Defense of Marriage: Semantics, Semantics

I remember watching an old episode of CSI a year or two ago. The main character, Grissom, was speaking to a priest about the case he was working on. The conversation digresses into Grissom’s personal beliefs, where he states that while he has no problem believing in a god, he cannot believe in religion because of what people have done with it. The priest shrugs it off, saying that those are fanatics, not the religious. Grissom looks back at him and simply says, “Semantics.” It is why I cannot see the marriage debate in the same light ever again.

On election day we will not only be voting on politicians but on constitutional amendments as well. One of them is the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. If passed it would legally restrict the definition of marriage to only be between a man and a woman.

Arguments have been thrown back and forth across the political ring, and I’ve noticed a certain theme to them. A large amount of these arguments are guilty of the same kind of semantics Grissom accuses the priest of using. It starts with the term “same-sex marriage”.

“Same-sex” marriage?

Isn’t marriage just marriage? When two consenting individuals love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, isn’t that what marriage at its core is all about? It seems to me that by calling it “same-sex marriage” we’ve already assumed a difference between the two. By calling it as such, we assume that it is somehow different that just regular, plain old marriage.

It really gets bogged down by semantics when we look at the supporters of this amendment. We’ve all heard the phrases: “traditional marriage”, “the sanctity of marriage”, and how we must “defend marriage”. But what exactly is “traditional marriage”?

What the proponents of the amendment say is that traditionally marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman. That is not the case. Historical references to homosexual marriage can be found in the early Roman Empire. In fact, the churches of that time period would even sanction these unions. There’s nothing traditional about it.

“Traditional marriage” is a sham phrase, conveniently skipping over those parts of history not favorable to its agenda.

And “sanctity of marriage”? Just what, exactly, is sacred about something that more than half the time (at least in this country) ends in divorce? Calling modern marriage sacred is ridiculous. If marriage were truly sacred, there would be no concept of divorce, because ending a sacred thing prematurely would be unthinkable. There’s nothing worth defending in a practice when most of the participants take it for granted. “Sanctity of marriage” is just another product of hypocritical semantics.

And that’s all these arguments really are: semantics. Call it whatever you want, but marriage is marriage because two people love each other, not because one person is a man and the other is a woman. So when you walk into that polling booth on election day, don’t vote down the amendment because you believe in “same-sex marriage”. Vote it down because it is the right thing to do. We’re all too comfortable categorizing each other. We divide each other by cultural, sexual, racial, and even religious lines. None of that should matter. We’re all human beings here. It’s about time we start acting like it.


photo attributed to stevebott via flickr.

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