I don't care where you live or what gender your partner is, or what your opinion is about gay marriage.
You have to admire this description of marriage, from today’s 128-paged 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals decision voiding California’s [Proposition 8] gay marriage ban:
'[M]arriage' is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of 'registered domestic partnership' does not. The word 'marriage' is singular in connoting "a harmony in living," "a bilateral loyalty," and "a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). As Proponents have admitted, "the word 'marriage' has a unique meaning," and "there is a significant symbolic disparity between domestic partnership and marriage." It is the designation of 'marriage' itself that expresses validation, by the
state and the community, and that serves as a symbol, like a wedding ceremony or a wedding ring, of something profoundly important. See id. at 971.
We need consider only the many ways in which we encounter the word 'marriage' in our daily lives and understand it, consciously or not, to convey a sense of significance. We are regularly given forms to complete that ask us whether we are "single" or "married." Newspapers run announcements of births, deaths, and marriages. We are excited to see someone ask, "Will you marry me?", whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see "Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?". Groucho Marx's one-liner, "Marriage is a wonderful institution . . . but who wants to live in an institution?" would lack its punch if the word 'marriage' were replaced with the alternative phrase. So too with Shakespeare's "A young man married is a man that's marr'd," Lincoln's "Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory," and Sinatra's "A man doesn't know what happiness is until he's married. By then it's too late." We see tropes like "marrying for love" versus "marrying for money" played out again and again in our films and literature because of the recognized importance and permanence of the marriage relationship. Had Marilyn Monroe's film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie,
even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different. The name 'marriage' signifies the unique recognition that society gives to harmonious, loyal, enduring, and intimate relationships. See Knight v. Super. Ct., 128 Cal. App. 4th 14, 31 (2005) ("[Mjarriage is considered a more substantial relationship and is accorded a greater stature than a domestic partnership."); cf. Griswold, 381 U.S. at 486.
The official, cherished status of 'marriage' is distinct from the incidents of marriage, such as those listed in the California Family Code. The incidents are both elements of the institution and manifestations of the recognition that the State affords to those who are in stable and committed lifelong relationships. We allow spouses but not siblings or roommates to file taxes jointly, for example, because we acknowledge the financial interdependence of those who have entered into an "enduring" relationship. The incidents of marriage, standing alone, do not, however, convey the same governmental and societal recognition as does the designation of 'marriage' itself. We do not celebrate when two people merge their bank accounts; we celebrate when a couple marries. The designation of 'marriage' is the status that we recognize. It is the principal manner in which the State attaches respect and dignity to the highest form of a committed relationship and to the individuals who have entered into it.
Perry v. Brown, U.S.C.A. 9th Cir., Slip Op. 10-16696, (February 7, 2012).