On the definition of marriage

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  • If “marriage” can mean anything, then it means nothing. Giving non-marital relationships the same status as marriage does not expand the definition of marriage; it destroys it. For example, if you declare that, because it has similar properties, grape juice must be labeled identically to wine, you have destroyed the definitions of both “grape juice” and “wine.” The term “marriage” refers specifically to the joining of two people of the opposite sex. When that is lost, the term “marriage” becomes meaningless.
  • You can no more leave an entire sex out of marriage and call it “marriage” than you can leave chocolate out of a “chocolate brownie” recipe. It becomes something else. [L]ike everyone else, gays do have the right to marry. They have the right to marry adult members of the opposite sex! What gay activists want is something else: the right to marry members of the same sex. This is not a right currently enjoyed by anyone. What these gay activists seek is not equal treatment but rather to change the definition of marriage.
  • Now gay activists, with the acquiescence of the California high court, want to remove one of the criteria of marriage while keeping all the rest. Yet if it’s discriminatory to gays to require that marriage be between a man and a woman, why isn’t it discriminatory to Mormons and Muslims to require that it remain only between two people? Isn’t incestuous marriage also between “consenting adults” who have a right to equal protection of the laws?
  • Marriage laws are not discriminatory. Marriage is open to all adults, subject to age and blood relation parameters. As with any acquired status, the applicant must meet minimal requirements, which in terms of marriage, means finding an opposite-sex spouse. Same-sex partners do not qualify. To put it another way, clerks will not issue dog licenses to cats, and it is not out of “bigotry” toward cats.
  • Government has a legitimate right to define marriage. State legislatures, drawing on tradition and appealing to the values of their constituents, have defined marriage in a very particular way. Marriage requires a) two people who are b) of legal age and c) not closely related to each other who are d) one male and one female. Note that this definition excludes people who want to marry children, or guys who want to marry their sisters, or Muslims who want to take four wives, or that strange guy who wants to marry his dog…
  • The point is not that gay marriage is indistinguishable from child marriage or polygamy. The point is that any definition, and marriage is no exception, includes some people and excludes others.
  • Consequently it’s unreasonable to say that gays have a constitutional right to over-ride the definition but other groups do not. The court’s real justification seems to have little to do with constitutional reasoning and everything to do with an assertion of political power.
  • Now that a number of state courts have refused to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions, cries of “discrimination” are being heard.
  • The “equal protection of the laws” provided by the Constitution of the United States applies to people, not actions. Laws exist precisely in order to discriminate between different kinds of actions.
  • When the law permits automobiles to drive on highways but forbids bicycles from doing the same, that is not discrimination against people. A cyclist who gets off his bicycle and gets into a car can drive on the highway just like anyone else.
  • Why is marriage considered to be any of the law’s business in the first place? Because the state asserts an interest in the outcomes of certain unions, separate from and independent of the interests of the parties themselves.
  • In the absence of the institution of marriage, the individuals could arrange their relationship whatever way they wanted to, making it temporary or permanent, and sharing their worldly belongings in whatever way they chose.
  • Marriage means that the government steps in, limiting or even prescribing various aspects of their relations with each other — and still more their relationship with whatever children may result from their union.
  • In other words, marriage imposes legal restrictions, taking away rights that individuals might otherwise have. Yet “gay marriage” advocates depict marriage as an expansion of rights to which they are entitled.
  • They argue against a “ban on gay marriage” but marriage has for centuries meant a union of a man and a woman. There is no gay marriage to ban.
  • Analogies with bans against interracial marriage are bogus. Race is not part of the definition of marriage. A ban on interracial marriage is a ban on the same actions otherwise permitted because of the race of the particular people involved. It is a discrimination against people, not actions…
  • Legitimating same-sex marriage amounts to an official declaration that what counts is not family structure, but the quality of dedication, commitment, self-sacrifice, and love in the household.
  • Marriage in this view is merely expressive personal conduct, a declaration of love between two adults. As such there is no reason for the state to be involved in preferring marriage as a family form.
  • By embracing gay marriage the legal establishment will have declared that the public purposes of marriage no longer include anything to do with making babies, or giving children mothers and fathers.
  • To redefine marriage is to lose it as a social institution, a shared public norm. Marriage will become (as it is in Sweden) a religious rite, with little public or social significance. As a legal institution, marriage will lose its coherence.


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