Letter to Neil Steinberg
Sanctity of Marriage (never sent)
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20130104                                Human Rights (Gender)                                Language

Written Jan 4 but not sent, because upon reading the column again I noted a strong element of derision bordering on hate the Neil has for people opposed to human dignity and freedom as he sees them. That is where he is so close, see letter below. Neil recognizes many fallacies in commonly held values, especially those institutionalized by the church, but has yet to take the step of realizing his biases are no better founded than the Cardinal's he so attacks. So, I think the current letter will not yet find a home.


Again you provoke my interest sufficient to write about a subject you raise. Such subjects are raised all the time, it is your way of addressing them that is the hook for me. Your written thoughts resonate deeply with my thoughts in many ways, though of course not all in agreement, but almost all in ringing resonance, because, well, forgive me, you seem so close. I don't know how you can keep so coherent and be so prolific. Thank you. This one is about your "marriage is not sex" column. Having been married for 27 years I know as do billions of others all over the world that marriage is much more than about sex. For me it was about 30 years of shared experiences that came from a commitment to so share. That commitment is an essential part of "marriage" I think, and it entitles its professors to certain legal advantages as well as responsibilities in our laws. I agree that such advantages and responsibilities should be extended to anyone who makes such commitments to anyone. For what is it we are rewarding and punishing if not the commitment. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I agree that marriage, the linking by public commitment (one of the requirements, I believe of legal "marriage") of two beings, some would say souls, to some sort of common purpose, if offered to one type of commitment should be offered to all: gays, lesbians, ''platonic' couples, anyone. Such sharing and commitment are deeper than law, of course. I believe I have even shared such a commitment with a dog or two, some of my very best friends, and I have no doubt of their reciprocal commitment, dogs or friends, because they were really the same.

So one question I would ask is, "Why does the law care about such personal things?" "What business is it of the community whether I commit my future actions to some other person or not?"

Economics. Perhaps. Care in old age (pensions)? Care when sick (insurance)? Children? (see below)
Morality. Perhaps. Caring is good (community benefit)?
Politics. Sure. How does the wind blow?

For whatever reason, any legal advantages and disadvantages, it seems to me, should be available and required of all if of any. I believe you agree and use the word "marriage" to describe such advantages and disadvantages.

So my second question is, "What then do we call what we used to call 'marriage'?"

That "marriage" WAS about sex, well, sort of at least. Cardinal George refers to the "natural" union of man and woman in the act of reproduction as a sacred thing. I could not agree more. The reproductive act of sex is necessary for life and as such very, very sacred to many, including me. I extend it farther and believe eating is just as sacred, as then is the bite of the cats jaw on the neck of the baby sparrow fallen from its nest (a Christian metaphor). I believe the law originally intended to give its attention to that sacred act, and to the commitment to feed and protect the products of those acts, children. So the word "marriage" became conjoined with that age old cycle of birth growth reproduction (birth). You now wish to add other types of commitments to the meaning of the word. What then do we call the commitment between a man and a woman to have children? Commitments above and beyond all the other things that go with your new meaning of "marriage".

I am a scientist, so I believe that expansion rather than restriction of distinctions in language is preferable. By making a term "more inclusive" we eliminate the ability of that term to distinguish what was previously distinguished. We have also created a new ability to generalize about the combined term in a more efficient way (a single term). So we have shifted thinking from particulars to general and thus, in my opinion, taken a step away from knowing about "reality" (a book could be and many have been written on that one). However, if we replace the distinction we have eliminated by inventing another term, we then have preserved our ability to know the particulars of reality, but also our ability, or at least our efficiency, to generalize about them. .(Sorry for that rather shallow, completely generalized philosophical babble).

I developed that babbling argument while thinking about "Ms." vrs. "Mrs." and "Miss". --- "Mrs." and "Miss" make a fine distinction, "Ms." makes a fine general category that includes both, but the "fad" was to eliminate the distinction in favor of the general, one I see being repeated now with the term "marriage". My preference would be to coin a new term or redefine an old one to replace what we used to mean by marriage and let "the winds" blow that seem to be guiding our ship of state to the more inclusive meaning. By the way, my solution to the "Ms." issue was more common use of "Master" vrs. "Mister" for married and unmarried men, but the "Master" thing made that impossible.

I think we often get soooooooo hung up on the words, and oft' times of those times I think in an attempt to control the thoughts of others, as of course I am doing with this letter. Please keep stimulating me, Neil. Thank you.