DEAR ABBY: I must respond to the letter from “Deceived in Arizona” (Nov. 30). I agree the couple shouldn’t have misled their guests and should have let them know it wouldn’t be a state-sanctioned wedding. But these days, many couples choose not to legally wed, and for others it is not a choice.

Most gay and lesbian people do not have the opportunity to have a state-sanctioned marriage, and many progressive couples choose not to legally wed because of unequal marriage laws. Other couples view marriage as oppressive and prefer not to invite the state into their relationship.

Also, some churches will no longer perform state- sanctioned marriages until marriage is available to all couples. If members of those churches decide to be legally married, they must go to the courthouse.

My advice to that stepmother: Get over it! Celebrate the fact that your stepdaughter found her lifelong companion and is happy. And be thankful your new grandchild will have loving, committed parents. – BETHANY IN MINNEAPOLIS

Thank you for writing. When I printed “Deceived’s” letter I had no idea I was catching a hot potato. The mail from readers about this has been most interesting and enlightening. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Oh, boy, did you open a can of worms with that one! Don’t you know that many gay people are frustrated with the government’s refusal to grant them a legal marriage? And many couples today no longer have any desire to “register” their union with the government, and have decided to forgo the legal benefits associated with it. They stand together to publicly celebrate their joy and commitment to each other. A “government-approved” marriage means far less to them than one affirmed by God, family and community. – ALEXANDRA IN OAKLAND

DEAR ABBY: “Deceived,” who complained about the marriage ceremony that was “not legal,” pointed out the difficulty we have here in the United States where marriage is the only sacrament that is completely entwined with civil law. What we need is separation of church and state.

Governments should allow the CIVIL marriage of any two individuals who want to take on the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Churches should provide a RELIGIOUS marriage to those couples who satisfy their requirements for a religious marriage. That way the government would be out of the religious sacrament business and only in the business of conferring legal rights and responsibilities upon committed couples. – BECKLEY, W.VA., LAWYER

DEAR ABBY: You should know that the minister, priest, judge (or whoever) does not “marry” the couple. They only “officiate” – and that’s it. In many places around the world people declare in front of family, friends and/or community that they take each other as man and wife – and they are legally married. They do, at some time in the future when the official comes around, go ahead and go through the “formality,” but they have already been married all that time before the official shows up.

Depending upon where this couple “pretended they got married,” they may very well be married.

Keep up the good work, Abby. You’re doing a heck of a good job. – DONALD H., ST. JOSEPH, MO.

DEAR DONALD: Thank you for the kind words. Readers, I’ll have more on this tomorrow. It appears “the times may be a-changin’…”

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