“Gay”, “Marriage”

Whenever I hear anyone arguing the con side of the gay marriage debate they inevitably come up with the following point; we’re in danger of redefining the word, ‘marriage’ and that would be wrong. ‘Marriage’, they say, is between a man and a woman; not a man and his dog or a woman and her woman, but a man and a woman – that’s what the word means and there the debate should end. People of the same gender can couple off, but don’t, whatever you do, call this marriage, because it isn’t – the dictionary tells us so.

This focus on the ‘definition’ puzzles me. Are these people guerrilla lexicographers fighting to preserve the English language from change? Is their beef really nothing to do with religion and sexuality at all and they would be equally irate with any change in the usage of any word? Do they think the dictionary is some holy book given to us by a higher being and we risk Its wrath if we try to undo Its work?

If so, they really should have a look at the word, ‘gay’. Initially it meant happy and carefree, then it came to mean homosexual and now it is starting to mean a bit naff. This last redefinition isn’t complete yet, just ask Chris Moyles who got a lot of criticism for using this usage, particularly from gays who, rather ironically in the context of this post, accused him of redefining the word, ‘gay’ (they should maybe hook up with the ‘marriage’ definition people, they’d have a lot in common).

Words change meaning; get used to it. People tell me that ‘ginormous’ isn’t a word, but if you say it or write it everyone knows what it means, therefore it is a word.

There is a more serious side to this point though. The anti-redefinition-of-the-word-marriage crowd suggest that homosexies should be able to conjoin in a way that is almost exactly like a marriage, but just isn’t called ‘marriage’. That then would be perfectly fair – separate, but equal – everybody happy.

Apart from me…

‘Separate, but equal’ was the argument that allowed segregationist policies to continue in deep south America prior to the civil rights movement in the ’60’s. I’m not, of course suggesting the anti-redefinition-of-the-word-marriage lot are in any way as bad as the white supremacists, but it’s the same principle.

I can see no other reason for wanting to label something differently other than wanting to treat it differently.

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Bigots at the Golf Club

If a golf club had a rule precluding a woman from becoming the clubhouse manager, or refused to serve homosexual couples drinks, there would be a small outcry. The story would almost certainly make the national news and the golf club in question would be laying itself wide open to litigation.

When a church has a rule precluding women from becoming bishops and refuses to marry people of similar gender – well, there is also a small outcry and the story makes the national news.

But wait, there is a difference; the golf club is obviously run by a bunch of odious old bigots who need slapping down and quickly. The leaders of the church are nice but misguided people struggling with an issue of conscience.

My wife often accuses me of seeing things in binary rather than fully considering the nuances of an argument, so I shall refrain from drawing a conclusion about the church’s recent policy stances other than saying that we often seem to make different judgements about what are essentially identical scenarios based upon the context in which they are given to us.

Here’s another germane example. I have an ISA. I know, aren’t I a bastard? I’m AVOIDING TAX! Of course what I’m doing is perfectly legal, it’s not tax evasion after all, but it is morally outrageous. I’m deliberately, deliberately I say, structuring my affairs to reduce my tax bill and thereby depriving ‘hard working families’ of vital services. It’s worse, I’m a higher rate tax payer (not in the 45% bracket in case you’re wondering), the saving my ISA gives me is MORE than that a basic rate tax payer would get.

What’s that? You have an ISA? You pay higher rate tax (but not 45%) ? You don’t think there’s anything wrong with that?

Have you not been reading the papers? We’re the new lowest of the low. Starbucks, Google, Amazon and now us.

Of course there is no difference apart from Starbucks, Google and Amazon are big and successful and vaguely sinister and they’re companies and they’re American.

I am none of these things.