A common misunderstanding about the debate over gay “marriage” is that this whole dust-up amounts to an argument about a word. The misunderstanding goes like this: “Conservatives want the word ‘marriage’ to refer to heterosexual unions, and liberals want the word to refer to heterosexual and homosexual unions.” If this were all that was as stake in this debate, then all that would be required is an updated edition of the dictionary.
Unfortunately, some commentators have promoted this misunderstanding in their analysis of the New Jersey Supreme Court decision that forces the state legislature to create a bill offering same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples. Some commentators have heralded the decision as a “wise compromise” because it grants homosexuals the rights of marriage, while allowing social conservatives to reserve the word “marriage” for heterosexual unions.
But anyone who thinks the New Jersey decision is a good compromise does not understand what is really at stake in this debate. The question that our culture faces is not whether this or that group gets to use the word “marriage” any way they please. The question is whether we as a society will privilege in law the union of one man and one woman over all other kinds of unions.
Not only are there clear religious grounds for privileging heterosexual unions in law (see the created order in Genesis 2 for example), but there are also social reasons. As one conservative has put it, “unions between men and women bring forth welcome fruits, primarily the children who become citizen-successors and provide for the continuation of the state” (source).
Thus the New Jersey Supreme Court’s allowance of same-sex unions is really no compromise at all. It’s a complete capitulation to the distorted opinion that all unions are created equal. Merely retaining the word “marriage” is no victory at all if proponents of gay “marriage” are able to dislodge heterosexual unions from their privileged place in law.
Any society that diminishes the family (with the father and mother at the center) as the fundamental unit of society begins its own undoing. And that sad result is certainly much more than semantics.