What is marriage? It has different definitions to different people. It has had different reasons over the course of history.
So what does it take for a marriage to be a “real” marriage?
We already know that the government will only recognize marriages that have the marriage license that they issue. It makes sense as they need to be able to track unions for federal benefits, for emergencies when next of kin needs to be notified of something, and so on. My issue with this is that they are the ones who can determine who is and is not allowed to marry.
There are the marriages within a religious institution. You can be married in the eyes of the government, but not within your religion if you did not follow their protocol. For example, if a Catholic got married legally but not within a church or with a Catholic officiant, the couple would need to go to confession for fornication outside of marriage even though they were legally married. Most religious officiants are also legal officiants so everything can be done within one ceremony.
But what about those that for different reasons, do not or cannot get married legally? I have a friend who recently had a wedding/commitment ceremony with her partner. For health reasons, they did not get a marriage license to make it legal. Is their marriage any less of a marriage than a legal one because they did not file that piece of paper? What about the polyamorists that have decided to marry more than one partner, where the only difference is that one or more of those marriages do not have the legal marriage license? Are those any less of a marriage because they decided to share the union with another?
People have been getting married for all kinds of reasons throughout history.
We all know that the royalty of history were not ones to marry for love. Betrothals were part of treaties and marriages were to secure political alliances. Marriage for love was not usually an option for them. If they were lucky, they learned to love their spouse.
Another reason of history to marry was to improve one’s social status. If you could marry a station higher than you or someone wealthier than you, you had security in your future and the future of your family. Even now, many people will consider financial worth as to whether or not someone is “worth marrying”.
In today’s day in age, political alliance and social status are not as important as they once were. Though many still marry for the legal benefits for either themselves or their children. I know more than one couple who married because one spouse needed the medical benefits or for financial reasons. Legal marriage is done for more than just love.
Then, there is the reason we are taught: marry for Love. You marry because you found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You marry because you see a life and a future with this person, and you cannot imagine a future without them in it.
So what is a “real” marriage? If it’s a marriage rooted in love, then why do we limit it with the laws we do? Why did it take so long for the gay community to get the legal right to marry? Why do we tell those in the polyamory community that you can only marry one of those people you love? Why is it that we tell these people who love each other just as deeply as any traditional couple that their love isn’t as true because it’s different, yet there are people out there on their 4th, 5th and 6th marriages?
Here is what I believe a real marriage is:
A real marriage is when the people involved, whether it be 2 or 3 or whatever, truly love each other and want to be together for the rest of their lives. It’s open and honest. It’s working together to create a life for those involved. Who are we to limit the gender or the number of people a person can love?