Friday, October 17, 2008

The Meaning of Marriage: What Gay Marriage Advocates Don't want you to Consider

Words are a powerful force in our lives. As thinking, reasoning beings, it is through words that we define ourselves and reason about our lives. But words are only meaningful when the speaker and the hearer understand a word in the same way. In talking with people about California's proposition 8, I have discovered a serious difference between the definition of marriage as it has traditionally been understood, and the meaning that advocates of "gay marriage" are giving to the term.
Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary defines marriage this way: The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. A modern dictionary definition is not far different: the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. This is the definition of marriage as we have all grown up understanding it. In contrast, here is the answer I received in a recent conversation with a gay marriage advocate; when I asked how she defined marriage, she replied "marriage is two people who love each other".
Now I certainly am not going to argue that two people who are married should not love one another, but this expresses only one aspect of what marriage is about. Of course, those who advocate "gay marriage" cannot use the traditional definition of marriage, because it automatically excludes any union other than that of a man and a woman. And so they cast aside completely the traditional meaning of the word "marriage" and in its place substitute a watered-down, truncated meaning that gives the nod to romantic love and says very little else.
Before we as a society accept this stripping of meaning from the word marriage, perhaps we should carefully consider what the implications of the two definitions are. Marriage as the legal union of a man and woman for life accomplishes many things. First, it provides that children are born into a stable family unit, with a father and mother who are committed to one another and to the children they will jointly raise. It establishes on a community and society-wide scale that the male and female halves of society, with their complimentary strengths and abilities, are working together for the good of the next generation. It guarantees that the resources of one generation will be passed down through a family to the next generation. It provides general stability for society. It means that each person belongs to an extended family network which is capable of providing a safety net in times of sickness or other hardships.This social, legal and biological framework has been and is the basis of every society, every civilization in the history of the world. The part played by romantic love varies; in many societies, marriages were or are arranged by parents or other responsible parties, with romance playing little if any role in the choosing of a spouse. Interestingly, this strategy seems to have been generally successful in providing a stable family environment. In recent history in western societies, young people have generally played the key role themselves in choosing a marriage partner. Again, with society's support, these marriages have generally provided a stable, secure environment in which children can be brought up. More recently, the emphasis has shifted more and more towards romantic and sexual attraction at the expense of all other considerations as the primary basis for marriage. I believe we can see the results of this shift in the instability of so many family units in our modern western society.
What has happened? If we base marriage solely on a passionate romantic and sexual attraction between two individuals, it loses it's stability. Why? Because romance and passion are not stable. Please note I am not saying that love is not stable, but love is not a state of being, love is a an action, it is something we do. When we talk about "falling in love" we are referring to the development of a romantic/sexual attraction for someone; this can result in a lasting commitment or it may lead to nothing more than a temporary infatuation. The lifetime commitment of marriage requires that both husband and wife understand and commit to a partnership through the ups and downs of life and of their personal relationship. In every marriage there will probably be times when the husband and wife to not feel "in love" with one another. In the emerging contemporary view of marriage, as nothing more than an affirmation of a romantic relationship between two people, this would be the time to dissolve the relationship! Sadly, that is exactly what we find happening in our modern society. Adults move from relationship to relationship, contracting and dissolving "marriages" with little thought for the instability this creates in the lives of children and families, and therefore in society in general. Not business contract could be dissolved as easily as we now dissolve a marriage! The implications for society? Millions of children growing up in single-parent homes, often feeling trapped between their need to love and feel loved by both parents and the conflicting lives and agendas of the parents. Redefining marriage as primarily a romantic relationship between adults disqualifies it as the foundational institution of society. Romance can be fickle, the foundation of the family should not be. When marriage is viewed as a life-long relationship between a husband and wife, a mother and father, marriage partners will work harder to strengthen their relationship and to promote the overall good of the family.
How does gay marriage weaken this structure? It is obvious that the traditional definition of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman precludes "marriage" between individuals of the same sex. For such individuals to "marry" the very meaning of the word must be dramatically altered. Such a change will drastically alter our social understanding of marriage itself, and will further weaken our ability to establish and maintain solid marriages and families.
Folks, there is much more at stake here than the perceived happiness of a few same-sex couples. The Domestic Partnership laws of California already grant the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex partners. Now they want to take away from us our right to have a marriage that means more than a romantic relationship between two people. The foundation of society is at stake. The future of our children is at stake. Vote for marriage. Vote for Family. Vote Yes on Proposition 8.

1 comment:

Grace said...

if marriage is "two people who love eachother" then I should be married, not just to my husband, but to my parents, my son and my daughter, and to all of my girl friends. You can see how flawed this definition is by taking it further.