Can the option to get married change a relationship?

From New York City to Niagara Falls, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across the state began marrying today – the culmination of a long battle in the Legislature and a new milestone for gay rights advocates seeking to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation (abbreviated; NYT). In New York City, 823 couples had signed up in advance to get marriage licenses today.

Saying that this is huge is an understatement. On multiple levels.
My blog is just one of many “dating blogs” which discusses the challenges of finding a satisfying and healthy relationship — post marriage. I also write about the difficulty of finding it in the whirlwind that is New York City.  So the sudden uptick in individuals rushing to the “altar” in the city in which I live inspired thought.
To be clear, I’m not one of those bitter divorcees who no longer believes that marriage is possible. Both my sisters are happily married, as are my parents, and witnessing their relationships thrive through inevitable ups and downs has been a hopeful – and critical – reference for me that matrimonial harmony can exist. But besides this evidence, I’m simply a romantic at heart. I married my ex-husband when I was 27 with all the rosy-eyed optimism and white wedding aspirations one could expect. And despite our divorce, I maintain a hopeful view for myself (even though some posts reflect otherwise. I blame it on Sunday blues). This doesn’t mean I expect that I will necessarily marry again, and that’s okay too. But anything is possible.
The entire NYT vows section today was dedicated to gay marriage announcements. It was incredible to see, and a stark contrast to the typical heterosexual marriage announcements we’ve been reading for as long as we (or I, I’ll admit) can remember.  A milestone indeed.
But it raises this question: For all the people that are now permitted to get married, are there some who don’t want to? Now that they can, does it mean they actually should?
One of the stories I read mentioned a gay couple that disagreed over tying the knot. One of the men didn’t want to. He didn’t believe in it.  He thought their relationship was sacred just the way it was, without a wedding contract. The opportunity to get married surfaced a new conflict between them, and potentially a split.
I wonder, does having the option create strife within the relationship that otherwise would not exist?  I might be getting a little sci-fi movie concept here, but what if we all lived in a place where marriage was not permitted? Would the elimination of that option as a goal, change the nature of a relationship? Does the absence of that expectation free two people up to embrace one another for who they are, by eliminating pressure and projections?
I realize I’m not saying anything new here. The pros and cons of the institution of marriage is an age-old debate.  It is one I discuss with women my age often. If I had to take a poll, half of the divorced women I know or who comment on my blog have given up on it, or decided that it is something they no longer want. The other half are still hopeful, or in relationships that promise longevity. It is different for everyone, and only we know what is best for us and our situation.
I think that this groundbreaking legislation is a great thing, and not just because many of my gay friends can now get married (if they want to, of course). It means that perhaps, as unconventional as it might seem, the pendulum is swinging back to the traditional, where marriage and commitment are valued again.
Hopefully it doesn’t mean that while the marriage rate is going to go up, the divorce rate will too. 
We’ll just have to wait and see. 
And hope.