Editorial by the Plain Talk It's not easy to make a good marriage work.

Maybe that's why so many marriages are ending in divorce these days.

It's a practice, however, with benefits that, for the most part, greatly outweigh the negatives.

People involved in good marriages are loyal to their mates, are monogamous, and devoted partners. They value and participate in family life, are committed to making their neighborhoods and communities safer and better places to live, and honor and abide by the law.

Married couples make valuable contributions to their communities, serving on school boards, volunteering in community charities, and trying to be good citizens. In doing so, they take full advantage of their relationships to make not only their own lives better, but those of their neighbors as well.

There are people who argue that, because of all of those reasons, gays and lesbians should also be allowed to marry.

Scott Bidstrup, writing in a personal essay, notes that a benefit to heterosexual society of gay marriage is the fact that the commitment of a marriage means the participants are discouraged from promiscuous sex. This has the advantage of slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which know no sexual orientation and are equal opportunity destroyers.

If that view seems a bit extreme, read these opposing views of Stanley Kurtz:

"Among the likeliest effects of gay marriage is to take us down a slippery slope to legalized polygamy and "polyamory" (group marriage). Marriage will be transformed into a variety of relationship contracts, linking two, three, or more individuals (however weakly and temporarily) in every conceivable combination of male and female.

"A scare scenario? Hardly. The bottom of this slope is visible from where we stand. Advocacy of legalized polygamy is growing. A network of grass-roots organizations seeking legal recognition for group marriage already exists. The cause of legalized group marriage is championed by a powerful faction of family law specialists. Influential legal bodies in both the United States and Canada have presented radical programs of marital reform. Some of these quasi-governmental proposals go so far as to suggest the abolition of marriage."

Bidstrup and Kurtz represent the extreme polarity in the arguments that have been raised both in favor and against same-sex marriage in recent weeks.

Gay advocates have argued for years that same-sex marriages should be recognized as exactly the same type of union that have traditionally been enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

This issue has gotten lots of attention in recent weeks after President Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment Feb. 24 that would restrict marriage to two people of the opposite sex but leave open the possibility that states could allow civil unions.

"The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith," Bush said. "Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society."

The president said he decided to endorse an amendment because of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's recent decision granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision in mid-February to begin giving marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

There's nothing clear-cut about this issue. There is a lack of clarity, and plenty of confusion. There is, for example, the argument that the government has no business getting involved with marriage in the first place. That is a personal relation, the argument goes.

Love affairs are personal relations. Marriage is a legal relation. To say that government should not get involved in legal relations is to say that government has no business governing.

Homosexuals were on their strongest ground when they said that what happens between "consenting adults" in private is none of the government's business. But now gay activists are taking the opposite view, that it is government's business � and that government has an obligation to give its approval.

There are many people, we would guess, who could care less about this issue. It's likely, however, that there will continue to be a strong resistance to same-sex unions in this country.

Marriage is a social contract, and the issues involved go beyond the particular individuals. It is likely that a majority of the population recognizes that unions of a man and a woman produce the future generations on whom the fate of the whole society depends.

And, society has something to say about that.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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