Part II tomorrow, February 10th, 2016.
We have to understand that the idea of Gay Marriage demands a re-look at, as well as a re-examniation of, the institution of marriage, and that is not so much marriage today, although it does insist we do so; but marriage as it has been enacted in societies, more specifically the United States, or generally in the English speaking world. This necessity will be understood more easily when we discuss how language–i.e, diction–affects mentality in general, more specifically, the mentality surrounding our ideas about marriage and who should be married. Mentality always affects the general attitudes about what should be; should, in Freudian terms, is a very super-ego word.
Marriage–as it has been discussed by persons in various cultures, codified by laws and/or customs, ritualized in religious practices and understood by how a people anywhere define it, giving it specified and special choices in the words used–must be opened to this investigation. This essay will attempt the fore mentioned re-definition of “Marriage,” at least with respect for and cognizance of how it has been articulated socially in English speaking countries over the past millennia or more. An examination of diction concerning the institution will be helpful in understanding how mentality concerning marriage and gay marriage has been inherited from an archaic way of phrasing what marriage is and who the players get to be on the social stage of marriage.
When I was an undergraduate and imagined that I was going to be a Philosophy Major carrying on to a Master’s or a PhD in philosophy, I used to begin philosophical essays with definitions of terms. It had been suggested after one abominable failure of a thesis in an Ethics and Society class. The Professor reiterated that I should define my terms so as to give the reader a firm footing on where I stood, where the reader also stood, or simply, what I meant by what I as saying. Trying to say or having tried to say–neither of these were to say.
In this essay, I am going to write about the issue of Gay Marriage, an issue not for any reason intrinsic to the assertions of gay couples wanting to get to join in a union we have called marriage, or their desire to be included in the institution we call marriage when they so desire, but because our lack of understanding of the historical place of marriage coupled with a complete unawareness of just what we are saying when we use the diction of marriage and marrying. This re-defining of marriage is paramount to furthering our American understanding of where Gay Marriage fits in the social equation of couple-unions today–and it does fit, that is, more easily than many of us on either side of this pro/con issue are likely to understand or admit. Opinions are opinions, and facts are facts, but intelligent, rational thinking is other than tautological. The protection of everyone’s basic human rights is of supreme importance in the course of all human events, and the civil rights of homosexual couples demands that we articulate just what we mean when we say that Gay Marriage is marriage, or that Gay Marriage is marriage redefined or even when some of us say that Gay Marriage is an abomination of Marriage, the latter I have never been quite certain is as holy or sanctified as many conservative opponents to Gay Marriage suggest.
If marriage as a ritual contract can be sanctified, I am not sure why it cannot also be sanctified by gay couples? Unless this is the polemical position many opponents have opted for; that is, gay men and gay women cannot be holy, they cannot enter into sanctified unions, they themselves are contrary to all things sacred, and they are therefore for-always restricted to the profane. But then if all of this is true, why are the secular avenues to gay marriage closed? I mean, I would understand better if traditional religions stood opposed to Gay Marriage and did not want to sanctify the unions based on this anathema position; but, I am puzzled by the secular avenues being shut. There is no valid reference to any religious text in shutting the doors to gay couples when it comes to marriage or marrying in one or another conventional ways. We do not shut the door to secular marriage when a couple might be professed atheists. Belief in one or another interpretation of God or gods is not a pre-requisite to marrying, nor should the presumption of man and woman uniting to legitimize their children be the sole reference for what a marriage is or should be. I do stop at a living person wanting to marry a dead person, a child, or a goat–but facetious responses aside, let us continue.
Our move toward a redefinition of marriage that would include gay marriage is not an impulse born of the desire to undermine the significance of the institution, nor would it in actuality shatter the institutional valency marriage has held for millennia. Marriage retains valency for heterosexual couples even if homosexual couples are granted legal access to marriage. In the gross and perhaps erroneous assumptions many have made for the institution of Marriage, Gay Marriage does not quite offend as it has been purported to do. Let us now look more closely.