Saturday, March 26, 2011

Linguistic Gymnastics and the Definition of Marriage

Commenting on the decision made by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured below) that Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, I have pointed out that
The logic of the Attorney General’s argument goes a lot further than merely attacking traditional marriage. Just think about it: a definition of ‘marriage’ that includes both heterosexual unions and same-sex unions, still excludes unions with animals, polygamous unions, or ‘group marriages.’ But doesn’t this discriminate? After all, if someone is bisexual, then in order for their sexuality to be fully expressed, their ‘marriage’ must include a minimum of at least one person from each sex. At least, that is where the argument against “discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation” could go.
Suffice to say, any new definition of marriage that Obama may wish to proffer opens the door to an endless series of redefinition in the years to come. This is because what is true of the word marriage is true of any noun: to define a word as one thing is necessarily to exclude that word as being some other thing. A noun that can mean anything is a noun that can mean nothing.
Consequently, if we say that it is unconstitutional for the word ‘marriage’ to exclude anyone or anything, then we are beginning a process whereby the word must necessarily be eventually emptied of all content.
Suffice to say, if DOMA were set aside, then not only would a union between one man and one woman no longer have a monopoly on the term ‘marriage,’ but in principle any definition of marriage (even one broadened to encompass homosexual unions) could eventually be challenged as unconstitutional by an extension of the same logic.
In short, the word ‘marriage’ must finally come to cover anything we could possibly imagine. However, to do that would render the term incoherent, and that is something that not even the homosexuality community wishes to see happen.
To read more about this, visit my article 'DOMA and the Definition of Marriage.'

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