Personally, I'm in favor of marriage. The public declaration of fealty steers the focus of any marital problems onto resolution rather than dissolution. However, I don't think the question should be, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?". It should be, "Why is the government involved, AT ALL, in how people wish to structure their households?".
We should be relying on government for assistance in enforcing contracts. But how these contracts are structured should be entirely up to the people involved. This, of course, includes people who wish to structure their households around participation by more than two individuals.
I guess there needs to be a set of default contracts (to protect children and establish ownership of chattels, etc.) which are deemed to be in effect when people share a household; but, other than that, the government should have no role.
I know that polygamy facilitates some injustices that never occur in "traditional" marriages <joke>, but is polygamy sufficiently evil by its nature to require the government to ban it?
Tax breaks were instigated to establish marriage as the primary live-in and child raising relationship.
Married couples have dramatically lower domestic violence rates than non-married live-ins and are less likely to become the victims of crimes or accidents (i.e. are more conscious of their safety, possibly because of the husband/wife they would leave behind). Children of married couples get better grades in school, are more likely to go to college, spend less time unemployed in adulthood, are much less likely to commit crimes (especially violent felonies), become pregnant in their teens, etc. than children raised by single parents or non-married couples.
The tax breaks only seem strange in a modern context because people are marrying for less traditional reasons than they used to, and often delay having, or have less or no children, a big part of what marriage was about in the earlier part of U.S. (and world) history.
I wasn't even thinking of tax breaks of being married. My wife and I don't have children, so there goes so many deductions that are the oft touted tax breaks.
Simply having someone to share financial burdens with is a remarkable division of labor. After paying off the wife's student loans, it was my turn to finish school while she worked. Additionally, the benefits of extended families are great as well. Parents providing their skill sets and time as well as financial aid benefit the marriage. Having a multiple marriage would further concentrate skills and assets to the betterment of the corporation.
Asset distribution, custody, power of attorney, healthcare decisions, end of life decisions, financial pooling of resources. Dissolution protections (think divorce vs. a roommate moving out), Immigration and residency rights conferred with marrage, Joint leases, Benefits such as annuities, pension plans, social security pass to a married partner, not a room mate. Veteran's benefits pass to a surviving spouse. How about tort actions in the event of wrongful death, ever see a room mate successfully sue vs. a spouse? There are other judicial protections such as evidentiary immunity.
There's a lot more too, that's just off the tip of my tongue. I don't think I could list them all. A very quick google tells me there are 1400 federal benefits for married couples. Room-mates don't share any of the above advantages.
I think that the IRS and government in general would love your ideas. Then they could tax more, limit freedoms and increase their control of just about everything.
Most of these thing aren't "entitlements" as you seem to think. They're long standing rights that you seem to want to give up for some unknown or unexpressed reason. You say some benefits don't need to exist, and others need to be modified. How ambiguous. Why give up a clear advantage? Why recreate what would be an overly cumbersome system of legal contracts that wouldn't give half of what you're willing to throw out. You can't simply ask a lawyer to "gift" your tax deduction to your roommate. You can't pass along a monetary gift to your roommate without it being taxed. Do you really want to give so much more to the state? Frankly they already take enough. What you may not realize is these benefits aren't antagonistic between ourselves, meaning citizens. These marriage benefits are what keep big government at bay... to some degree anyway. Suggesting that we chuck it all, for no outlined reason (that you've suggested so far) would be nothing short of asking the tax man to take more, demand that we have lawyers intrude in our private relationships and revoke numerous civil rights that have been hard fought for.
And all for what supposed advantage?
In Scandinavia, the concept is actually put into place and the vast majority of children today are raised by the government 8-10 hours per day. First in public kindergardens, then in public schools, then at public universities.
This type of institutionalized and legally demanded third party interfering in the child rearing process works very well overall if viewed objectively.
As a side note, a benefit of a bit of socialism is that the generally ignorant leftists tend to apply their overemotional and drastic solutions to the elimination of religion in public life.
Studies in the field of psychology have demonstrated quite consistently that these benefits exist for married couples versus "committed" non-married couples and single parents. Every study I have seen controlled for neighborhood conditions, financial status, and many other variables.
Some studies have concluded that same-sex couples (including some married couples) raised children with little or no difference between those of the equivalent heterosexual living conditions, but none of them have survived peer review to date and all of them have received criticism even from (pro-)homosexual psychologists. Said studies also lacked a sufficient body of data to work with for obvious reasons.
How a contract and a ritual change the results of such studies is beyond me, but your idea seems like a plausible explanation; perhaps the attitude or purpose driving people who marry/married for traditional reasons is the cause of the observed benefits.
You can also find plenty of studies that come to the conclusion that social acceptance leads to a significant mental health increase for gay people. One shouldn't need a study to realize that.
Or read some testimony from the Prop 8 trial. The couples reported a marked difference in the way people (including their own families) treated them after they got married, even though they had already been together for many, many years.
Here are two reenactments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwBsnklZpwM (from 5:00 on. At around 11:00 she explains the difference between DPs and marriage)
Not to mention the substantial financial benefits that (rightly or wrongly) flow from marriage. Especially important for people with lower incomes. For some it's a matter of life and death given the horrific medical system in America.
That's not it should be and people should treating couples the same (not necessarily in a legal sense) no matter whether they are married, but it's what we're stuck with. Some other countries are more advanced in that with a lot more people cohabitating, but the US was always a bit backwards in social matters.
"Studies in the field of psychology have demonstrated quite consistently that these benefits exist for married couples versus "committed" non-married couples and single parents. Every study I have seen controlled for neighborhood conditions, financial status, and many other variables."
Please cite some of these studies- I would like to review them (for adequate controls, adequate study designs, exclusion/inclusion criteria, confounding factors, etc.). The last two I reviewed (recommended by a colleague) were scientifically horrendous and did not support the so-called conclusions (similar, but not exact, issues).
Nothing wrong with it in today's society. It's a social contract that allows the government to enforce regulations on things like divorce and inheritance. I can't see how allowing for more than one spouse at a time would hurt. We already have people with multiple spouses - they just tend to be in serial order. So the "issues" are already inherent within the system. It would benefit those who are already in unrecognized multi-marriages by giving them legal rights, and thus legal ways to address issues like divorce and health care.
The only issues I'd be wary of would be if it skewed the numbers of available men to women. If more women were willing to share than men, you'd end up with a surplus of males whom had no options for a mate. Societies with this issue tend to be much more violent.
"Evidence exists for a link between sex ratios and violence. In a society with an artificial shortage of women, a combination of surplus of males and increased upward mobility of females results in accumulation of unmarried, lower-class males, who tend to be violence-prone. In the recent decades both in China and in India, regions with highest sex-selection rates experienced crime waves." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-selective_abortion
Oh PLEASE don't trot out that old gender-availability trope. Polygamy is gender-neutral. It is multiple marriages. Period. PolyGYNY is multiple wives and polyANDRY is multiple husbands. It is only when you have a religiously-mandated order for men to have multiple wives that you end up with this whole "limited resource" stuff, where people are now "resources". It also completely negates sexual orientation and assumes 100% heterosexuality.
When multiple partnerships are entered into freely, by conscious choice, according to sexual orientation, you do not have this unequal distribution problem. You *also* don't have the violence problem, not because of the distribution of partners, but because the population doesn't view their partners as resources to begin with and generally has a much more communal worldview which conflicts with the whole tribalistic violence issue.
When each individual is free to make his or her own choices about partners, then you don't have a "surplus of males whom had no options for a mate". You have certain individuals who can't find partners because they suck as people.
Within the poly communities, we do not have this problem. Period. There is no incidence of violence, there is no "surplus of males". It is only in societies that view mating relationships as property, resources, and alliances, which are strongly correlated with both religion and violence. Not-so-coincidentally, you ALSO have a correlation between religion & violence with MONOGAMOUS relationships that are viewed as property, resources, and alliances.