What Does the Word Mean?

The debate over same-sex “marriage” continues to roil our politics.  It regularly appears in legislatures, and there’s an important court case going on in California over it.

But a new study should make us ask a key question:  Just what do we mean by “marriage”?

Traditionally, marriage was defined as a life-long, sexually exclusive covenant between a man and a woman, directed to the procreation and education of children and to the personal good of the spouses.

When seen in that light, same-sex “marriage” just isn’t “marriage” – it’s something completely different.

Some same-sex “marriage” advocates have even rejected the idea of monogamy, and assume that their “married” relationships will not be sexually exclusive.  This has been confirmed by a new study of same-sex relationships, conducted in San Francisco.  The study found that the majority of the same-sex couples assume that they will not be sexually exclusive, they approve of such outside sexual relationships, and they have no intention of being faithful and monogamous.

So let’s take stock of how same-sex “marriage” fits into the definition of marriage.

  • “Life-long”?  Nope.
  • “Sexually exclusive”?  Nope.
  • “Man and woman”?  Nope.
  • “Procreation and education of children”? Not naturally.
  • “Good of the spouses”?  Well, maybe, but in what way is it different from any romantic relationship, or a “friends with benefits” relationship?
  • This has long been one of the unspoken truths behind the push for same-sex “marriage”.  The advocates want the legal rights that go along with marriage, they want the social acceptance of the term, and they want to force us to accept their relationships as “normal”.

    The only thing they don’t actually want is, well, marriage itself.

    It seems clear to me that the insight of the philosopher Inigo Montoya is relevant here:  “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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    4 Responses to “What Does the Word Mean?”

    1. Raoul says:

      So what about heterosexual “marriages” that are “open”? Should we have marriage police to make sure that consenting adults cannot conduct their lives in ways that you don’t like?

      You also point out that “procreation and education of children” would fall under a “not naturally” distinction for gay couples; is this different from heterosexual couples who adopt because they cannot conceive?

      The bottom line is that there are all kinds of different types of marriage going on in the United States, and there will soon be gay marriage, too. As Inigo Montoya would say . . .

    2. emechmann says:

      Even in states that recognize “no fault” divorce and same-sex “marriage” (like Massachusetts or Connecticut), adultery remains a ground for divorce — a clear public policy statement that sexual fidelity is still considered an essential feature of marriage.

      As for my comment about “not naturally”, Biology 101 makes it clear that infertility in a male-female relationship is an exception to the ordinary function, while in same-sex bonds infertility is a per se feature. That’s a difference that goes to the nature of the relationship.

    3. Sean says:

      I wonder if the problem is relying on “tradition”. In the past, tradition was used to deny civil rights to minorities and women. Tradition isn’t always the best foundation for an argument. And, often enough, traditions do and must change.

      As for your reliance on a study, I’m reminded of what Mark Twain said about statistics. Moreover, if the only basis for your conclusions (that same sex marriages are not life-long and sexually exclusive) is this one study, what was your support before this study was conducted? Admittedly, I don’t know a lot of gay couples, but I find it difficult to believe that a person can say they are in love and have a life partner without a life long commitment and sexual exclusivity.

      Regardless, are you holding same sex marriages to to a higher standard, when divorce and infidelity amongst heterosexual couples is so high? Isn’t the problem not in getting same sex couples to adhere to a life long and sexually exclusive commitment (if this is a problem as you report), but getting all couples to adhere to this standard?

    4. emechmann says:

      Actually, my argument is based on the nature of marriage itself, that it is a sexually exclusive union. That’s the reason that it has always been understood by society, has been taught by every religious tradition, and is reflected in our laws. Of course, thanks to the effects of original sin, we don’t live up to that ideal, but failure to be perfect does not vitiate the ideal.

      The notion of “open” relationships has long been accepted in the gay community, and many same-sex “marriage” advocates have publicly stated that they don’t intend for their unions to be monogamous (see, for example, Andrew Sullivan). The reason this report was so significant was that it was one of the first times that this was talked about in a mainstream publication, as opposed to something that appeared in the gay press.