Let me say upfront, I'm against gay marriage or civil unions. I believe society has good reason to uphold the ideal of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, till death do you part. Even if that ideal is not reachable, it is a goal to which we should strive and one we should encourage our children to reach for.
But that said, when a United States Senator is cohabiting with his former State Director; when the Max Baucus/ Melodee Hanes relationship began when both were still married; and when eyebrows are raised only at the ethics of Baucus' job recommendation for his sweetie; well, at that point, the battle to save marriage is over. Forget locking the barn door. The horses are already galloping a mile down the road.
More anecdotal evidence:
One of my good friends is a Presbyterian minister. When he began his career, thirty- some years ago, most couples he married were in their early twenties. By the late 90's, most were in their late twenties or early thirties.
The (PCUSA) church I attend routinely admits as new members young engaged couples who are, as we said coyly in the innocent 80's, POSSLQ's (person of the opposite sex sharing living quarters.)
In the last ten years, most major American corporations have extended medical coverage to their employees' unmarried partners, whether gay or straight. The policy has little to do with an enlightened appreciation of human rights and the benefits of cultural diversity. It's simply a way to enhance employe recruitment and retention.
"Emptiness and the City": A link from NRO on unintended consequences of the sexual revolution.
I doubt that our culture is less innocent or more licentious now than we were back in the 1980's or the 1960's or the 1940's. We may be more honest, or we may simply have greater opportunities than we did in the past; yet I have trouble seeing either as a good thing. And while the 21st century communications network may make fooling around easier, it has its own perils, too. ("Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you.")
From Genesis: "A man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh." The Hebrew word translated as "cleave" or "unite" means to cling -- to be glued. It's a commitment to permanence.
We are approaching the point at which the only reason for marriage is the tax deduction. And at that point we have lost something sacred.