TO HUFFPO WRITER: Definition of ‘Marriage’ Matters

Published on September 22, 2014

by Jennifer Johnson
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

Courtesy of Ruth Institute Blog

Hi Melanie,

My name is Jennifer Johnson and I am the Director of Outreach at the Ruth Institute. Since you linked to an important document created by my organization in your post called, “Conservatives Can’t Be Pro-Marriage and Oppose Gay Marriage,” I would like to respond to you.

You said that you haven’t found a conservative to “give you a satisfactory answer” as to “how gay marriage tangibly undermines traditional marriage arrangements.” That’s unfortunate, and I’m not very surprised. However, this kind of answer is the kind of answer we specialize in here at the Ruth Institute (which is no longer part of NOM, BTW).

Before I answer, let me pose a question, Melanie. Have you researched the precise manner in which gay marriage is implemented into the legal code? I would like to make a prediction: that you have not done this research. Very few have. What I have observed, instead, is that gay marriage supporters make an assumption. Their assumption goes like this:

That gay marriage is simply added to the legal code, alongside “straight” marriage. In other words, they assume that the legal definition of “straight” marriage remains intact.

But the legal understanding of “straight” marriage does not remain intact. In fact, if you contemplate this (perhaps unconscious) assumption for a few moments, you may begin to see that it CANNOT remain intact. Why? Because this would mean that there were TWO marriage laws, one for straights and one for gays. But having two sets of marriage laws does not fit with “marriage equality,” does it? “Marriage equality” means one law for all, right?

Yes, it does.

So the next question that I hope has entered your mind is this: what is that ONE law? How is “straight” marriage changed? Let’s look at what “straight” marriage means, legally.

“Straight” marriage really means, “Marriage law based on sex differences.” Under “straight” marriage, the state formally recognizes the sex differences of “male” and “female.” These are biological categories, which are based on the scientific reality of human reproduction. Thus, under “straight” marriage law, there is only one kind of couple:

— Male/female

The state uses these kinds of terms to refer to males and females under “straight” marriage law:

— For males: husband, groom, father
— For females: wife, bride, mother

When we include same sex couples into marriage, there are now three kinds of couples:

— Male/female
— Male/male
— Female/female

In order to accommodate the two new types into marriage law, the state removes the recognition of sex differences from the law. Marriage and family law becomes “gender neutral.” I live in California and was not surprised when Gov. Brown signed SB 1306 into law. It removed the terms “husband” and “wife” from marriage statutes. The lead legislator said that terms were “outdated and biased”. Do you agree with him, Melanie? I’m not convinced you do. Since you are a conservative and a Christian, I think you believe in the importance of the nuclear family, based on what you said here:
“As a Christian conservative, I entirely agree, and we must do everything possible to promote marriage and reverse the trend [of the decline of marriage].”

Is it possible to both support natural marriage and the nuclear family, while simultaneously supporting a change to the law whereby the state no longer recognizes those “outdated and biased” arrangements? I don’t see how. I think the state has taken a hostile position towards to the natural, biological connections which are protected under natural marriage.


Jennifer Johnson [Thieme]

P.S. I did not vote Yes on Proposition 8. But these kinds of arguments persuaded me and now I wish I had voted Yes on it. I hope these arguments give you and others some food for thought.