At this particular time, with escalating campaigns claiming daily headlines, it is not difficult to understand why the issue of same-sex marriage has become a political beach ball, eye-catching, filled with hot air and tough to pin down. But, if truth be told, the issue deserves a kinder fate than seducing votes since it reaches far beyond politics.
First of all, there is the problem of language. The word “marriage” and its cultural use complicate the issue of committed relationships, if not the very idea of love itself. Marriage has historically meant the legal and/or sacred union between male and female; its purpose, to generate offspring, i.e, to create families and produce heirs in order to solidify the foundations of society. Love, as far as marriage was concerned, seemed to be more about physical differences and the ability to procreate. Thus, love seemed to be practically and myopically about sex which in turn led to the contract and commitment called marriage.
Second, there is the evolution of the psychology of love itself. Marriage existed long, long before love was seen as something deeper than physical attraction and appetite. Not all that long ago, in the so-called civilized world, male and female were separate and unequal; sex was more about claiming and control than what has become known as love today, at least ideally. Relationships and psychology seem to be challenging and expanding the “law of nature” by defining love as a phenomenon much more expansive and powerful than sexual attraction and appetite.
Third, there is the demand for social justice regarding the civil rights of all committed relationships, without discrimination. Aye! Here’s the rub.
I would like to think that the word “marriage” deserves respect for its meaning and its history, that the word does not need to be a battleground for the rights of other relationships, nor should the word have to redefine itself. “Let it be; let it be…” I’d rather say. But that creates the problem of finding/coining a name for other committed relationships, a name that would certainly be weighted with the blight of “separate but not quite equal.” That, many have learned, will never work for the demands of this “politically correct” age.
But the Solomon in me says that the word “marriage” needs to grow beyond its history and become more expansive in recognizing love and commitment – and relationships – in essence as more psychological and spiritual than physical. In so doing, marriage, for those open to change and evolving sensitivity, need not lose or even diminish its meaning and significance, while love and commitment strengthen and clarify their own.