Monday, February 18, 2013

Should the Government Tell You Who You Can Marry?

I am not one to want the government to tell us (especially if that really means “force us”) to do very much.  Just exactly how much is morally appropriate, and where that boundary lies, and most importantly how it is correctly defined, is something I am still pondering.

The question of the government dictating things is bound to come up in the current debate raging across society regarding what some call “homosexual marriage.”  Our whole social context seems designed to urge the question, “Who are you to tell me who I can marry?”

Like so many other questions asked in our social context, this one is the wrong question, and is almost designed to lead us away from the more important issue.  A better and more to-the-point question is: “Why Can’t I Define Marriage Any Way I Wish?”

This question is much more insightful because it points to an assumption behind this whole debate: the assumption that marriage is correctly defined only by those who participate in it.  This assumption deserves to be examined.

Our culture is driven by the idea that almost everything can be reconstructed however we want to make us happy.  Is this the case with marriage?

We can’t limit this question to the matter of “homosexual marriage.”  In recent history, marriage in our culture was defined as something between one man and one woman for life, apart from a few extreme circumstances.  (Mormons in the 19th century attempted a redefinition which did not catch on.)  This definition came from the descriptions of marriage found in the New Testament.  Such constraints were cast off fairly recently.  But having cast them off, we are left with some logic many do not wish to follow to its conclusion.

If marriage can be redefined in any way we wish, then, of course, it could be between one man and one woman, one man and one man, or one woman and one woman.  That has become acceptable to many in our culture because homosexual advocates have portrayed homosexuals as victims of societal prejudice.  The definition of marriage was portrayed as a majority persecuting a homosexual minority.  But that is not the real issue, just a diversion.

For exactly the same reasons that marriage could be redefined as just mentioned, it could just as easily be redefined as between one man and one child, one woman and one child, one man and a group of women, one woman and a group of men, or even one man or woman and one animal.

Many advocates of redefining marriage balk some or all of these, but there is no good reason for that, once we concede that marriage can be redefined at will.  I predict that, given the popularity of pets today, that the advocates of human-animal marriages will soon demand their redefinition of marriage.

So the answer to the question, “Should the government tell you who you can marry?” is a definite “no.”  Marriage is ‘definitionally’ possible only between one man and one woman.  So the government should not tell you who you can marry.  Ladies, pick your man.  Gentlemen, pick your lady.  But, by definition, a man can’t marry a man any more than a man can “marry” his large-screen TV.  Men can engage in all sorts of relationships with other men, and women with other women. In few if any of these does the government currently even attempt to interfere.  But, by definition, this is not marriage, because we don’t define marriage.  It comes to us as what it is, and is not created by us.

Marriage is what it is, whether we like it or not.  Calling something “marriage” no more makes it so than calling a triangle a circle makes them the same thing.  So taking notice of the fact that it is simple impossible for a man to marry a man is not oppression or a sign of hate any more than noticing that trees are not persons.

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