Should gay men and women have full protection under the law and be treated with respect and equality by all people?
Should gay persons have every civil and constitutional right that other people have?
Should gay men and women be able to choose one partner to live with, be true to and cherish?
Should gay unions be called “marriage?”
The best answer may be the simplest. Because that is not what “marriage” means. Marriage means a committed union between a man and a woman, with the likelihood or at least the possibility of procreation. Marriage has always meant that, and it has always been the glue that holds families and communities and society together. Webster, as far back as it goes, defines marriage as “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” And of course, that definition goes back 100 times farther than Webster.
Why should we redefine or change the meaning of an ancient, important word?
Gay rights advocates will answer, “To give equality!” But there are other ways to give every conceivable form of equality — and “equality” doesn’t have to mean “sameness.” It just does not make any sense to use the name of one thing for another very different thing.
What if volleyball players started demanding that they be able to call their sport baseball, with a rationale like this: “We like that name; we like the traditions and rituals that go with it and the big parks it is played in, and we don’t think we are equal unless we can have all those same things. We are still actually going to play volleyball; we just want to call it “baseball.”
Can you give us an even more direct sports metaphor?
OK, try this one: What if, on the pro tennis tour, players in the men’s and women’s doubles division started insisting that their divisions be called “mixed doubles?”
Perhaps it would be explained to them that “mixed doubles,” by definition, means a man and a woman playing together as a team. But they say, “We don’t want to change what we do or who our partners are — we still want teams of two men or two women, but we insist that we should be able to call it ‘mixed doubles,’ so let’s just change the definition of what that means.”
What about a non-sports metaphor?
Well, pick almost any institutional word like “bank” or “college.” People may want to call their YouTube channel a college, but it would certainly mix up what we understand about accreditation. Others might be tempted to start a small loan operation and brand it as a bank but operate outside of the regulation attending banks. The point is that there is value in retaining words and their age-tested definitions.
But if it is all just about a word or a name or a definition, who cares?
We all should care. The gay rights movement cares because they know the emotional power and centuries of social legitimacy that the word marriage carries.
We should all care because changing the meaning of one of the most venerable words in history can also change what the word signifies and what it portends. We believe that this whole debate should begin and end with the priority of children and what is best for them, and we feel that children deserve a mother and a father. Not all will get them, and not all mothers or fathers will do the job well, but we can never lose sight of the goal and the ideal.
And in the LDS Church, we start deeper and farther back, with pre-existent children waiting for their turn in mortality. That turn requires the union of a man and a woman, and it is best served through a married mom and dad. And indeed, we believe that God’s very government and kingdom are based on eternal marriage.
Who is to blame for the momentum behind the redefinition of marriage?
Let us be completely clear on this. Gay couples are trying to redefine marriage with their “talk,” but heterosexual couples have redefined marriage with their “walk.” We have disregarded, degraded, diminished and discarded marriage with everything from recreational sex to no-fault divorce to cohabitation; and as a society, we have let our desires for selfish individual rights, options and “freedom” supersede our desires for the commitment, sacrifice and responsibility of real marriage. In doing so, we have forfeited the joy.
So even as we reaffirm what marriage means, and what it has always meant, let us each do our part to re-enshrine all that marriage should mean within each of our own homes.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."
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