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Is marriage obsolete?

History advantages of marriage.
Does anybody know the beginnings of marriage as we know it today. The Muslims allow polyganous marriage. I think I heard at one time that modern Western marriage began in the 1500's as a formal way to record the couples union for child bearing records. Men would often abandon the "wife" and claim that the children were not his. With modern DNA methods it is relatively easy to tell who a father's child is biologically. I think marriage does protect women from being abandoned by the father without any legal financial obligation to his children, therefeore it does more to protect women-and children. Does gay marriage therefore have any relevance to this notion of marriage as a legal childbearing unit?
Correction 24.Feb.2004 23:08

Cecil

I think it was the public WEDDING that originated in the middle ages for people to witness the marriage as many marriages were not well enough recorded in those days.