Dublin once had a famous laundry company, founded by an Irish businessman in 1912. He called it the Swastika Laundry. In the 1930s he was confronted by a dilemma - for obvious reasons. But he was a stubborn man and refused to allow a political hi-jacking by some Nazi thugs to bully him. Dubliners had no trouble with that. He dug his heels in and the company continued to trade under the Swastika name until mergers and acquisitions finally burried it in the 1980s. Has the homosesual lobby plunged us into the same dilemma, and should the rest of mankind bend to the prescription of language it is now being confronted with? Frances Kelly looks at the pros and cons.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit.” Dan Cathy, CEO Chick-fil-A
Those were the words heard round the world that triggered a firestorm of protests, boycotts, buycotts, bullies, kiss-ins, political threats, and public scoldings, and an Appreciation Day as people twittered and tweeted, bought and fought, on both sides of the definition of marriage.
A decade ago you could simply say “married” and everybody and his gay brother knew you were talking about a husband and wife. No more. I live in Vermont, which is one of the six states that legalized monogender marriage. When a couple marries, you have no idea what gender they are. It could be one of three distinct compositions: male-male, female-female, or male-female.
To clarify, some people such as Chick-fil-A chief Dan Cathy specifically refer to marriage as the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Besides being periphrastic, merely mentioning the word “bible” sets some people’s teeth on edge. They begin using religion or freedom-from-religion reasons to oppose the idea that marriage describes one man and one woman. In particular, pro-homosexual advocates don’t like it: they feel as if Christianity is being shoved down their throats.
However, this is much more global than Christianity. Marriage permeates all religions: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Christian. And this affects secular people as well. Atheists marry.
Marriage is not just a religious issue; this is about our bodies, our very gender. What culture does not recognize the special union between men and women that begets children?
And everyone has a vested interest in what we teach children in public schools. We want everyone to support marriage no matter what their religious affiliation is or isn’t.
Remember the song from Fiddler on the Roof: Tradition . . . tradition! As Tevye discovered, simply chanting “tradition” does not ensure the next generation will actually embrace it. In fact, an important question to ask is: Does calling it “traditional marriage” actually alienate more young people than persuade them to defend it?
Wouldn’t it be instructive to be able to discuss marriage with people on both sides without name-calling and without references to the Bible?
In their quest to redefine marriage, the pro-homosexual side came up with civil unions (remember those?), gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, and now back to gay marriage. They’ve done surveys to pinpoint the best-selling way to frame the debate.
In turn, we need terminology that is clear and positive to describe marriage between one man and one woman.
How about these?
Pro: This highlights the gender issue--that regardless of whether someone has same-sex attraction or not, marriage is for complementary sexes. See the remarkable story of Josh Weed and his spouse for an extraordinary example.
Con: will calling the union of two men an “anti-gender marriage” alienate the very voters we want to persuade?
Pro: This is clear and positive and highlights the gender-diversity inherent in marriage.
Pro: This label could appeal to the crunchy granola crowd, to environmentalists, and to college students (i.e., 98% of the population at the University of Vermont). My dictionary points out that organic chemistry is the study of compounds of biological origin and related to living matter (babies!) No artificial agents (test tubes, sperm donors, surrogate mothers). Relating to a bodily organ (the male and female sex organs). “Denoting a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole” (complementary genders, both a mother and father).
Con: Will Grandma know what we’re talking about?
What’s your opinion? Is it best to stick with the one word “marriage,” or qualify it with traditional, biblical definition, pro-gender, gender-integrated, or organic?
Can you come up with a better brand that will appeal to liberals and young people?
More on this and other social policy issues on Frances Kelly’s blog, Home Griddle.
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