Monday, January 21, 2013

Needed: Civil Discourse (not Rhetoric) on the Meaning of "Marriage"

Monroe County

"In his inauguration speech today President Obama said: "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

The President, with these words, presents an argument. The word "for" is an indicator word, indicating a premise. The argument is this:

1) If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
2) We are created equal. (Implicit premise.)
3) Therefore our gay brothers and and sisters must be treated like anyone else under the law.

The conclusion can be rewritten: Therefore gays should be allowed to legally marry.

While 3 follows logically from 1 and 2, premise 1 is false. With this rhetorical sleight of hand President Obama wishes to redefine "marriage." "Marriage" is available to any two persons who lovingly commit to one another. The phrase "the love we commit to one another" is vague. Does this include the 60-year-old grandfather who lovingly commits to his 5-year-old granddaughter? Surely they should not be allowed to marry? 

Historically, "marriage" has been more precisely defined than this, out of a social reality. The book to read against legalizing gay marriage is Princeton University law professor Robert George's recent What is Marriage? George writes: "Most agree that there is a certain kind of relationship that is inherently sexual, and uniquely enriched by family life; and that it uniquely requires permanent and exclusive commitment to begin at all. Our thesis is that the basic human good that answers to these descriptions is one that only a man and a woman can form together." (Girgis, Sherif; Anderson, Ryan T; George, Robert P, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, Kindle Locations 1588-1590)

George et. al. offer legal reasoning against the direction President Obama is taking us. Needed: civil discourse, instead of rhetoric, on the meaning of "marriage."