Gay Marriage: Look it Up

Monday, Jul. 23rd 2012 1:00 AM

As I sat down to write this blog, I wasn’t completely clear about my opinion on gay marriage, not because of my own feelings about homosexual love, but because I wasn’t sure what “marriage” truly means. I know how I define marriage. And I’ve heard others define it. But, at the end of the day, none of us is the ultimate source. The dictionary is.

 

Years ago, when I worked at Howard University, the school gave former student Sean Combs (formerly known as Puff Daddy, and currently known as Diddy) an Alumni Achievement Award. Many people opposed this decision. Combs never graduated from the university, so they believed that the administration changed the rules because of Combs’ wealth and fame. Even as an employee, I didn’t understand the rationale … until I looked up the word “alumnus.” I thought it was synonymous with “graduate.” But it actually means a graduate or former student of a specific school. So, Combs was, in fact, a Howard University alumnus.

Years later, I heard an individual describe to a judge a series of circumstances that were perceived as stalking. After listening to the account of the incident, the judge opened a dictionary, looked up “stalking,” read the entry aloud to the courtroom, said the situation didn’t fit the definition, and dismissed the case. You see, the dictionary is relevant to the law. Laws are, after all, a bunch of words, so the definitions of those words are of the utmost importance.

“Marriage” is also a word – one that people often define differently, based on their religious beliefs, upbringing, culture, personality, experiences, etc. It’s also a word about which people can get quite passionate. Those who oppose gay marriage are often quick to define it, insisting it means a “holy union between a man and a woman.”

Not being one to take someone else’s word for it, I logged onto dictionary.com and looked it up for myself. Marriage is defined as … drum roll, please … “the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.” But wait, there’s a second definition: “A similar institution involving partners of the same gender.”

It occurred to me that dictionary.com might have amended their definition in response to the current dialogue and laws pertaining to gay marriage. Wondering what the older, more established definition of marriage might be, I picked up The American Heritage Dictionary (Third Edition – published in 1994).
Printed dictionaries can be harder to amend as a result of social or legal pressure and changes. The definition: “A legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife” or “a close union.”

In my humble opinion, individuals – and religious institutions, for that matter – can define marriage however they see fit. But the law, like the dictionary, is supposedly objective, and represents people with different viewpoints. The words that comprise our laws are not cross-referenced with holy texts or public opinion, but with the dictionary. And the dictionary says that two people can be considered married if they have a close union. I guess my opinion has been formed. “People” can certainly include two men or two women.

Even if marriage was strictly defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, I would like to see same-sex couples have the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. And I am not sure how them having anything less would help or hinder me.

A Powerful Person accepts other people. I am certainly willing to accept people and their sexual preferences. Their sex lives and romantic partnerships are their business, just like what happens in my bedroom is mine. And if you have a beef with gay marriage, your issue may not be with the legislators, or even gay individuals. It might be with the dictionary publisher.

What do you have to add? I am sure you have something powerful to say.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love
www.FrankLove.com

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship
Posted by FrankLove | in Blog, Dating | 12 Comments »

12 Comments on “Gay Marriage: Look it Up”

  1. Janis Evans, M.Ed.,LPC Says:

    Frank, I don’t think the controversy over the definition or acceptance of gay marriage will end simply by resolving our beef with the dictionary publisher. I thought that the deeper argument has always been about the biblical definition and how some people believe that legalizing gay marriage breaks “biblical law” or God’s Law.

    It’s an argument about religious beliefs among Christians, fundamentalists, liberals, and progressives, of all religions, which will go on, and on, and on. We will always remain individuals who operate through our own values, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations, and definitions of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

    Personally, I’m not omnipotent enough to question nor define true, unconditional love between two people. That’s too big for me, even as a Christian. All I know is love is love, God is love, and all love flows from Him. I have come to accept that there are some things that go way beyond my understanding, so I embrace them with agape, as one of God’s mysteries. I’m so done with the argument that seems to never end. I choose to put that energy toward expression of love and acceptance of all.

  2. Maisha Hyman Sumbry Says:

    My stance will always be that ALL people deserve equal rights and protection under law. Period. If we remove all of the moral/religous/spiritual belief aspects, the argument goes away really quickly.

  3. Mark B. B. Says:

    You made some very good points in your article, Frank. However, “marriage” is not as benign to people as “alumnus” or “stalking.” People will therefore continue to pick and choose the definition of marriage that suits them. They will also continue to ignore inconsistencies in the Bible and pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow (or use to support their views) and which parts to ignore. They will continue to do so even though the law is supposed to be objective and even though the Bible is not the law of the land in the United States of America. After all, “ignorance is bliss” regardless of those harmed in one way or another by our ignorance.

  4. Daan W. Says:

    Hi Frank, Thanks for the article. I would, however like to disagree with your methodology.
    You see, a Dictionary is not anything else than a description of the meaning words have in a particular society and language group at a certain point in time.
    It is therefore not prescriptive as “law” but merely descriptive of the opinion of the editors of that specific dictionary have of the use of the word in the language in question at that time.
    This makes your argument logically irrelevant.

    By this I do not support or deny your position on gay marriage.
    I just think your reasoning falls short.

    Regards!

  5. Dwayne Says:

    The problem I see is that the dictionary definition evolves over time. Even your example shows that 2 dictionaries published less than 20 years apart differ. What was the Webster’s definition 100 years ago vs Merriam Webster’s definition today? God’s say on the matter hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Ever. He is constant, not tossed about by winds of change. Many Christians object to changing the law because it potentially criminalizes the preaching of His word, as it is written or criminalizes a church’s refusal to conduct ceremonies. In addition, it is the belief of many people that our country was founded on Godly principles, and turning our back on them, as we have been doing, will bring great judgement on us.

  6. Donald Chalmers Says:

    Regarding Dwayne’s 5th comment (“God’s say on the matter hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Ever. He is constant, not tossed about by winds of change.”)above:

    The scope of a “Universalist Vision” – “Like unto God” – must necessarily be “all-encompassing” and “all embracing”, and must not pander to the interests of “specialists” (those having only a limited view) whose sole aim is to draw others “in” to their own way of partial thinking, and own advantage – over others.

    Now is not the time to “Lord” it over anyone, for we can now know, without the shadow of a doubt, that “All people are created equal members of one human family”. Science has proved that. Any “difference is partial”.

    There is no problem for us to acknowledge the debt we owe to our forbears, to the society in which we were raised, or to the religions which have formed us. But to expect everyone else to fit into that same mould (marriage defined as between one man and one woman, God is “He” etc) is a problem. A big problem.

    A stumbling block.

    Those at the “top” are here to serve, leading as kindly shepherds the “way” – forward, into a kind future. If leaders fail to do that, then they beggar themselves, most of all.

    Belief, unless it is “kind” and “loving”, is worth nothing much (If I have no love, I am nothing wrote Saint Paul; this thought was re-iterated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as “The worth of a life is measured by how much love it has. Everything else is nothing. Nothing at all).

    Low, or high, we attain greatness when we have compassion ourselves, and thus allow others the freedom to love who they will, and marry as they will, also. And that freedom to marry for love must respect the rights of others, and their “beliefs” – at least, until those beliefs impact negatively on “us” – the remainder.

    To be continued….

  7. Donald Chalmers Says:

    ….Continued….

    The customs and practices of any society varies over time, and hopefully, in a positive direction; otherwise we men would be forced to marry pre-pubescent girl-child brides, or having to take on concubines (sexual slaves) as well as multiple wives.

    After all, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines 3000 years ago as it is recorded in 1 Kings 11.3. Some men married their dead brothers wife, whilst they were still married to another woman. The Bible and other so-called “religious texts”, merely describe life – as it was – back in our troubled and imperfect past.

    But that does not make “that” right for us, today.

    And what of the “marriages” forged even recently (without regard to the happiness of the couples) for political alliances between petty kingdoms ? Were not these also “blessed” by church, temple and/or state – to build up the state ?

    The so-called “religious lobby” make no mention of these historic truths, because they expose the hypocrisy of their claim that “true marriage is: a blessed Covenant (and a sexual relationship, presumably, although what happens or does not happen in the privacy of their own bedrooms should remain private – unless the relationship is abusive) between (only) one man and one woman”.

    Since I have heard nowhere that homosexuality is to be made mandatory for the greater 90% majority who are (or are supposed to be happy heterosexuals), then I do not fear that commitments between loving homosexual couples will bring society to its knees. And nor should you.

    Only love can do that.

  8. Dwayne Says:

    @Donald… Regarding your comment that you haven’t heard homosexuality to be mandatory… You may have missed my comment about the law affecting the churches right to observe doctrine within their own congregation. Hate crime charges for those ministers who refuse to conduct ceremonies or cries of discrimination for those churches who refuse to allow homosexuals (or any other person living in a comtradictory lifestyle) to become pastors or leaders within their own congregation. We won’t all agree with scripture, but most don’t believe it was an arbitrary cultural document, but history of men and women either obeying, or disobeying covenants with God and the consequences for doing so. We as a nation continue to walk away from Godly principles and as society continues on in a downward spiral, we cry out “why God!?” He cries out to us, come back to me.

  9. Donald Chalmers Says:

    Dear Dwain and readers

    You may have missed my comment regarding your description of God as “He”.
    That the Bible and other so-called “religious texts”, merely describe life – as it was – back in our troubled and imperfect past is a more logical explanation to most rational people these days. After all, the stone carvings, the tablets of clay, the papyri, and the artworks of yesteryear were dreamed into being and constructed by human hands.
    Most of the thoughts captured in time by the writing of engravers or calligraphers were the thoughts of men. Women were not able to participate very much in these things because they were continually loaded down by children and demanding husbands. Their lot has improved greatly in most places today, thank God !
    The “covenant makers” of old may have had a legendary “Creating God” on their mind, but the promises they said they entered with God, could only have been dreamed up by fallible humans in retrospect, since they are not consistent with each other over time, at all (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_(biblical) etc).
    In my google-search about “covenants in the bible” the first four I looked at say various things, but the first good thing I could find amidst a plethora of references states “The motive for God’s covenant for man is God’s grace and love (lovingkindness)”.

    Now that you have read and digested the above paragraph, I need to confess that I myself have changed one word in the quotation, but this should not be a matter for contention. This source mentions also that “In the ancient world” the word “covenant was the closest, holiest, most solemn and most indissoluble compact conceivable”.

    A “compact” in this context means an “agreement, loosely stated, which briefly gives the gist, core, essence, direction, or general theme, or heart and soul of – something”. The word “compact” is here centrally placed between the words “indissoluble” and “conceivable” which imply “bonds which never (?) can be broken”, and “positive growth from two – or more – fundamental elements – plural”.

    In another two paragraphs from a different source, I found other interesting perceptions relating to “covenants”:

    Continued….

  10. Donald Chalmers Says:

    ….Cont’d….
    “In form, a covenant is an agreement between two people and involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of a covenant between God and God’s people is one of the central themes of the Bible. In the Biblical sense, a covenant implies much more than a contract or a simple agreement between two parties.

    “The Old Testament contains many examples of covenants between people who related to each other as equals. For example, David and Jonathan entered into a covenant because of their love for each other — this agreement bound each of them to certain responsibilities (1 Sam. 18:1-5).

    These quotes are only two from many references, but they certainly marry in well to “The motive for God’s covenant for man is God’s grace and love (lovingkindness)”, and to the references to the “Golden Rule” as “paramount”, which are referred to in both the Old and the New Testaments (see Leviticus 19.11-18 and 19.32-37, Matthew 7.11-12, Matthew 22.34-40, etc), and on the same topic, about loving, see also Proverbs 6.12-19, 9.9-12 and 12.10, and Micah 6.8.

    Seen in this light, for the short haul, and the long haul, “Sin is in the refusal to bless others, as we ourselves would like to be blessed”. We should not do to others that which we would hate for our own selves. Of that we can be sure. Enough said ?

    PS: Even “atheists” (who are “theists” also in the “a – z” spectrum of theists) can today conceive of a life-giving soul-force “out there, in space”, and/or “within” each and every one of us, who, or which, must be “both” male and female, at the very least, and most likely “is”, very much more besides.

    With regard to the rights and obligations of homosexuals (also) it is good to consider Genesis 9.8-13 which is the covenant God entered with Noah and with all living things which gives the metaphor of a “rainbow” – as the sign of the promise to all living things….

    Contd….

  11. Donald Chalmers Says:

    ….Cont’d….
    With regard to “white light”, we now know that it is made up from the colours of the rainbow – and more (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White ), which blend to “white”. Who are we to differentiate between the colours – or sexes ? We now know that white, black, red, yellow, or brown “skins” are the colourings granted to “us people” by the same creating source, about which we still know little.

    “Humanity is like a bouquet of flowers, in which each flower is beautiful in its own right, yet, the combination of all flowers, and the rich diversity of their colours and forms, is more beautiful.”

    When we also recognize and allow that the amount of male and/or femaleness we inherit from our ancestors is a blend of both, and that the homo/hetero mix, and all that has gone on before “counts”, we shall equally and fully embrace the homosexuals amongst us as our grandparents, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and close cousins, just as they always have been. That is the only blessing they require.

    The rest (the celebration and blessing of homosexual marriages) will thus take care of itself, in blessing: to “help, encourage, and comfort”. This is the respect all of God’s children deserve. Lest we forget !

    How great is the grace of God (Ephesians 1.7)…. All things are done according to God’s plan and decision (Ephesians 1.11)…. For God completes all things everywhere…. (Ephesians 1.23). Everything that God has created is good; nothing is to be rejected, but everything is to be received with a prayer of thanks (1 Timothy 4.4)…. Watch yourself, and watch your teaching (1 Timothy 4.16). For spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life, both for the present, and for the future (1 Timothy 4.8)….

  12. C J McCarroll Says:

    I doesn’t matter …as long as two people love each other, let them be married..at least in Canada! I am hetero and deliver the funny at opposite & same sex wedding receptions…it’s all good! Besides after a few years…the sex is really ….the same!

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