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No Rings Attached

The ideal of marriage as the expression and embodiment of love is just a fleeting moment in the history of human society.Nevertheless, American gays and lesbians are continuing to fight for the right to marry.

A few days ago I proposed marriage to my girlfriend. I went down on my knees, took her hand in mine, gazed deep into her eyes and asked: "Will you marry me?" My girlfriend smiled. She said the proposal was touching but she needed some time to think about it. This was a huge decision; she didn't want to be hasty. After all, it's a lifetime commitment, this joke - the very idea of marriage, the inherent promise, the slightly old-fashioned commitment that never fails to amuse me.

The romance of a Hollywood-style marriage proposal is indeed captivating and remains charming, but the institution has for some time lost its reliability and enchantment. This is not only because in our case it involves a couple consisting of two women who by law are not entitled to marry. Nor is it only because marriage between a man and a woman, a bride and a groom, has long since ceased to be perceived as a lifetime commitment.

Divorce has become a norm and 26 percent of couples who marry in Israel divorce (according to the organization New Family), more than 41 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce, as do about half of marriages in Britain and about 63 percent in Ukraine (according to a comparison conducted by the European Union). And yet so may people still buy a dress and a suit, choose a venue, set a date and get married.

Marriage is an absurd institution not because it fails, and not because people prefer to follow their passion and relinquish responsibility and devotion. On the contrary, marriage suffers from anachronism precisely because of the connection made in marriages these days between love and the wedding canopy.

As historian Stephanie Coontz describes in her book "Marriage, A History," for hundreds of years the institution of marriage in the West rested on two foundations: politics and property. People married to connect families, find a good partner for everyday life, and accumulate wealth. It was only toward the end of the 18th century that love and attraction became major factors in selecting a marriage partner.

The ideal of the love marriage reached its peak in the conservative 1950s, just before it collapsed and ended in the 1960s, the age of free love. The ideal of marriage as the expression and embodiment of love is therefore just a fleeting moment in the history of human society.

Despite all this, American gays and lesbians are continuing to fight for the right to marry. Last Saturday I watched thousands of people demonstrate angrily in Washington against the revocation of the right to marry in California. I have no difficulty understanding the desire of my sisters and brothers, American gays and lesbians, to belong to the majority society. It is only difficult to understand why they insist on adopting an outdated, limiting and limited idea, of all things.

Go celebrate love, I feel like saying to them, establish a family and bring children into the world responsibly, with the help of parenting agreements. Devote yourselves to the cult of couplehood or the cult of passion and freedom. Work toward ensuring equal economic rights. Reinvent yourselves. Love doesn't need an official seal of approval.