Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kevin Staley-Joyce: Marriage of Opposites

It should be no surprise that the language of same-sex marriage is just as controversial as the arguments for it. The rhetorical choices of same-sex marriage proponents—especially their use of rights language—have been effective in winning over the minds of many young people. While rhetoric is unavoidable and hardly a malum in se, it can diminish understanding when it is used to make, rather than merely buttress, an argument. In a recent article, New York Times legal correspondent Adam Liptak used the phrase “opposite-sex marriage” to refer to unions between heterosexuals. It appears to be the Times’ first revival of the term since the spring of 2004, when same-sex marriages began in Massachusetts. Writing on the details of a court battle in San Francisco, Liptak asserted that the lawyer involved was advocating not, well, marriage, but “opposite-sex marriage.” (Liptak also said the lawyer’s arguments “seemed to fall of their own weight,” in case you’re wondering about his own view).

This kind of language is an anguish, no doubt, to those unrequited Times letter-writers who will soon lose sleep over the new, unwelcome adjective for their marriages. Who was it who said that same-sex marriage wouldn’t change anything but for gays? If we have begun to call marriage by a different name, something significant is afoot.

Read it all.


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