What _is_ marriage? In the eyes of the government, what is it?
There are a few obvious things that it can't be. A governing body has no capacity or responsibility to recognize love; historically love has always been a secondary consideration in marriage for anyone not a peasant. So it's not that. It's not a religious institution, since the government has no power to enforce those.
What it _is_, that I can see is:
- A contract, that can only be terminated by a process known as divorce.
- A resource pooling agreement, in which some method is used to distribute resources such that the couple and any dependents are supported
- A family structure arrangement, in which values are communicated between members, and imparted to any dependants.
- A recognizable "atomic component"; families are often treated as a single entity by many laws (like tax laws, juvinile crimes).
Is there anything I'm missing? Is there any other purpose marriage serves _in the eyes of the government?_