One Equal World

The Definition of Marriage

Posted on: November 6, 2012

As we move forward in history, support for same-sex marriage is growing at an incredible rate. Finally, it seems like full equality is inevitable. But with the conversation about same-sex marriage continuing, some very specific points of opposition are coming into light, some of which seem trivial. For example, there is concern about legalizing same-sex marriage for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of the word. Some are supportive of full equal rights for LGBT people, but are uncomfortable with calling it ‘marriage.’


In a recent New York Times dialogue, readers debated about the role of the government and churches in marriage. Who should really be involved? When should marriage be called ‘marriage,’ and when should it be called something else? The readers offered an interesting collage of thoughts on the issue.


The original writer, Anne Dohrenwend of Michigan, discusses the situation from a personal point of view: she lives in a state where same-sex marriage is banned and therefore she and her partner do not have any of the rights given to married couples. And though she is for all intents and purposes the parent of her partner’s biological son, she can’t adopt him.


Dohrenwend suggests moving into the future by taking a tip from our past: returning ‘marriage’ to its “original state as a religious sacrament,” given out solely by religious institutions at their discretion. The government would provide civil unions to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. ‘Marriage’ would be more like a blessing, whereas a ‘civil union’ would be the legal status required to gain what we now refer to as ‘marriage benefits.’


Reactions to Dohrenwend’s story and suggestion varied; some felt that offering marriage only to religious couples would be unfair, and that obtaining only civil unions would be a travesty. Some agreed, saying that giving benefits to same-sex couples without “redefining marriage for all of society” should be perfectly acceptable.


The dialogue going on here is intriguing. Is it the word ‘marriage’ we care about more, or is it the benefits and rights associated with it? Should we move toward the further separation of religion and state, the government offering civil unions only and religious institutions giving out marriage blessings at their discretion? What do you think?


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