Over at First Things, Michael Fragoso takes issue with Stephanie Coontz. Since I commented on her article a while back, I figure I ought to explain why I generally side with Coontz in this case and not Fragoso.
Marriage is a contract. As such, the same rights should apply here that we have with other private contracts. And yet, we don't. In any of the fifty states you'll find suing your formerly significant other just won't work. But, if anyone you do business with breaks a contract, you can sue to your hearts content.
So, Fragoso's complaint's just don't stand up: the current "public" or "legal" marriages protect nothing, and will, in fact pave the way for homosexual marriage. This is because the state benefits by more transactions under this system, meaning it has incentives to increase selling of marriage licenses and to
increase the number of divorces.
If marriage is a private contract, and we can sue for damages if the terms are not met, the gay marriage movement would dissappear, proving it was a mirage that could only ever extract meaning from government. I believe any such contracts would ultimately become an albatross to anyone willing to attempt it; the gay lifestyle simply isn't conducive to fulfilling such a contract.
So, to be fair, I don't know whether Coontz would support the ability to sue for damages. This may be where her argument would fail. I don't know why, for surely she must know we incur opportunity costs in marriage, just like any other action we take. There is real injury in divorce, and that injury must be addressed.
This is different from state sanctioned marriage. We don't need a marriage license with the state, instead we need a marriage contract among interested parties, with witnesses. People would be able to read the thing and see what their obligations are, and notice the glaringly huge difference between the one from their local Catholic church and the one at the Vegas wedding chapel. They'll also notice which ones actually work!
So this is one case in which I would do what Fragoso wants, and strenghten marriage, but not what he says. The state has actually weakened marriage, for it, like any other natural organization, is perceived as a threat to those who seek ever expanding roles for the government.