The number of married-couple households in the United States has recently come up just shy of 50 percent, according to a Census Bureau report, causing some to put the sanctity of marriage into question.But this is quite a controversial issue: at the same time that couples are avoiding the run to the altar, others are being denied access altogether.Same-sex couples made up 1.16 percent of the country’s population, but their marital rights are close to nil. In 1998, under President Bill Clinton, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which strictly limits the definition of marriage to the union between one woman and one man as husband and wife. The question of same-sex marriage has stirred debate across the nation, and President Bush is at the forefront of the attack.In a speech addressed to the nation in 2004, the President called marriage "the most fundamental institution of civilization." And he has gone so far as to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever." No amendment concerning marriage has made it to the Constitution, however, and the decision for or against same-sex marriages remains at the state level. So far Massachusetts is the only state that has legally recognized this union. President Bush worries that society’s idea of marriage will change, that perhaps time-old traditions will be broken and replaced by new systems and ideas. This is a worthy concern for some, but in reality the change is already taking place. The fact that married couples account for less than half of all households in America is clear evidence that the marital system is not what it once was. In conjunction with the decline of married-couple households in the United States, the nation has seen an increased percentage of women in the work force. The number has risen 20 percent in the past 30 years. Boundaries between gender roles are beginning to fade, and in some cases roles are reversing altogether. Married life is no longer the picture-perfect illusion made famous by Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver.At this point, the sanctity of marriage is not really the issue, it is more a matter of personal preference. The issue, then, becomes the role of marriage. And at this point, the only guarantee has mostly to do with one’s pocketbook. The government showers married couples with tax breaks, social security benefits and economic support, leaving many singles anticipating the day they say, "I do." President Bush, it seems, has made it his duty to protect the institute of marriage at all costs.After all, he said, by recognizing and protecting marriage, the government "serves the interests of all," so long as they are heterosexual, because "our government should respect every person," unless he or she is gay.