Accommodating past changes in the institution of marriage:
Marriage has taken many forms, throughout history:
The Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) describe
seven different marriage/family forms that were
practiced in ancient Israel, in addition to the standard "one man-one
Marriage in North America has been redefined five times during the past
Polygamous marriages were introduced in Utah during the 1840s and partly phased
out in 1890. Many tens of thousands of couples still practice polygyny, mainly couples in small fundamentalist Mormon faith groups in the state of Utah and the Canadian
province of British Columbia. They are almost never prosecuted.
Marriages by African-American slaves were banned in some U.S. states,
and only permitted after the conclusion of the civil war.
Marriages by deaf couples were banned in some U.S. states in the late 19th and early 20th century. All such laws were repealed many decades ago.
Inter-racial marriages were considered a criminal act in some states
until 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Loving v. Virginia legalized them across the U.S.
Same-sex marriages were unavailable until 2003-JUN-10 when
they became legal in Ontario,
and 2003-MAY-02 in British Columbia, Canada.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court granted same sex
couples the right to marry starting 2004-MAY-20. The federal government in Canada authorized SSMs across the country. The only exception was Prince Edward Island whose government was initially unable to figure out how to marry same-sex couples. They were heavily motivated to find a way after being faced with a lawsuit by a lesbian couple. They quickly fell into line with the rest of the country.
These five changes were painful experiences for many North Americans at
the time. However, people were able to adapt to the changes. If the letters-to-the-editor columns of major Canadian newspapers
are any indication, Canadians seem to have reacted to same-sex marriages
with a collective yawn.