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Some couples have a religious or ethnic wedding, but don't get a marriage license. If you get a marriage license, you convert your marriage from a private, religious, or ethnic institution into a governmental institution. And you give the government power over your marriage that it wouldn't have otherwise.
To preserve the sanctity of marriage, some clergymen refuse to sign marriage licenses.
Some Democrats and Republicans claim that laws that prohibit same-sex marriage licenses also prohibit same-sex marriages. They are wrong. This is one example why you shouldn't trust what Democrats and Republicans say. Although all states formerly prohibited same-sex marriage licenses, no state has ever prohibited same-sex marriages.
Democrats and Republicans have written tax laws and other laws that sometimes discriminate in favor of, and sometimes discriminate against, couples that get marriage licenses. What excuses do Democrats and Republicans give for this discrimination?