on the word ‘marriage’

All over the world, the word ‘marriage’ is being redefined.  Here in NZ it’s a peaking issue.  A friend of mine just shared a status that threatened de-friending if they didn’t act according to their views.  And when people threaten to de-friend, you know it’s huge…  So I wanted to take a post to clarify what I think and believe about not just the word ‘marriage’, but what it describes – or has up until recently.   But first, a mamby-pamby, wishy-washy, soft liberal (MPWWSL) comment about my take on politics.

((Begin MPWWSL comment: The kingdom of God, as taught (and inaugurated) by Jesus, is not merely a personal/private ‘kingdom in my heart’.  It is also political in scope.  Having said this, Jesus didn’t lead marches against Rome to get them to change their laws. ((Though, for example, Jews of the day would have been happy to edit the Pax Romana if they’d been given the chance))  Being ‘conservative’ (as I am on many issues) doesn’t mean that you automatically want to force your religion upon others via legislation.  Having said that, the slogan “You can’t legislate morality!” rings hollow, for everything is moral.  Show me an area of law that is amoral.  The point is that, whatever you are aiming for, social transformation a) takes time and patience, and b) happens at a level deeper than law.  So whilst you will find (below) a blog post on my (relatively conservative) views of marriage, you’ll not find me marching down a street against same-sex marriage.  And you will also find me opposing any marginalisation or persecution of gay individuals, who are paradoxically some of the most popular and at the same time most ostracised people in modern western society.  End MPWWSL comment))

So here are my thoughts on the word ‘marriage’:

Firstly, however defined, it should be obvious that whilst it is obviously one of the most basic and important human institutions, being married is not what makes a person human.  Non-married people are just as human as married people.  This, to me, makes it hard to frame ‘gay marriage’ as a human rights issue.  Whilst I can appreciate the strong desire (and hurt feelings) of those who want to legally call their relationship a ‘marriage’, it’s worth noting that we’re talking about the definition and use of a word here, not a withholding of fundamental rights that denies anyone their humanity.

Secondly, the word ‘discrimination’ is used a lot, and all I’ll say is that let’s remember that in all kinds of decisions we make in life, ‘discrimination’ is both a good and bad thing.  Strictly related to marriage, we rightly ‘discriminate against’ people wanting to marry who are too closely related or not of what we deem (rightly or wrongly) to be a sufficient age, or want to marry multiple people, etc.  It is not scare-mongering to ask the question: “Why not polygamy?”  If the only requirement for getting married is consent, then it seems a perfectly valid question.

Thirdly, all agree marriage is a ‘union’.  Vague enough for mass agreement.  Tick.  All (except zoophiliacs) agree between two people. Tick. But now the debate is over whether it must be only between a ‘man and a woman’.  The key shift here, which is almost never stated, is that the ‘marriage union’ referred to a conjugal (‘with-joined’) and ‘consummated’ (‘with-completed’) relational state.  Indeed, whilst this is not an argument in itself, in some places, marriages that are not completed via ‘consummation’, that is, sexual intercourse, or coitus, can be annulled on this basis.  This signals the bond (pun intended) between marriage and intercourse.  To state the obvious, whatever ‘sexual’ activity they engage in, same sex couples  are  not naturally equipped for the specific, singular, consummating, conjugal, and thus ‘marrying’ act of sexual intercourse.  This observation is hardly ‘discrimination’ in the pejorative sense.  It’s merely an observation that two humans of the same sex cannot – biologically – have a conjugal, consummated union.  This is why you will sometimes see quote-marks around the word marriage when it follows same-sex (i.e. same-sex ‘marriage’).  It is a (perhaps unhelpfully?) short-hand way of summarising the view that same-sex conjugal unions are not physically possible. Interestingly, this sense of the word ‘union’ would also have relevance for ‘civil unions’ as well.  Nonetheless, the issues here are inescapably semantic, so patience is called for.  However much I (or others who make these points) might empathise with those whose semantic desire is to use the word ‘marriage’ of their same-sex relationships, I cannot pretend that I’m not aware of the above. ((This is a helpful and detailed and conservative treatment: http://www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/GeorgeFinal.pdf))

Finally, there is the question of adoption, and I agree it is very much a part of the discussion.  A very clued-up gay friend of mine recently related to me over coffee his summation of research on best parenting combinations for children, that biological parents provide the most stable child-rearing environment, of course including that committed gay couples were better than (it would seem obvious to me?) a single parent with little community support.  But again, it seems uncontroversial to me that biological parents are best. ((someone can critique the sources cited in the bibliography here: http://www.acpeds.org/Homosexual-Parenting-Is-It-Time-For-Change.html))  Now, I don’t know what this spectrum from best to worst means for legislation.  Honestly.  I have no problem saying that a committed, socially stable gay couple would do a better job parenting than an uncommitted, criminal couple, whether gay or straight.  It does seem helpful, however, to delineate these qualifiers, though.  Committed is better than uncommitted.  Socially stable is preferable to criminal.  And biological parents are to be desired over a gay couple.  I think my gay friend would agree to these last few sentences.  The question remains, which qualifiers should be enough to lawfully un-qualify a couple for adoption rights?  A criminal record? Obviously.  Being gay?  Hardly obvious.  A useful solution might be for the birth mother (if possible – or the closest kin) to decide – which I think might be the current law in NZ.

So that’s quite enough words from me on the word ‘marriage’.  I’m a relatively conservative Christian, but with a liberal heart for real people with real emotions and feelings and desires, and most of all I want to see people discuss it patiently and honestly.  And frankly, I see more heat and aggression coming from the pro-gay-marriage side than the other side.  Certainly that was the case this morning on Breakfast when Labour MP Louisa Wall got more than a little incensed at Family First’s Bob McCoskrie.  Social justice does warrant bringing heat.  But again, over the definition and use of a word?  I’m not convinced the heat is necessary here?

None of the above, has touched (directly) the related issue of the morality of homosexual behaviour. My intent is that the above is stated in a way such that a homosexual – or homosexuality affirming – person could agree, and that therefore any discussion below will focus on the issue of the definition of marriage, and not on the ethics of homosexuality.

20 thoughts on “on the word ‘marriage’”

  1. Ironically, the word ‘marriage’ is derived from the Latin ‘mas’ (masculine, of the male sex) so maybe only the gay boys are technically married.

    But to bring it back to the 21st century – I’m under the impression that a marriage is any union between two or more people, that comes with a legal contract recognized by the state/country. Civil unions? Marriage.

    Open marriage? Marriage.
    Polygamous marriage? Marriage.
    Incestuous marriage? Marriage.
    Heterosexual marriage? Marriage.
    Homosexual marriage? Marriage.
    Child marriage? Marriage.

    What’s more interesting to me – what marriages people consider to be good or bad and why.

  2. Dale, your first paragraph detailing why you think gay marriage is not an issue of human rights reveals significant problems in how you understand the legal issue involved about legal equality necessary for gay marriage in law. I emphasize the legal aspect of equality because you avoid this central issue by masking it with other terms like human rights rather than legal rights, justified discrimination rather than a lack of equality, union for procreation rather than a union to make a legal family unit.

    Gay marriage is a legal issue of equality of legal rights. Currently, in many jurisdictions there is special legal discrimination aimed at same sex couples for many of the reasons you outline. When examined in detail, however, these reasons are without legal validity to justify this special discrimination; they are based solely on incorrect presumptions that empower bias against a select group, which is why this discrimination is usually struck down in law as unconstitutional and sent back to legislators to remedy (the law that respects only heterosexual marriage currently treats same sex couples as a different class of citizen with different legal rights). This many have failed and continue to fail to do. This failure – firmly rooted in unjustified bias – is the cause of the ongoing legal discrimination. There are no good or compelling reasons to continue its exercise.

    In matters of justified legal discrimination, all of us cannot marry before we reach the age of majority; all of us cannot marry our closest kin, all of us cannot have a polygamous marriage. Although the law discriminates against these factors to sanction a marriage, it is applied equally to all citizens (and all for reasons of harm against the autonomy of the individual). This is not the situation with gay marriage; it discriminates against a particular group of people without any legitimate case for showing a reducing against the autonomy of the individual. Just the opposite, in fact. Harm to the autonomy of the individual can be shown to be caused by the legal discrimination!

    Again, equality in law is the issue. Denying it carries the burden of proof and in this matter those who stand against legal equality for this select group have utterly failed to uphold the spirit of legal equality upon which rests the legitimacy of our form of government in favour of compromising the legal rights of some to suit a very unpleasant and unnecessary bias that causes real harm to real people in real life.

  3. Ryan,
    I was working from here: and you’re joking about the role of the Latin ‘mas’ in its etymology, right?

    And you’ve given a wide list of ‘unions’, but even if they were justifiably called ‘unions’ (I only grant that the male/female ones could be conjugal and consummated – and thus truly ‘unions’), if biological capacity for coitus has no bearing on what marriage is, that is, if ‘marriage’ is just a term that we slap on the top of any kind of vague/general partnership, then why not call a relationship between lawyer business ‘partners’ marraige? why not employee and employer? Why not pet & owner? Why not humans with plants? I’m not even sure what point you’re trying to make? A key point in the post was the link between the word ‘marriage’ and the conjugal act that seals it.

    Tildeb,
    I’m not sure that human rights and legal rights are so opposed to one another? And we have to discuss, dialogue, and debate the way forward for both.

    As for ‘a legal family unit’, well, we can have another parallel discussion about what ‘family’ means. There certainly are fraternal senses of the word. And of course there is the obvious sense of the biological family unit. I’m for both. I don’t think a couple that adopts should be unable to be called a ‘family’, for example. The best case I could make for gay marriage would probably be an example of a same-sex couple wanting to be married and adopt and raise children to benefit society. But the above post is specifically focused on the semantic issue of the word ‘marriage’, and particularly the defining role of the conjugal act of intercourse.

    As for ‘discrimination’, you grant a list of discriminations that apply to “all of us”… “All of us” cannot marry too young, too closely related, too many at one time… so why is it so horrible to add that “all of us” cannot marry a person of the same sex? If a homosexual claims unique discrimination against homosexual relationships, couldn’t a polygamist claim the same kind of discrimination against polygamous relationships? Are the polygamists among the “real people in real life” that are being caused “real harm”? I honestly hope this doesn’t sound trite. I’m genuinely curious to know what principle you’re working with? And I’ll be honest. I think the emotional climate of this debate is to intense that patient identification of principles being worked with is almost impossible. God (or reason – or both!) help us. :)

  4. I was going from here. With regards to implying this meant only gay boys are technically married – of course, I was joking, Dale.. Jesus..

    What I’ve given is a wide list of marriages. Forgetting that a lot of people have intercourse well before their wedding ceremony nowadays… I think it’s narrow-minded to conflate ‘sexual intercourse’ with ‘heterosexual intercourse’. If there’s consummation laws in NZ that need to be updated to include homosexual intercourse also – so be it.

  5. Ryan,
    Re etymology: I knew the ‘gay boys’ comment was a joke, but I wasn’t sure if you were joking “about the role of the Latin ‘mas’ in its [the word ‘marriage’] etymology”. If it was a throw-away comment, maybe you should’ve thrown it away :)

    Re “inter-course”: If it’s a narrow v. wide contest, I’m interested in how widely you’d cast the net? One could in a very functional sense have intercourse with animals, plants and inanimate objects. So we ‘discriminate’ here too. And rightly so. My question is a) where is the line, and b) why there and not somewhere else?

    As of yet, I can see no other principle at work other than it hindering someone from something they want to do – which begs the question, because we concede sometimes it is right to forbid a person doing what they want, and other times it is not right.

    The example of consent may be an interesting example. As you know, I strongly maintain that Nature careth not whether sex is consensual or not (or incestuous or not). We care, and we have strong intuitions and traditions and emotions about these things. We have a ‘sense’ that sex ought to be consented to. So we make laws based on that strong intuition/tradition/etc. Now I’m not putting rape and homosexuality on the same level at all. But I am saying that the case against homosexual intercourse is also based on a strong (yet weakening in many places) intuition, tradition and emotion (and even simple observation) that same sex organs are not compatible for inter-course. Can’t fit a peg in a peg, or a whole in a whole, etc. Now a peg can indeed be placed in all kinds of holes, or hands or armpits or pockets or bottles or toys, etc. ad infinitum. But just as an interstate is a road between two different states, so also is sexual inter-course between two different sexes (hence sexual and hence inter-course). Sexual intercourse is, an inter-sexual course of events. Any course of events within (as opposed to between) a sex, is not inter-sexual, but I suppose would be called intra-course. And I can feel the “semantics!!” charge here. But remember, the bill and the issue is inescapably semantic. It even has ‘redefinition’ in the title.

  6. Re: sexual intercourse. It’s sexual contact between two individuals involving penetration, typically culminating in orgasm for one or more. Simple as that for me. So the line, is where the aforementioned definition no longer describes what’s happening. As fu*ked up (just funny if you ask me) as it may seem – a human can have sexual intercourse with vacuum cleaner tubing.

    Dale: As of yet, I can see no other principle at work other than it hindering someone from something they want to do – which begs the question, because we concede sometimes it is right to forbid a person doing what they want, and other times it is not right.

    I’m of the opinion that it’s stopping some consensual lovers from being entitled to what other consensual lovers can have – which I do not see as necessary.

    Dale: But just as an interstate is a road between two different states, so also is sexual inter-course between two different sexes

    That’s a dissimilarity. The key word you’re looking for isn’t ‘different’ but rather ‘between’. Intercourse is simply communication or dealings between individuals. Interstate is simply anything occurring between states.

    So given the definition of sexual intercourse – any sexual being can engage in it.

    The redefinition they’re referring to is to do with the legal use of the word ‘marriage’.

  7. Ryan,
    The only reason I’m bothering talking about what sexual intercourse is or is not, it because in the post I suggest that the conjugal (with-joining) act is that which ‘consummates’ or completes the marriage union. In some cultures, if she wasn’t a virgin, then the bride gift/’price’ was liable to be returned and the marriage annulled – but the point is that the ‘ceremony’ or exchange of vows/rings was only symbolic of the bodily union.

    So… re ‘sexual intercourse’:
    There are at least two uses (if not more) of the term ‘intercourse’:
    1) personal intercourse – a ‘course between’ persons – usually communication – discourse is another word used close to its meaning
    2) sexual intercourse – a more specific kind of activity that is sexual, in that it is not only ‘inter’ or ‘between’ persons (see 1), but more specifically ‘inter’ or ‘between’ sexes.

    Because homo-erotic activity is not between (inter) the sexes, but within (intra) one sex, I suggested calling it sexual intra-course. Whatever it is or isn’t called, it seems grammatically necessary that sexual intercourse is between (inter) the sexes. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. We may have to leave it unless you have new light to shed on the meaning of ‘inter’ or ‘sex'(ual)?

    p.s. whilst some kind penetrative act with a vacuum cleaner might possibly be called some kind of ‘inter-course’, unless the vaccum cleaner had a ‘sex’, it would not be sexual intercourse. which actually leads to the interesting observation that given the above semantics, for example, a female human having sex with a male animal can more rightly be called ‘sexual intercourse’ than a female human with female human (or male animal with male animal for that matter).

    I hasten to add that this comment thread is at the level of pedantic semantics, but again, the issue is inherently semantic and words describe real things, so I don’t think this level of pedantry is inappropriate. And I appreciate the opportunity to have the discussion free of the ‘heat’ I referred to in the OP.

  8. Dale: The only reason I’m bothering talking about what sexual intercourse is or is not, it because in the post I suggest that the conjugal (with-joining) act is that which ‘consummates’ or completes the marriage union.

    Sure, so if consummation is still going to be required in a country going for marriage equality, it makes sense for them to alter the laws restricting consummation to purely heterosexual intercourse along with the laws they’re altering to allow for homosexuals to get married.

    Dale: So… re ‘sexual intercourse’:
    There are at least two uses (if not more) of the term ‘intercourse’:
    1) personal intercourse – a ‘course between’ persons – usually communication – discourse is another word used close to its meaning
    2) sexual intercourse – a more specific kind of activity that is sexual, in that it is not only ‘inter’ or ‘between’ persons (see 1), but more specifically ‘inter’ or ‘between’ sexes.

    Intercourse is simply communication or dealings between individuals. Sexual intercourse is simply dealings, relating to the instincts, physiological processes and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.

    The distinction you’re trying to make – between the sexes – is known as being intersexual e.g. Darwin thought intersexual selection was a females job. This would make sexual dealings between individuals of different sexes – intersexual (heterosexual) intercourse. As opposed to dealings between individuals of same sexes which would be – intrasexual (homosexual) intercourse.

    Intracourse (not yet a word, close to intrapersonal though) would be one individual, dealing with/in oneself e.g. talking to self, touching oneself (our vacuum/hand addict), meditation, thinking, praying, etc.)

    I think it’s plain to see that both homosexuals and heterosexuals can and do participate in sexual intercourse (sexual contact between individuals involving penetration, typically culminating in orgasm.) To say homosexuals cannot is to deny that one of them is an individual capable of dealing with another. That doesn’t sound very nice..

  9. I clarify: To say homosexuals cannot is to deny that one of them is an individual capable of dealing with another individual, sexually.

  10. I actually agree re the technical semantics you point out: ‘intercourse’ is any kind of inter-action between two ‘things’ (not even people). So you’ve beaten me at my own semantically obsessive game :) Congrats.

    I think one of the challenges, with this and other topics, is navigating the layers of language and meaning as the discourse moves from pop-slogans to technical terms – and as etymology comes into play. For example, ‘homophobia’ is a woefully unhelpful term to use the way it is used. It would literally mean ‘same-fear’, which could refer to a certain person’s fear (who shall remain un-named) of wearing the same kind of clothing as everyone else, and is compelled by currently unknown physical forces to wear a different shoe on each foot. :)

    But back to the topic: I think there are a few issues here:

    a) what is the relationship (if any) between erotic/sensual acts and the state and word ‘marriage’. i.e. is the notion of ‘sealing’ or ‘consummating’ a ‘union’ to be completely thrown out? if so, why?

    b) If consummation is thrown out, then what are the constitutive features of a marriage, i.e. how do we distinguish between a marriage and a close committed non-‘sexual’ friendship?

    c) if any notion of consummation remains, how do we distinguish between bodily activities that qualify for consummating a marriage, and bodily activities that don’t?

  11. Re: homophobia. It’s simply a blend of the words homosexual and phobia. I think most people know what it means – extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.

    a) I don’t think it need be completely thrown out. I don’t understand why signing your name and being declared by the celebrant is not enough though nowadays. Maybe just keep it for wedding night virgins? Because what’s gonna be more special about the sex you’re gonna have on your wedding night that wasn’t special about all the other sex you’ve been having?

    b) People can be married and choose not to have sex for any number of reasons.

    c) I don’t think consummation should be restricted to purely vaginal sex (if indeed it is?). A man and woman might get married where one of them has had an operation or an accident that makes them incapable of having vaginal sexual intercourse. Perhaps, if it doesn’t already, consummation should include anal sex, oral sex and even mutual masturbation for those who are restricted in any way shape or form from having vaginal sex.

  12. Oops, some of my b) was deleted. It should also say something along the lines of marriage comes with a legal contract.

  13. a & b) First, I’m of the view that sex-before-marriage is kind of an impossibility, because sex ‘joins’ (unites/’marries’). Just as a marriage w/ ceremony but without sex is better termed ‘lifelong friendship’, so also an un-ceremony-ed couple having sex is very much ‘joined’ physically (if not emotionally/financially). In other words, I am only interested in legal definitions of marriage that reflect actual tangible (indeed bodily) realities, not just ‘we are married in principle’. And lots of relationships involve signing papers. The unique difference with marriage has always been the bodily union.

    c) what I’m looking for is the principle which you are operating with. what makes a bodily activity ‘sexual’? Handshakes aren’t. Hugs? Massages? pats on the bum (game/foreplay – like togs/undies – LOL)? And why can’t any of these be sufficient for consummating a marriage?

  14. a & b) Unfortunately for your view, unmarried people have sex everyday. And a marriage w/ ceremony and signing of marriage papers, etc. but for whatever reason the wedded couple abstain from sex… is still a marriage.

    c) A bodily activity is ‘sexual’ if it is ‘relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals’. Which of the long list of ‘sexual’ activities can be arbitrarily assigned to consummation requirements isn’t as important, I think, as making sure the couple are aware their marriage is consummated, that it may no longer be annulled.

  15. a & b) you can’t move from how marriage ‘is’ defined/constituted to how it ‘ought’ to be defined/constituted. You’ve effectively said consummation can-be/ought-to-be-permitted-to-be thrown out… because… it is…?

    c) I suspect you’ll accuse me of Dalepedia-ism here, but again, the popular definition is being questioned here. But anyway, if it’s merely about a other-than-bodily shared awareness of consummation, then your effective answer to my question (what bodily actions consummate, and what ones don’t?) is that a bodily action is not even necessary for consummation. Which is another way of saying it can be thrown out, because… ?? it is???

  16. a & b) I move to “this is how marriage ought to be defined” from a position of “I think equality is a good thing, specifically when it’s to do with something based on consensual love between people”

    c) Nowhere have I requested that the requirement of heterosexual consummation should be thrown out. I just don’t think there should be a one size fits all approach to consummating marriages. If you’re a gay couple or a somewhat maimed couple, I think you should be entitled to a legally consummated marriage. Why do I think this? Reread “a & b)”

  17. a & b) again, when it comes to defining/constituting marriage, it seems that one of the requirements would have to be a defining/constituting characteristic that distinguishes a marriage relationship from all other types of relationships. Equality, consent and ‘love’ are not exclusive to marriage only, so I don’t understand why you present them as your definitive characteristics of marriage.

    c) I’m actually not subscribing to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, precisely because I don’t think all people must, will or indeed even can be married. And of course, one of the key points of the OP is that being married is not essential to being human. There are lots of things that we want but cannot have for a variety of reasons. Being disabled, lacking a particular talent/gift/ability, or simply not having the opportunity are among the many reasons why we don’t attain to all kinds of states, levels and achievements. Whether we want is ‘natural’ (i.e. a woman wanting to bear children) or ‘unnatural’ (a human wanting to have wings and fly), it is not a ‘human rights’ issue for us to have everything we want. For me, this includes marriage.

    For example, many heterosexual men and women will want desperately to marry someone, but will never have this desperate desire met. They need to know that they are still just as human and have just as much worth and value as their married friends/family/acquaintances. Likewise, for me, restricting the use of the word ‘marriage’ to describe only relationships where a male/female (and thus ‘sexual’) bodily union is possible, does not restrict the humanity or ‘rights’ of anyone.

    Our incensed anger at any such restrictions, in my view, is a result of breathing the air of a very liberal culture where anyone should be able to have any/all of their desires realised. Not only does this conflict with very obvious examples where for very good reasons we don’t want ‘x’ desire of ‘y’ person to be realised, but it even is psychologically/emotionally unhelpful in ‘the real world’ where we all have to cope with unmet desires.

  18. a & b) those aren’t my definitive characteristics of marriage. Those are the kinds of relationships I think should be legally entitled to a marriage – consensual loving relationships. The definition of marriage is different in different cultures, that’s a given, but when it comes to the legal rights side of things – I think consensual loving gays, consensual loving bis, consensual loving polys, consensual loving incest should have the same legal rights as consensual loving straights.

    c) I agree, being married is not essential to being human.

    Dale: There are lots of things that we want but cannot have for a variety of reasons. Being disabled, lacking a particular talent/gift/ability, or simply not having the opportunity are among the many reasons why we don’t attain to all kinds of states, levels and achievements. Whether we want is ‘natural’ (i.e. a woman wanting to bear children) or ‘unnatural’ (a human wanting to have wings and fly), it is not a ‘human rights’ issue for us to have everything we want. For me, this includes marriage.

    I’m thinking this is because you conflate marriage with heterosexuality. Of course, if a gay man was wanting to redefine vaginal sex to now include anal sex, I would be like.. “What? That makes no sense..” But when it comes to the institution of (not just the word) marriage – while some of them might care about the way the word sounds to the ears and the social connotations it carries – I think most Protect Marriage Equality supporters are after just that. Equality. Equal legal rights.

    Dale: Likewise, for me, restricting the use of the word ‘marriage’ to describe only relationships where a male/female (and thus ‘sexual’) bodily union is possible, does not restrict the humanity or ‘rights’ of anyone.

    It does though. This is why it’s an issue. People speak up when there’s a problem, Dale. This time the problem is that a particular sector of society are feeling their rights are restricted. They think and I think – unnecessarily restricted. Restriction isn’t always bad, if you ask me. For example I think rapists and murderers should be restricted from roaming Queen St. I don’t think, however that a gay couple should be restricted from being able to formalize their romantic relationship as a marriage, the same as any straight couple. Why do I think this? Like I keep saying, I find no wrong in a consensual loving relationship and no reason to discriminate between what some consensual lovers are entitled to over other consensual lovers.

  19. a/b/c)
    As we discussed on FB, I don’t think that the State should take sides as to how marriage is defined. I think the civic body (govt) should handle civic affairs (incl. ‘civil unions’). I don’t think the state owes it to anyone to protect their ‘right’ to use any particular word of their relationship.

    As a marriage celebrant in NZ, I sign a state document (currently a ‘marriage license’ – but I’m arguing it could/should be a ‘civil union’), and (if the marriage is in a church) a register. If the state left community organisations or whatever to look after marriage, then ppl would be free to do whatever they wanted. If you want state recognised status to get access to tax breaks or anything else, then get a civil union. If you also want to call yourself a ‘married’ couple, then either go to a place that will do that for you or D.I.Y. The state shoudl only care if you do something that violates your human civil rights.

    That would also de-politicise the whole conversation about the definition and use of the word ‘marriage’. And if I’m not mistaken, people even now can use the word ‘husband’/’wife’/’married’ even if they’re not legally married. People could have discussions about what ‘marriage’ is or is not without fear of losing human civil rights.

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