriage? I would define marriage (ideally) as a long-held, established civil institution based upon cultural expectations of long-term (often lifelong) committed monogamy and mutual respect between two non-related adults participating in a mutually consensual, intimate relationship. Such a marriage is conjoined by a civilly recognized contract that generally confers civil and social privileges in the form of tax benefits, social security survivor benefits, and so forth. These are the essential elements of the marital relationship. Beyond philosophical abstracts, marriage is a cherished, challenging, and rewarding commitment between two individuals who love each other and who have their relationship recognized by the state for certain privileges and protections. The marriage arrangement is a platform for these two individuals to nurture each other, pursue developing their family and, ideally, to help each other develop into better human beings. Nowhere in that structure is the sex or gender of the participants relevant. What is relevant is the love, mutual respect, care, and commitment between the participants.
In the United States, marriage is universally a civil institution, as evidenced by the paperwork those getting married must all submit to the same place: not the church, but the state. It took us 180 years to dispel legally sanctioned anti-miscegenation with the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967, overturning Virginia's Racial Integrity Law (1924), where the biblical reasoning went that God's intended "natural" racial segregation was being disrupted, which therefore necessitated harassment of interracial couples and the prohibition of them legally marrying. It then took another thirty-six years to nullify sodomy laws. In that 2003 case (Lawrence v. Texas) it was noted that these specifically anti-gay sodomy laws were recent, and that all previous sodomy laws were aimed at all forms of non-procreative forms of sexual encounter. Still, Justice Anthony Kennedy mentioned that the Lawrence court was not considering the right of homosexual individuals to marry each other. Even so, it is a progression, one that is becoming more rapid each day, leading us closer to a time when we'll look back and see this whole mess for the embarrassment that it is.
We know that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a disorder. We also know that there is no valid secular reason to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals in the areas of family, marriage, employment, and all other forms of political or social equality. …