Redefining?

Yeah, this is another gay marriage post. I’ll keep writing them until equality is taken for granted, and then I’ll probably still keep writing them to remind people that it wasn’t always so.

In my internet wanderings this morning I stumbled over this post titled Ten reasons not to legalise same-sex marriage in Britain and was struck by how often the author, Peter Saunders, refers to “redefining” marriage. I’ll address his ten points in a bit, but I think the definition thing is more important so I’m going to talk about this first.

Imagine, if you will, a local sports league, let’s say baseball, that’s been men-only since it was founded years ago. If it changes the rules allowing women to play, is it redefining baseball? If the couples-only three-legged race at the state fair declares that same-sex couples are welcome to participate, does this redefine three-legged races? When the schools were desegregated in the American South, did that redefine education? When women were given the right to vote, did that redefine democracy?

Is it really such a dramatic change to a social institution to welcome those who were previously excluded?

We say “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”, but when you get down to it we’re just talking about marriage. The distinction between “a man and a women” and “two people” is trivial. We’re not talking about changing how people do things or what rights and responsibilities they have within a marriage contract, we’re literally talking about being a little more inclusive and nothing else.

In fairness, Saunders is British and talking about Britain, there may be other aspects to the British perspective that I’m not aware of. But I kind of doubt it, because his list of ten things contains nothing that I haven’t already seen in arguments here in the United States. I’ll take a look at that list in my next post.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on May 31, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The change in the definition of marriage isn’t caused by gay marriage. The cultural practice of marriage has been shifting for a good 50 years by now. The fact that we are even linking the terms gay marriage (as if it were merely a prohibition like interracial marriage) is the result of that cultural shift.

    I’m not sure those who are very heated about the gay marriage issue understand just how deeply imbedded this cultural shift exists. But regardless the concern is given legal recognition to a union which by definition is not marriage. Unfortunately, the foolish part of the movement seems to think that “a union between a man and a woman” is an adequate definition. Granted usually when it comes to the debates, they don’t use that definition. I don’t know, maybe its a political movement because perhaps more people will vote to oppose same sex marriage than they would to recognize “Oh wait that couple who intends never to have children isn’t married by definition even though they had a wedding.”

    That gives you a good understand of the traditional definition of marriage, though it does have a Christian bent.

    • It’s interesting to me how many of our concepts of what is “traditional” comes from 19th century England. I blame the artists, the painting styles of the time were just so good at making a scene feel nostalgic. Also, the clothes are kind of awesome.

      Ok, so if we accept that as working definition of 19th century English Christian marriage, which then has strong influence over the traditions of English-speaking nations, that makes sense to me. Many of the Prop 8 arguments would fit right in with that.

      Of course the reason the Prop 8 thing happened the way it did was that the arguments which worked best at convincing people to vote for it were based on religion, and thus carried no legal weight. I don’t know how that works in Britain, which has a state religion, but I’ve been under the impression that they generally keep the secular and religious parts of their government pretty separate.

      I don’t see any reason for the government to define marriage beyond a legal contract conferring kinship, and the details relevant to that. Taxes, benefits, etc. Anything beyond that and you’re starting to have real government interference in people’s lives and their ability to live freely. There’s a lot of diversity and every family is unique. And nobody wants the government to dictate how many kids they have.

      Here and now marriage is legally a partnership between equals, no longer a lord husband and his subordinate wife. Between this and the last paragraph, gay marriage is obvious.

      Thanks for your comment!

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