What is love?

Baby, don’t hurt me, but that’s a natural question in the wake of today’s Supreme Court ruling. Or more appropriately, what is marriage?

Same sex marriage advocates are romanticizing the decision as a win for “love.” How silly to believe that something as big as love can be defined or confined by something as small as legal proceedings. Justice Kennedy’s opinion was clear that, because the 14th Amendment preserves equal protection under the law at the state level, all states must recognize the practice. He wrote that marriage was a fundamental right which could not be denied.

What he didn’t write was what a definition of marriage. That seems just a little important, doesn’t it?

It’s the giant gorilla no one talks about: Much of the vitriol in the same sex marriage debate stems from an unspoken disagreement over the definition of a marriage. If you believe a marriage is a pairing of biologically complimentary individuals intent on procreating, you might see a same sex union as pointless. Sure, the participants might offer each other emotional support and companionship, but the very root need for a marriage doesn’t exist. (This point of view was summed up nicely by the priest in Spaceballs: “I’m trying to conduct a marriage here, which has nothing to do with love.”)

Conversely, if you believe that marriage is a committment based solely on love, you don’t see a reason (other than bigotry) why someone would oppose same sex marriage. Each side would be well served to assume better of the other.

Kennedy wrote that pairings should not be limited – that the fundamental right to be with the person you love shouldn’t be confined to heterosexuals. Fair enough. But it is fair to ask, why stop at a pairing? Two is an arbitrary number when biological considerations are brushed aside. Why couldn’t polygamists marry all the consenting adults they’d like to marry? Why do we recognize marriages at all?

There may very well be answers to these questions, but Kennedy didn’t spell them out. If marriage (or any other protected institution, status, or practice) is a nebulous concept, government cannot do its job, which is to guarantee citizens equal protection under the law. So while this week’s opinion may have been a short-term victory for same sex marriage advocates, it’s tough to say what exactly they won.

The fake research that almost had real impact

A campaign in support of same sex marriage used in-person conversations and personal stories – and it measurably changed opinions. Sounds legit, right? Well, it turned out the whole thing was fake.

The most sophisticated campaigns usually don’t bother trying to change voters’ minds on issues. Moving opinions, especially on deeply-held beliefs, seemed to happen over much longer periods of time and include forces outside politics. Candidates deal with the realities of their electorate. In many ways, a campaign doesn’t convince voters to agree with the candidate, but that the candidate agrees with them — and downplays the areas of disagreement… LaCour and Green’s study turned this model on its head — until other researchers determined that the original survey data had been fabricated.

Read more in this week’s post at Communities Digital News.

Redefining marriage and the Grammys

The social media dust has settled, and the most “shocking” part of the Grammys was the 33-couple mass wedding – which wasn’t really shocking at all.  The event has generally been interpreted as a nod to the same sex marriage movement.  In terms of public statements, supporting same-sex marriage at an entertainment industry event is about as non-controversial as you can be.  (Way to go out on a limb, Grammys.)

It does show the disconnect between what marriage used to be and what it is now.   The push to accept legal same-sex marriage is less about the “who” of marriage and more about the “what.”  

The ceremony was a cheap, attention-grabbing display.  Mass marriages are the stuff of cults.  Having Queen Latifah perform the ceremony seems several steps below an Elvis impersonator running the show.  And imagine hiring Madonna to play your reception and not having her play “Like a Virgin” or even old standards like “Material Girl.”  It’s like going to a Journey concert and the band refusing to play “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  Unacceptable.

No matter how you define marriage, that whole scene was ridiculous, right?

Yet it’s not much different from the cavalier attitude entertainers display toward the institution of marriage, regardless of the genders of the participants.  Multiple marriages and divorces seem to have been common in Hollywood since before the big sign went up.  “Til death do us part” gave way early to, “Maybe we can get a good ten years in.”

Marriage used to be about starting a family – the foundation from which life was propagated.   Now it’s a legally recognized promise two people make to share their lives with one another for the term of the open-ended agreement.  That subtle semantic difference is a tremendous re-orientation.  The focus has moved from the products of marriage – the children – to the participants.

If the latter is the way you understand the concept of marriage, recognizing same-sex marriage makes a lot more sense.  Of course it would be unfair to legally recognize some couplings and not others.  (Incidentally, that’s a big reason a growing number of conservative and libertarian thinkers are in favor of getting the government out of marriage completely – it allows people the freedom of conscience to define their relationships without needing consecration from some government.)

Looking at marriage this way, you can see where the sanctimony of so many pro-same sex marriage groups and people comes from – an attitude which often manifests itself in reflexive hatred and derision for tradition marriage opponents. Few of the in-person witnesses of the Grammy mass wedding understand the more traditional definition of marriage – and unfortunately, they don’t seem to care to do so.  That’s a pity, because if there was mutual respect and open-mindedness, there could be a pretty healthy discussion.