In an article produced by Stand For Children out of San Francisco:
The Reality of Marriage: Two Conflicting Understandings
Today, many people see marriage as merely an adult centric institution because there is a cultural rift in the connection between marriage and children. Many people put off having children until later in life. Others have children without getting married. Those married with children, due to smaller families and longer life spans, will spend the majority of their married lives without children at home. And, there are an increasing number of adults who never have children. So, for many:
"marriage is merely the public recognition of a committed relationship between loving adults."
However in reality, marriage is a family centric institution. It is the foundation of a stable family. Therefore:
"marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union."
That is what marriage is; that is what marriage does.
Notice that the first definition describes something just for adults—a private relationship with no public benefit.
The second definition, however, describes marriage as the foundation of a family, the foundation of society. Marriage described in this way incorporates the common human desire, of every person, to know and be cared for by his or her own mother and father. Marriage defined this way not only has a public interest, but also is in the interest of every child without exception. Because of this great divergence of understandings about marriage, it is important to clarify which definition you are using when discussing marriage.