“State” (with a capital “S”) refers to one of the United States, and “States” refers to two or more of them. “State” and “States,” thus used, are proper nouns because they refer to a unique entity or entities: one or more of the United States, the union of which, under the terms and conditions stated in the Constitution, is the raison d’être for the nation. I reserve the uncapitalized word “state” for a government, or hierarchy of them, which exerts a monopoly of force within its boundaries.
Marriage, in the Western tradition, predates the state and legitimates the union of one man and one woman. As such, it is an institution that is vital to civil society and therefore to the enjoyment of liberty. The recognition of a more-or-less permanent homosexual pairing as a kind of marriage is both ill-advised and illegitimate. Such an arrangement is therefore a “marriage” (in quotation marks) or, more accurately, a homosexual cohabitation contract (HCC).
The words “liberal”, “progressive”, and their variants are usually enclosed in quotation marks (sneer quotes) because they refer to persons and movements whose statist policies are, in fact, destructive of liberty and progress. I sometimes italicize the words, just to reduce visual clutter.
I have reverted to the British style of punctuating in-line quotations, which I followed 40 years ago when I published a weekly newspaper. The British style is to enclose within quotation marks only (a) the punctuation that appears in quoted text or (b) the title of a work (e.g., a blog post) that is usually placed within quotation marks.
I have reverted because of the confusion and unsightliness caused by the American style. It calls for the placement of periods and commas within quotation marks, even if the periods and commas don’t occur in the quoted material or title. Also, if there is a question mark at the end of quoted material, it replaces the comma or period that might otherwise be placed there.
If I had continued to follow American style, I would have ended a sentence in a recent post with this:
… “A New (Cold) Civil War or Secession?” “The Culture War,” “Polarization and De-facto Partition,” and “Civil War?“
What a hodge-podge. There’s no comma between the first two entries, and the sentence ends with an inappropriate question mark. With two titles ending in question marks, there was no way for me to avoid a series in which a comma is lacking. I could have avoided the sentence-ending question mark by recasting the list, but the items are listed chronologically, which is how they should be read.
I solved these problems easily by reverting to the British style:
… “A New (Cold) Civil War or Secession?”, “The Culture War“, “Polarization and De-facto Partition“, and “Civil War?“.
This not only eliminates the hodge-podge, but is also more logical and accurate. All items are separated by commas, commas aren’t displaced by question marks, and the declarative sentence ends with a period instead of a question mark.
For much more see “Writing: A Guide“.