It didn't take long after the Supreme Court's decision in favor of gay marriage for the next potential legal challenge to surface: Should polygamists be allowed to marry? The debate over what "marriage" means will begin anew, but Froma Harrop thinks there's a more fundamental question at stake: "Why is government in the business of conferring a right to marry at all?" she asks at Real Clear Politics. "What is it about this thing called marriage that justifies a grab bag of legal benefits?" Her solution: Let individuals and religions define "marriage" however they want, but if married people want the legal advantages that go along with it—tax breaks, inheritance rights, etc.—let them get a separate civil union.
"Marriage is a wonderful institution, but it does not follow that government should be defining it," writes Harrop. "Let ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and ship captains tie the marital knot. And have government recognize civil unions only." What's more, a civil union wouldn't necessarily have to involve romance: Friends, cousins, even co-workers could enter into one if they wish, and if it made sense for their particular circumstances. It's a win for all. "People of faith could continue to enter into marriages with, if anything, more powerful rules," writes Harrop. "Those wanting a less intensely religious union could get one. And best of all, we would end the odd custom whereby government grants financial and emotional advantages on the basis of an implied romance." Click for Harrop's full column.