Today I would like to offer an alternative definition of marriage.
At the same time I think I will make a case as to why our governments do regulate marriage according to this definition and hence why attempts to change it are problematic.
My definition, largely taken from Sherif Gergis and Ryan T Anderson, is a definition that describes marriage as a relationship that is very different from any other human relationship or living arrangement. It’s also a definition that gives an ontological basis for marriage. That is, it defines marriage in it’s essence, what it is naturally and what about it cannot be altered even if a government changes its definition under law.
- Marriage is a comprehensive union of a man and a woman in an exclusive, life-long relationship.
- It is a physical union, by consent, of the body, directed toward procreation and the broad sharing of family for the wider community.
- Marriage is more than a partnership.
- It involves a physical, spiritual, social, and communal bond, based on the natural physical and social complementary nature of men and women.
There are a lot of relationships between people that are very meaningful. Some are based on sexual intimacy. Others are friendships, or partnership bonds. The definition above isn’t an attempt to denigrate them or any other relationships we might have outside marriage. It is an attempt to show that marriage between a man and a woman is unique.
Marriage is Unique. There are things that are true of marriage that are not true of any other relationship.
At this point I usually hear objections that my definition excludes couples who can’t have kids. That’s not the case. Marriage isn’t dependant on having kids. Kids don’t define marriage. Marriage is dependent on the physical, spiritual and emotional bond of a mother and father . ie That’s to get the order mixed up.
Marriage is fit for the purpose of having kids, but they are not the starting point for a marriage.
This is true of traditional marriage, but it is NOT true of Same Sex Couples.
One of the main driving forces behind the effort to redefine marriage is the idea of personal autonomy. The movement is saying ‘I want to call my relationship marriage despite the conventions’. However, what happens when the definition of marriage starts to depart from the traditional definition?
If the limits of conventions are altered, broadened, what’s to stop them being broadened further? The only arguments against other forms of marriage will be arguments about aesthetics (we don’t want them or don’t like them). There will cease to be any legal limit.
I take this as self evident. If we change the definition of marriage, then what marriage is, or can become, will inevitably change as well. This isn’t trying to make people afraid. It’s simply a matter of fact. Once we change the definition it will be hard to go back, and easier to go beyond what anyone is pretending to intend.
Next week: I’d like to delve a bit further into what I mean by a definition of marriage that explains the essence of what marriage is. This will lead me to some conclusions about why our government regulate, and ought to continue to, limit the definition of marriage.