As the debate over who can be married in the United States rages, some important elements seem to be missing from the national conversation. The definition of marriage – the only issue – has been consigned to the periphery of the debate. How we define marriage is pivotal because definitions include some things and exclude others. Robert P. George, professor of politics at Princeton, defines it this way: “Marriage is a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by acts which are reproductive in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect.” (Notice that elderly and infertile couples are embraced in this definition). Have there been exceptions to this definition in various times and places (e.g. polygamy, prohibitions against interracial marriage)? Yes. They are called aberrations.
John Q. Citizen is roused with righteous anger when informed that Steve and Dennis will not be allowed to “love” and “commit to” one another if the current view of marriage stands. By affirming heterosexual marriage is society limiting Steve’s ability to love and commit to Dennis? No. Society is saying to them: “You have a relationship. And whatever you’d like to call it, it isn’t, nor can it ever be marriage.”
Opponents of any given policy often speak of their rivals’ potential victory as “opening a Pandora’s box” or setting a “domino effect into motion.” Clichs? Yes. But consider – under what principles could San Francisco City Hall as it currently wishes to define (or, really, un-define) marriage turn away the following applicants?: 1. A consenting father and of-age daughter; 2. A man and two women or 3. Ten men and 10 women? In their rush to not turn some away, they’ve stripped their ability to turn anyone away.
Please encourage your political leaders to support and affirm the already embattled institution of marriage.