Robert Epstein, a visiting scholar at UC San Diego, has an opinion piece in this morning’s Los Angeles Times wherein he argues against gay marriage in favor of something much bigger. So, what gives?

There is no convincing evidence — absolutely none — that … various forms of romantic partnership do anyone, or any society, or any children, any harm. So I’m not really skeptical about same-sex marriage per se. If anything, I think that same-sex marriage is a shortsighted idea that doesn’t go far enough.

Most Americans insist that they want the word “marriage” to continue to mean a long-term, opposite-sex union, as it has in the Judeo-Christian world for nearly two millenniums. To put this issue into better perspective, imagine that English were more like German and that the word marriage had a lot more syllables: longtermoppositesexunion. Should same-sex couples wed under that label? I say no — and that gay activists have been fighting the wrong battle.

The real challenge is to have the state begin to recognize the full range of healthy, non-exploitative, romantic partnerships that actually exist among human beings. Gays are correct in expressing outrage over the fact that official recognition, the power to make health decisions, inheritance rights and tax benefits, have long been granted to only one kind of committed partnership in the United States. But wanting their own committed relationships to be shoe-horned into an old institution makes little sense, especially given the poor, almost pathetic performance of that institution in recent decades. Half of first marriages fail in the U.S., after all, as do nearly two-thirds of second marriages. Is that really a club you want to join?

This is what I’ve been saying.

Let’s fight a larger battle, namely to have government catch up to human behavior. That means recognizing the legitimacy of a wide range of consensual, non-exploitative romantic partnerships, each of which should probably have its own distinct label.

In the U.S., the highest priority should be to give official recognition to cohabitation, which is, in effect, renewable short-term marriage. [….]

I completely agree. In this article, I argued that the ‘monogamy standard’ is a cultural myth, existing more in the mind than in reality:

Is the conservative position really that common in practice anyway? What we see in reality is actually something other than the monogamy sanctified by conservatives and so approved by our cultural correctness. It is, instead, more of a