Changes in secular definition of marriage

Changes in the secular definition of marriage raise practical problems:

How do you refer to the relationship between two adults of the same sex who have contracted what a civil government (like it or not) is required to define as a marriage?

Referring to a woman as having a wife or a man as having a husband or two people of the same sex as being spouses to each other feels like using “she” to refer to a man who has had his body surgically altered to resemble a woman. I know what the law has chosen to recognize, but it does not seem right. It is impossible for a man to become a woman and it is impossible for two people of the same sex to marry. Taking on false language seems like capitulation to an obvious falsehood, something on a plane beyond treating invalid marriages as if they were valid. It would be more like referring to a woman as a man’s wife when the man and woman are actually brother and sister or father and daughter–that is, a situation that is impossible beyond repair by any change in circumstance.

Any comments? Observations? Experiences? Solutions? :shrug:

If the law defined me as a duck, I could say, “Legally, I’m a duck.” So I guess I could use the qualifier “legally”: legally married, legal wife, legal spouse, just as people sometimes now say “common-law wife” or “common-law husband” to refer to people who are legally married even though they have never exchanged vows. It would not violate anyone’s civil rights to say “legally married” instead of simply “married”, whereas to openly deny that a legally married person is married at all might cause some problems that could get the law involved.

I’m still interested in anyone else’s thoughts on this topic.

I think it really depends on how much you value your relationship with the gay person in question, and how close you want that relationship to be.

I can tell you that if someone introduced me as: “This is my niece/sister/friend, BEL, and her legal husband BEG (BrownEyedGentleman)”, I would have a word with that person. If I were told that’s just what he’s going to be called, since that person doesn’t want to give anyone the idea that they view my marriage as even possible, the relationship is going to change in a hurry.

Depending on the dynamic of your family or the social circle in question, it may cause a fracture. This is definitely a case of “If you can’t say anything nice…”

You don’t have to celebrate them, you don’t have to congratulate them, but you can’t use their marriage to perpetually make a point about your own views. No one would or should put up with that.


however, sometimes (I do mean sometimes, not all same sex relationships will use this; however, many do so) they will refer to the dominate as the husband and the submissive as the wife - yes a sexist usage… or at least this happens in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc… I have friends from when I lived there that are in same-sex relationships/“marriages” and this is how they handled their relationships… I try to avoid using any such terms.

You dont have to refer to them as “legally married”, you can refee to them as individuals.

I would probabaly say “This is Mark and this is David” as opposed to “This is Mark and his legal husband, David.”

 My parents were married in 1943 at the county courthouse in Reno. Mama was almost twenty and Daddy was 24. In those days it took 4 hours to drive from Sacramento to Reno, so it was no small journey as it is on Interstate 80 today. They were married 35 years until her death at age 55. I can certainly not imagine qualifying their marriage as a legal partnership or legal marriage. Dad believed that he was excommunicated because he married "a heathen Baptist"! I guess that I am with the hated modern group that thinks civil marriage is a marriage. I am not in favor of forcing any religious institution to perform marriage ceremonies that they do not consider valid, but a civil marriage IS A VALID MARRIAGE in the eyes of the legal system, with no qualifiers attached.  I think about all of the very devout and true Catholics who, like my Dad, did not understand the regulations regarding marrying a person of another faith, or the rules regarding the annulment process and it is very sad. 
 I don't think that trying to put certain marriages "down", by qualifying them with adjectives such as common-law, civil, same-sex or even legal does any good for society.:confused:

I am seldom in situations where such introductions are required. I suppose I would just introduce each person by name and not make any reference to their partnership at all. If they land up doing so, well so be it.

So if I knew of two men for example: who where “married” (according to civil law) I would just introduce them as “John and Joe.” No other mention of their relationship would come from my mouth.

That’s exactly the approach I would recommend.

No matter what the propaganda of our time says, the difference between your parents’ marriage and a contract between persons of the same sex is fundamental. We are not talking about a marriage with regulations in its way. We are talking about something that is fundamentally not a marriage.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not looking to offend anyone and I’m not looking to go out of my way to make some public point. When I can avoid a confrontation, I think that is the way to go.

Still, I’d have a lot of trouble referring to someone I knew to be a man as “she”. Call me nutty, but that is over the top. Why is it a “put down” to say that a surgically altered man is still a man? He is still a man, it is just the truth. Why is a willingness to denote a real difference a “put down”? In the seven years and more *years *you lived together, you never got around to agreeing to exchange vows–to call your marriage “common law” is a put down? Why? Where did this come from?

Likewise, no matter what definition the government has, some contracts are not a marriage. Aren’t, can’t be, never will be. That is going to offend some people, but am I supposed to pretend that a lie is the truth by talking about something that is not remotely a marriage as if it is exactly the same thing as a marriage? I find that repugnant.

Maybe I’m going to have to resign myself to keeping my mouth shut until someone “outs” me, and decide not to take offense when I’m called the names that people get called when they betray the belief that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry.

I guess I don’t understand your basic premise. As far as I have been aware, the common current usage is to call a man a “husband” and a woman a “wife.” The term refers to the gender of the person uto whom you are referring. It has nothing to do with the sex of that person’s spouse. My mother’s male child was my brother, whether I was a male or female.

It may not “seem right” to you because you are not used to it.

OK, but if you married your mother, calling her your wife would also be something I’m not used to. If you married a ten-year-old, calling her your wife would be something I’m not used to. It would not be just novel, as perhaps it would be if you were my friend in school and you married my aunt who was our age, and I called you my uncle. I mean it would feel wrong, not just different.

I guess that is what I am getting at–that is, it seems deeply wrong that this ought to be something to “get used to.” I do not want to “get used to” referring to another man as some man’s “husband.” It is impossible, and it is just wrong. Coping with the idea that some people have different morals, that is something I can get used to. Pretending that marriage is a matter of contemporary semantics just is not.

I don’t know how else to explain it. :shrug:

Why don’t you just go ahead and tell them they are sinners who are going to hell like others on this site would do. That is something I have had to get used to from people that claim to be Catholic who are suppose to point out all the sins of those around them…

You don’t have to get used to it, but I doubt many of those people care how you feel or would want anything to do with you anyway. You can refer to them anyway you want and I am sure they will respond anyway they want. Your not going to change their minds and it doesn’t sound like you want to be civil, so I would limit the amount of people you know and stick around people like yourself.

You do not get it, whatsoever. This is not about my feelings and this is not about condemning someone. It is not even about changing their minds. It is about words as fundamental as man, woman, husband, and wife retaining their particular meanings.

Consider what C.S. Lewis had to say about the word “Christian”:

*Far deeper objections may be felt–and have been expressed–against my use of the word Christian to mean one who accepts the common doctrines of Christianity. People ask: “Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?” or “May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?” Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every amiable quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it. I will try to make this clear by the history of another, and very much less important, word.

The word gentleman originally meant something recognizable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said-so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully-“Ah, but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John? They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is a “gentleman” simply becomes a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A “nice” meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose*.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Yet this is what I hear, all of the time: Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not married? If I don’t agree that two people of the same sex can marry, then I am a controlling bigot who wants to send everyone to hell! If I don’t agree that it is quite possible for a husband to have a husband or a wife to have a wife–no, no, that if a man takes a man instead of a woman, it is exactly the same thing, with no distinction to be made between them!!–I am either a Neanderthal or a Pharisee because I do not agree that it is even possible for two people of the same sex to marry.

I guess that attitude is what I’m going to have to live with, if I won’t bow down to this, which is to say if I won’t capitulate to the attitude that two men or two women can have exactly the same thing as a man and a woman. If I do not deny the unique nature of the marital bond or also refuse to call a marriage a marriage when it is a bad marriage, then I deserve to be shunned by polite society.

If I do not give in, I will give insult and be deemed worthy of insult, even by fellow Catholics, and that is the way it is. There is not much to be done except lay low. It is currently defined in my state that marriage can only exist between a man and woman, and we are already there.

Oh, well. Thank you all for clearing that up for me.

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