The right of association is the right to associate with whomever and for whatever reason we please. We can form businesses, churches, private clubs, unions, or a family. Although the US Constitution does not specify this right (the EU and Canadian ones do) I would like to believe all reasonable people would agree we have a right to associate with whomever we please. Oddly enough this “ignored” right still exists today. A man and a woman can live together as can two men or two women or a man and several women. Some may frown upon these associations but there are no laws prohibiting them. So if people can be with whomever they want, then what is the issue concerning non-traditional marriage? The issue is free speech.
Think of it like this: (1) Is it ok to associate with one or more persons? YES (2) Is it ok to publicly proclaim such an association? NO, or rather, it depends. This is true for marriage as well as for other associations. For example, a business can legally announce that it exists (incorporate) only if the business fits into a predefined pigeonhole established by the government (e.g. C-Corp, LLC, etc). Any other structure is “illegal”. Likewise for marriage.
When a couple marries they are saying to the world: “We publicly proclaim that we bind ourselves together and establish mutually beneficial rights and responsibilities – we no longer wish to be in a transient relationship but rather a responsible and enduring one”. The odd thing is that when government definitions of “permissible” associations ignore non-traditional marriage the message is: “Although you are attempting to enter in a mature and responsible relationship, we would prefer you keep it to yourselves and continue living in a manner consistent with a lack of commitment and responsibility.” In other words, attempting to engage in responsible behavior is ignored. Not permitting such public proclamation of the relationship is a restriction of free speech and clearly violates the 1st Amendment.
If people want to associate (marry) that is their right. If a church will do so, great. If it won’t, then too bad (for the couple). The government should not compel private institutions such as churches to operate contrary to their belief structure. Additionally, their right to make such a proclamation does not mean anyone is required to accept it. The lack of use of force runs both ways. I may not stop you from speaking but that doesn’t mean I have to listen or agree with you.
Shifting gears from the political to the lexicological: words mean something. Changing definitions cause confusion. Redefining “marriage” would be like redefining “cars” to encompass motorcycles because they both have wheels and an engine. If the proponents of non-traditional marriage want a word to define their relationship they would do themselves a big favor by coining a new one; I (and others) suggest “pairriage.”
Government is currently the tool that defines what associations are permissible. Each side fights over the tool in an attempt to force their point of view on everyone. The solution is to get rid of the tool. Privatize all associations and remove from government its ability to define permissible relationships.