"[I]magine your life without marriage. Meaning, not merely your life if you didn't happen to get married. What I am asking you to imagine is life without even the possibility of marriage.
Re-enter your childhood, but imagine your first crush, first kiss, first date and first sexual encounter, all bereft of any hope of marriage as a destination for your feelings. Re-enter your first serious relationship, but think about it knowing that marrying the person is out of the question.
Imagine that in the law's eyes you and your soul mate will never be more than acquaintances. And now add even more strangeness. Imagine coming of age into a whole community, a whole culture, without marriage and the bonds of mutuality and kinship that go with it.
What is this weird world like? It has more sex and less commitment than a world with marriage. It is a world of fragile families living on the shadowy outskirts of the law; a world marked by heightened fear of loneliness or abandonment in crisis or old age; a world in some respects not even civilized, because marriage is the foundation of civilization.
This was the world I grew up in. The AIDS quilt is its monument."
Jonathan Rauch, today in the Wall Street Journal: