The EFM Feature

The language surrounding the same-sex marraige debate is inherently deceptive. Much of the news coverage of the Iowa decision has declared that “Gay Marriage” is now “legal” in Iowa. Or that a judge struck down a state “prohibition” against same-sex marriage. Neither statement is precisely true, and the distinctions matter.
Same sex marriage is legal in every state in the United States. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s legal everywhere. There is no law in any state that prevents a man and a man or a woman and a woman from marching down the aisle of a church (or standing together in a backyard garden) and saying “I do.” Priests and pastors from our watered-down mainline denominations perform these ceremonies all the time in states from coast to coast.
So, the issue is not whether same sex marriage is legal. The issue is whether same-sex marriage should receive the same state benefits as traditional marriage. Homosexual activists have made great progress in the public debate by essentially making people believe that the police would stop a same-sex couple from getting married. Nothing could be further from the truth. Homosexual activists are not asking for same-sex marriage to be “legal” (it already is) but instead for the state to recognize and incentivize their unions.
But what’s the state interest in doing so? Must the state recognize and incentivize every private relationship? At the moment, all of the available social science tells us that the two parent, mother-father family provides kids with their best chance to get a good education, escape poverty, and avoid prison. Why can’t the state choose to recognize and incentivize the one family structure that we know leads to the best outcomes across society?
I know that I’ve been guilty of saying things like “The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts legalized gay marriage.” I’ve done it out of sheer laziness. But no more. Accurate descriptions matter, and let’s clearly state what just happened in Iowa: The headlines should have read “Trial Judge Decides that Same-Sex Couples Must Receive State Benefits.” And every time you see a homosexual marriage activist, understand that their rhetoric is nothing more than a clever (and sometimes emotional) plea for “state benefits now!”
UPDATE: Ok, sometimes I can be idiotic. I titled this post “Just to Be Perfectly Clear . . .” and then muddied the waters, dramatically. So I’m posting this mea culpa update in response to some very helpful comments from readers. First, same-sex “marriage” doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in the eyes of God (regardless of what the state says), has never existed in any civilized culture (before 2000), and doesn’t exist in the eyes of the law in 49 of our 50 states. So when I say above that same-sex “marriage” is legal, I’m just wrong. Words matter, and the word “marriage” refers to one thing: the life-long commitment of one man and one woman.
What I was referring to in the post was the widespread practice of same-sex couples to engage in “commitment ceremonies,” “exchanges of vows,” “binding ceremonies,” and other ceremonies of various names and then, following that ceremony, refer to themselves as “married.” These ceremonies often mimic actual marriage ceremonies quite closely, sometimes even to the point of taking place in a church with “clergy” presiding. (This is why you will not infrequently encounter same-sex couples that refer to their “partner” as their “husband” or “wife” even if they have never been to Massachusetts. A famous example of this is Rosie O’Donnell’s frequent references to her girlfriend as her “wife” even though they are (obviously) not legally married). Those ceremonies are legal everywhere (in Michigan an official licensed to perform marriages can be penalized if he purports to marry a same-sex couple, but “commitment ceremonies” are still legal). The couples who engage in those ceremonies often exchange rings and then later refer to themselves “married.” But — and this is important — THAT DOES NOT MAKE THEM MARRIED. Not in the eyes of God, not in any cultural tradition, and not in the eyes of the state (except Massachusetts).
So, to sum up, as I accused the left of manipulating language — which it does — I then got sloppy with my own language. Oh, the bitter irony.
To try to extract some silver lining from my mistake, this is yet another instructive moment in noting how WORDS MATTER. When I used the term “marriage” above, I had accidentally — and unintentionally — allowed myself to fall for the left’s redefinition, to credit their own description of themselves as “married” after one of these “commitment ceremonies.”
The left is demanding state recognition and incentivization for a form of relationship (same-sex couples) that cannot, by definition, become a “marriage.” No amount of “commitment ceremonies” or “exchanges of vows” or even years-long cohabitation between a “husband” and “husband” can change marriage from what it is: the life-long commitment of one man and one woman.


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