Est. May 2008

26 February, 2013

Definitions

Definitions are important: to define something gives it meaning; naturally, then, it follows that changing the definition of something changes how it’s understood or seen by others.

Take, for example, the word (marriage).  For millennia it’s been defined as ‘the union of one man and one woman’; even in ancient harem situations there was often a ‘primary wife’ – most likely the first one – and secondary wives (often called concubines).

Today, the definition of the word ‘marriage’ is threatened.

In a New York Times article about a legal brief filed by so-called Republicans supporting the alleged constitutionality of same-sex marriage, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes (in the tenth paragraph):
But the presence of so many well-known former officials — including Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, and William Weld and Jane Swift, both former governors of Massachusetts — suggests that once Republicans are out of public life they feel freer to speak out against the party’s official platform, which calls for amending the Constitution to define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” (emphasis mine)
If you do a word-search of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for ‘marriage’, 'marry', 'wedlock', 'conjugal', 'connubial', 'matrimony', 'spouse', 'marital', and other synonyms, you get no hits; therefore, in order to all even traditional marriage ‘Constitutional’ takes a bit of Constitutional gymnastics.  But more to the point – why, if the Constitution allegedly confers the right to same-sex marriage, do we need an amendment to redefine the term?

Simple answer: to set legal precedent.  Each of the amendments to the Constitution set some legal precedent which hadn’t been fully enumerated in the Constitution.  They placed the force of law behind things like freedom of speech, private gun ownership, and the like.  By doing so, they allowed the people recourse to the law if any of those rights were infringed.

Which means that should this amendment be approved, it would provide legal recourse to any same-sex couple who felt and could somehow prove that their ‘Constitutional right’ to same-sex marriage had been infringed.  Which means that anyone or any group of business which refused to serve a same-sex wedding or a same-sex couple would be liable to a federal lawsuit – including churches which refused to officiate over the wedding.  And don’t think for a moment that wouldn’t happen.

Additionally, the precedent opened by this amendment – which would change the definition of marriage – would open a Pandora’s Box of potential assaults on the re-written definition.  Don’t think so?  Neither did the folks fifty years ago who would have scoffed at the notion that we’d even be discussing same-sex marriage and marriage redefinition.  Consider: the definition of marriage is changed to include same-sex marriage; why can’t it be changed yet again to include polygamy and polyandry?  Why can’t it be changed to include human/non-human?  Why can’t it be changed to include human/inanimate object?  Why can’t it be changed to include consanguineous couples (sisters, brothers, first- and second-cousins, mothers, fathers – you know, all those things we currently call incest)?

It can, because the precedent for changing it has already happened.  Almost like the anecdote that killing your first human being is hard; the rest get easier.

And, in this case, there’ll be no diamond called ‘Hope’ at the bottom of this Pandora’s Box.

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