Since before humans became sentient and walked upright, they have paired with mates. The reasons were probably self-apparent in the beginning – protection, and to conceive and raise offspring propagating the species. The basic and primary rationales haven’t changed much in thousands of years.
But, as time passed and humans became for populous, the urgency of propagating the species diminished as an individual endeavor. The primary rationale was expanded by new needs. Very early, we humans developed the concept of property and began to acquire items of individual private property that had inherent value in those respective early cultures. Consequently and concurrently the need arose to identify for the local community who should be the legitimate recipient of our accumulated property at the time of our demise. The legitimate offspring of a union with a mate needed to be recognized as one’s own blood and inheritor, and only formal recognition of the exclusivity of that union provided that indisputable recognition.
Thus did the institution of marriage arise as a means of signaling to the community and society at large that the children of our unions are the rightful inheritors of our property upon our death. In earliest times, marriage was simply recognition by the elders and leaders of the local social group that two persons were mates. It lacked the formalities that we would associate with a marriage today, but was nevertheless just as binding. This recognition by the clan, village, or tribe made taboo sexual congress outside of that union, thus ensuring that the offspring were truly of the married partner’s blood. Thus the historical emphasis in almost all cultures on the virginity of women until marriage. Of course, there came various and sundry obligations that inured to each party as a result of their union such as protection, providing food and shelter, implied consent to sexual intercourse, and the like – all of which were important to the stability and function of that society. But the single most important aspect of that union and its recognition was to recognize the property rights of the offspring.
This was the driving rationale for marriage, but it became even more important as cultures advanced. Eventually, not only real property but social status became inheritable, culminating in the titles and rank of the feudal systems that sprang up in cultures worldwide. As the importance of the exclusivity of the union and the need for certainty of familial heritage of offspring increased, so did the recognition of the union evolve into ever more formal symbols and ceremonies. Obviously, this formal recognition reached its apex with the advent of religion and the ceremonial entreaties to a deity to recognize the union. After all, if the union is divinely recognized, then what mortal man could dare deny the bond?
A second important function of marriage was to acquire property. In cultures worldwide, marriages were acts to consolidate two families property, whether material or title. Kings wed to cement alliances or acquire new lands of dominion. Bushmen in Africa wed to gain cattle as a dowry. Families gained a worker. It was functionally about economic gain.
The factual record demonstrates that has marriage evolved to be integral to the economics of property, its acquisition and the transfer to our inheritor descendants. The origin, nature and fundamental value of marriage was unrelated to the notion of romantic love. In fact, romantic love as a basis for marriage is a relatively new phenomenon arising in the 20th century.
Today, the argument rages over gay marriage and whether it homosexuals should be granted the “right” to marry. Since homosexual couples cannot procreate between themselves, lacking the full complement of genetic material necessary to achieve that goal, in the historical context there is no logical argument to support gay marriage. The heritage of children born to a homosexual couples cannot be validated in the eyes of society as can children born to a heterosexual couples. But, you may say, what about an adopted child? Of course you may designate you adopted child as the inheritor of your property via a last will and testament. Marriage is not a prerequisite for either adoption of a child or to designate a person as your heir.
So you are now screaming that Mr. Quarter is a homophobe! No. Mr. Quarter is not a homophobe. Mr. Quarter favors civil unions between homosexual couples for all the reasons that are applied to the argument for marriage. But Mr. Quarter is on the side of 8,000 years of civilization history.