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Would a Dictionary Solve the Problem
11/20/2003

I've taken the time to read the actual Massachusetts gay marriage ruling so that I can better address the truly horrible arguments that are being made on its behalf. I'll tell ya: it almost makes you want to throw up your hands and say, "Fine, let's just tear the whole damn thing down and have done with it!"

The first thing to note is all of the previous judgments — good and moral judgments — that have been coopted into this cause. Every measure to help usher children into stable environments, right down to "grandparent visitation," has been thrown in. (And yet, elsewhere, the court argues that marriage is fundamentally about the spouses, not the children.)

At bottom, the entire thing is a sleight of hand. The court agrees that marriage means and has, for our purposes, always meant (in the words of M-w.com) "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law." Therefore, one could legitimately go through and, at every instance of "marriage" in the precedent, change it to "heterosexual marriage," because that is what was meant. Thus, we see that every argument of the court is either a non sequitur or beside the point; homosexuals are not discriminated against in their right to enter into heterosexual marriages. Neither are people who have no interest in marriage.

In order to give the appearance of getting around this, the court has absolutely opened the way for any arrangement between two people (the number limit applying arbitrarily for now). If anybody scoffs at the notion that we'll be able to marry siblings, you can be certain that they haven't understood the argument put forward by this ruling. Yes, there are spots in which consanguinity is mentioned, but the argument in full completely undermines its inclusion. (Indeed, what laws about consanguinity are on the books are exclusively opposite-sex, as might be expected since there was no such thing as same-sex marriage.) This court has dismissed the opposite-sex intent of every use of the word "marriage" in Massachusetts law ever, and its own logic practically requires subsequent courts to do the same with any other restrictions that this court, itself, places on the definition.

The delusion on which this decision hinges is captured naked in the following statement, which caused me to sit up in my chair and wonder who these robed tyrants think they're kidding:

Alarms about the imminent erosion of the "natural" order of marriage were sounded over... the introduction of "no-fault" divorce. Marriage has survived all of these transformations, and we have no doubt that marriage will continue to be a vibrant and revered institution.

Lord, please help us.

(Note: the words that I've cut from that final quotation were "the demise of antimiscegenation laws, the expansion of the rights of married women." I agree with both changes, and I agree that marriage survived despite the warnings of the opposition. But I didn't want the court to slip in "no-fault" divorce as if that a) is equivalent to the other rights-based issues or b) didn't damage marriage dramatically.)

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:22 AM EST