In his Sept. 23 Local Opinions commentary, “Why I oppose gay marriage,” Doug Mainwaring appealed to tradition and history to explain his opposition to Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law: “It’s undeniable that, from age to age, marriage has been humanity’s greatest success and source of prosperity, crossing all cultures and religions. We shouldn’t mess with it.”

While Mr. Mainwaring was right to favor civil unions over government-approved “marriages,” he did not follow his argument to its logical conclusion: Full and equal legal status as members of a civil union should be available to every couple — gay or straight.

The government should be taken out of the marriage business altogether. If two people want to call their union a marriage, that’s up to them. “Marriage” is essentially a religious construct, and it exists in a realm outside of the government’s jurisdiction.

Those advocating for legislation defining “marriage” as between a man and a woman are often concerned that government-approved same-sex marriages will corrupt the traditional or religious institution of marriage. They would do well to remember that the separation of church and state is as much about protecting the state from the church as it is the church from the state and the free citizen from either.

Max Segal, Silver Spring