This week, New Hampshire joins a small fraternity of states and countries to permit gay marriage - a powerful statement to the nation and the world that New Hampshire will no longer treat some residents as second-class citizens.
Granting same-sex couples the right to enter into civil marriage contracts should be the law of the land because it "promotes the general welfare," as is one of the stated foundational goals of the Constitution of the United States.
Granting same-sex couples the right to contractual (that is, legally recognized by way of a marriage license) and civil (that is, secular, non-religious) marriages would harm no one yet help a minority still subject to stereotyping and bigotry in both law and in everyday life in too much of the republic.
The personal bond undergirding a same-sex civil marriage as well as the actual codified rights and responsibilities that a marriage license brings (more than 1000 such benefits at the federal level) would promote the same positive personal and societal consequences that they do for a traditional marriage. First, the personal benefits are clear. Numerous studies have found that for most people marriage results in increased personal satisfaction. But, beyond that there is even more. Marriage for a couple, same-sex or traditional, can ameliorate self-centeredness by giving each member of the couple a greater stake in one another's well-being and a greater stake in society. In fact, job performance, fiscal stewardship, and community betterment can all be enhanced as a consequence. Retirement planning, vacation planning--and presuming cohabitation and home ownership--everything from grocery purchases, mortgage payments, and the safety-related, economic stability, and general improvement concerns for the neighborhood are all investments of time and resources that are promoted by marriage, traditional or same-sex.
To ban or discourage same-sex civil marriage is to ban or discourage those potential personal and societal benefits described above, and thus is an abject opposition to the promotion of the general welfare. What is more, it is probably a move based in some measure in animus against the gay individual because it is to demand that Americans who happen to be gay be compelled under the law to stay forever single. Why would any human being who knows the value of human companionship use the state--or any other powerful force--to such a thing? It is reprehensible.
To ban or discourage the potential personal and societal benefits stemming from same-sex civil marriage is something else, too, not just societally unhelpful. It is to hold cheap life-long committed relationships of same-sex couples in general. That there are already gay couples who though personal, emotional commitment alone have stayed together for many years without any incentive from the law shows clearly that there can be a bond between two gay men or gay women that in myriad ways is effectively at least as strong as the bond between a married man and woman. That bond if between a man and a woman is promoted by the state; the marriage license brings with it everything from hospital visitation rights to immigration rights, taxable income implications to inheritance rights. If the bond is much the same in a same-sex couple, shouldn't the state promote it through marriage for them, too?
Right now, extending to same-sex couples the right to civil marriage promotes the general welfare within the jurisdictions of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire (pending), Vermont, and the Oregon-based Coquille Indian Tribe, but only to the extent that state or tribal law is affected. Why should that be the limit? Extending to same-sex couples the right to civil marriage should be done at the federal level, too, so that the laws that matter most to a couple are reformed, and as soon as possible.