Maggie Gallagher
Tuesday President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in the strongest possible terms. Meanwhile, in California, a majority of San Franciscans support gay marriage. And so, despite the fact that a few short years ago, a majority of Californians voted to define marriage in state law as the union of a man and a woman, the mayor of San Francisco decided he was above the law and ordered clerks to issue putative marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Americans have a tradition of civil disobedience, in which ordinary citizens risk jail in order to affirm a higher moral law. But last week, for the first time, Americans were treated to the spectacle of a powerful politician charged with enforcing the law instead publicly flouting it for political gain.

And advocates for same-sex marriage patted him on the back for it.

This is not the first time gay couples have been issued marriage licenses. A Colorado clerk did the same thing back in the '70s. Those marriages were null and void, and so, under California state law, are these.

The marriage application was altered, as it had to be, to fit the radically transformed institution the mayor of San Francisco tried to create. "I have given one too many wedding gifts to people in my life, and for a minute I thought it was time for payback," one of these same-sex couples told The New York Times. "But what I really want is the 1049 federal rights that come with marriage."

To make this unisex dream come true, the marriage application was the first thing that had to go. The spaces for "bride" and "groom" were eliminated, replaced by "first applicant" and "second applicant."

Do you, the first applicant, take the second applicant to be a lawfully wedded applicant for 1049 federal benefits for the rest of your life?

It is a harbinger of things to come. All of the time-honored assumptions of marriage -- bride and groom, husband and wife, mother and father -- must be rewritten to accommodate a tiny fraction of the population who wants to form alternative families. When I suggested in a recent exchange with gay civil rights advocate Evan Wolfson that marriage was about affirming the ideal that both mothers and fathers matter to children, he denounced the idea as an "offensive proposition."

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.