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Will gays save marriage?

Many conservatives would have you believe that same-sex unions turn the institution of marriage upside-down -- but it's actually rather fitting with tradition. That is, if you consider the historical trajectory of marriage: It's changed tremendously over the decades, from a financial transaction to the romantic one that we know today. It would be naive to think that major changes won't continue in the decades to come.

Given this, and the Supreme Court hearings this week on the Defense of Marriage Act, I started thinking about what the future of marriage might look like. I wondered -- out of liberal glee, rather than conservative terror, mind you -- whether same-sex unions could open up the institution to even bigger changes. Might we someday extend marriage's 1,000-plus legal benefits and protections to people regardless of relationship status? Would we ever institutionally separate monogamy from marriage? What about allowing for polygamy or group parenthood?

I called up Barbara Risman, a senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families and sociology professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, to get her predictions. We talked about everything from monogamy to polygamy, utilitarian marriages to romance. One thing became clear: Marriage isn't going anywhere.

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