Much as in religious marriage, it is absolutely forbidden by law to engage in a civil marriage unless the parties involved genuinely and demonstrably love each other… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding. The truth is that, much as in religious marriage, the answer to that question depends upon who is getting married. Two people could marry each other because they like the way each other cooks. Or looks. Or smells. Or because one of the people is pregnant. Or because one or both of them is/are being coerced. Or because each likes the way the other rolls the toothpaste up from the bottom. Or the way neither one of them uses toothpaste at all. Marriage is a contractual relationship; it is a formal legal agreement entered into between two consenting parties (which, by the way, is pretty much the hottest and most romantic thing I can imagine!)
Oh, and people can get married because they love each other, too. Unless they’re gay, of course. Then, even if they love each other more than any two people in history, it is against the law for them to get married almost everywhere in this country. Straight people can get married because they both hate the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it is clearly immoral for gay people who are committed to each other, who would die for one another, whose hearts beat for each other, to get married. For, if that were to happen, it would render the marriage between the Pittsburgh Steeler-haters utterly meaningless.
So, the answer is that the relationship between love and civil (or religious) marriage is everything or nothing. Again, thanks for asking.
Liam and I are looking at the problem from different vantage points. He’s looking at it from the personal view (the view of those getting married) while I tend to focus on the entity doing the marrying: for civil marriage, the state. There’s also a generational difference as well; if Liam’s Myspace data is correct, by the time he came into the world, much of the "revolution" was over with.
Gay marriage advocates (including Liam) tell us that they want gay and lesbian people to have the opportunity to express their love and commitment. As far as love is concerned, from my vantage point love has nothing to do with it. Any group of people–and I sincerely mean any–that needs the endorsement of the state to express their love is in deep trouble. The state isn’t about love, it’s about power and control. It sanctions the family for its own purposes, not for the couple’s. From Liam’s side, as he says, it’s "everything or nothing."
As far as commitment is concerned, in the U.S. that quality of marriage has been in deep trouble since the institution of "no-fault" divorce, pretty much a fait accompli by the time Liam arrived. Before no-fault divorce, it was necessary for one spouse to prove the other had acted in such a way as to break wedlock. This discouraged divorce. It seems draconian to us now, but, as I said, power and control is what the state is all about. That’s the only tool it has. So, from either side, I don’t see how gay marriage achieves those stated goals.
With the two different perspectives, there’s one other thing that needs to be noted: the pursuit of personal desires, be they good, bad, or indifferent, can produce unexpected consequences when applied to a political system, especially one like ours. Let me take as an example Liam’s cause célèbre, gay adoption.
Let’s assume that we actually achieved gay adoption. Now let’s assume that some adoption agencies, for religious or other reasons of conviction, decided not to place children with same-sex couples. The sensible solution would be to give prospective parents their choice of agency (which they have now.) If a same-sex couple wanted to adopt, they could go to an agency that facilitated that. Chances are, most would. For those who wanted otherwise, they could go somewhere else. We would have choice and competition, after a fashion.
But that’s not how things work these days. No, we all know that the state would eventually force all of the agencies to adopt same-sex couples, with the usual given rationale. Institutions and sympathetic individuals who see this and other like things coming (like forcing ministers and churches to wed same sex couples whether they wanted to or not, even with the plethora of denominations and religious institutions out there) do what they have to: oppose gay marriage and adoption. So we have political conflict.
It seems that freedom has become a "zero-sum" game, where enabling new freedoms for some people means taking away freedoms from others. I find this disturbing. If nothing else, this is a big country. There should be room for everyone. But, I suppose, as long as we have Boomers running the show, we’re stuck with our present situation.
Note: Liam presented a "contract" view of marriage. For civil marriage, this is correct. (After all, it’s the law!) I’ll let the other religions speak for themselves, but for real Christian matrimony, this is not the case.