According to the Why Marriage Matters educational campaign’s website, “Marriage says ‘We are family’ in a way that no other word does.” This statement is probably true. The campaign also claims, however, that “Allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to get married does not change the meaning of marriage.” This is false. Treating mutual lifelong commitments by same-sex couples as marriages may not immediately change the emotional content of the word “marriage,” but it does change what the word actually means.
Marriage says more than “We are family.” Otherwise, couldn’t we naturally conclude that siblings are married to each other and that parents are married to their children? And, contrary to the poster above from Freedom to Marry, Inc., marriage equals more than “love + commitment.” If it were simply love and commitment, then there really would be no reason not to open up marriage to any multiple combinations of people. And this observation isn’t meant to sensationalize, it’s simply a reasonable inference. The same-sex marriage debate is about what marriage really is, and slogans only obscure the issue.
The word “marriage” makes us think of love, family, and commitment because of what marriage really is—the lifelong sexual union between one man and one woman who are open to new life. The value of its connotations should remind us of the value of its identity. It is an institution worth preserving.