Tony made this comment to a recent post:
I agree Catherine. It seems to me that David has made an argument for marriage but not against gay marriage and has not shown how it is a threat to heterosexual marriage.
Surely the biggest threat (by a country mile) to marriage is divorce and yet the church is not putting comparative pressure on the governments to get rid of divorce.
My year 4 teacher told me that grammar is important. As usual with such matters, you realise this only when you become older.
As the title to the great book on grammar “Eats shoots and leaves” (or, variously, “Eats, shoots, and leaves”) makes clear, grammar is the key to meaning, and meaning is how we attempt to understand the objective world around us.
Until very, very, very recently, the noun “marriage” had only one meaning, even if it existed in various different types (eg. monogamous, polygamous, secular, sacramental, common law, legal, unconsumated, etc. etc.). The various possible adjectives that you could place before the word did not alter the essential meaning of the word: which was a contract between a man and a woman to enter into a life-long relationship of committment to one another as a legal unity. As the adjective “polygamous” suggests, there have been disagreements throughout the centuries on whether a man could make at any one time this contract with more than one woman, but it should be noted that this question did not impinge upon the meaning of the noun marriage as such.
But recently – very, very, very recently – someone tried sticking the word “gay” (meaning “homosexual”, rather than “joyous”) in front of the noun “marriage”. Unlike all the other adjectives suggested above, this adjective does more than qualify the noun, it alters the meaning of the noun itself. In order still to make sense, the noun “marriage” has to be altered. No longer can it mean a contract between a man and woman, now it must be altered to mean “a contract between two persons (gender unspecified)”.
Okay, you say, what’s the problem with that? How does that threaten your marriage?
It “threatens” my “marriage”, because it changes the meaning of the word “marriage”. It changes the nature of the legal relationship of committment into which I entered with my wife. It is not just a case of a different “kind” of marriage – for instance a polygamous marriage or a non-sacramental marriage. Putting the adjective “gay” in front of the noun “marriage” actually requires an essential alteration to the meaning of that noun.
To answer Tony’s objection regarding the threat of divorce, I would say that the high rates of divorce might well be a concern for society and may show that many marriages are in significant difficulty. It may also show that one part of the definition of marriage is a bit wobbly today (the “for life” bit). Nevertheless, viewing it simply from the meaning of the noun “marriage” as given above, I would say the very fact that a legal “divorce” is required to end a marriage contract in fact actually upholds the essential meaning of the noun “marriage” as a “for life” contract.
[Please note: I haven’t used any religious arguments in this post.]