We should, by all means, strive to make the institution of marriage more inclusive. But our goal, over the long run, should be to lessen the prioritization of marital status in the distribution of rights and benefits.
It may surprise some to learn that the debate over same-sex marriage is not only between gay rights supporters and their opponents. For the last fifteen years, there has also been a vigorous debate over same-sex marriage within the LGBT and progressive communities.
For almost two decades, the organized gay rights movement, led by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, have been pushing hard for marriage. But there have also been LGBT rights activists who have questioned whether it makes sense to focus so much of the movement's energies and resources on seeking to expand an institution that has for so long contributed to the subordination of women and that has also served to discriminate against those who choose not to marry.
These critics argue that our society unjustly privileges marriages at the expense of other types of relationships. Our current laws make a slew of crucial benefits -- from health insurance to social security survivorship payments to tax advantages -- dependent on marital status. Rather than limiting eligibility for these benefits to individuals who are married, critics propose that everyone be allowed to choose one designated beneficiary. It should not matter, the critics argue, whether the two individuals in question are married or even whether they are in an intimate relationship. (One of the leading proponents of this view is law professor Nancy Polikoff. You can check out her blog here.)