Don Sherfick

Marriage in Indiana: The Non-Defining Moment

Filed By Don Sherfick | January 30, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
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I'm always a little skeptical when the proponents of constitutional amendments that would, in their words "define and defend" marriage. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the Second Amendment associates a right of self-defense with the right to keep and bear arms, I suggest that keeping a loaded shotgun under the marital bed ought to adequately take care of the "defend" aspect,

But "define" deserves a little more explanation. I learned in grade school that you can't define something by just using the term itself, because that's like a cat chasing its tail and all but the most ardent pet lover tire over watching that blur after about five minutes. Yet take a look at this first and supposedly defining sentence of what's currently been introduced in the Indiana General Assembly:

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.

That cat has two tails...or is it two cats going after one tail?

OK, so whatever "marriage" is, only one woman and one man should be involved in it. But that hardly begins to say what it IS. The older language at least used the word "union", and I've seen some laws that call it a "contract". But apparently proponents think those words and others have problems that they don't care to share with us or the Indiana General Assembly.

Now I'm sure that the proponents will reply that marriage has been such a traditional, hard-wired, and universally immutable feature of the world's cultural landscape for so long that it really doesn't need to be defined. Never mind that the headline in the January 12th "News Release" which rolled out the revised Indiana amendment proposal yelled: "Marriage Is Worth Defining and Defending". I guess the right right hand of the spin machine doesn't regularly talk to the left right one.

But I can see how not really defining the term "marriage" but just limit who can receive its many rights and benefits it has its strategic advantages. You can brush off arguments that a childless heterosexual couple hitched only 24 hours in Las Vegas instantly got lots of legal goodies while a committed gay or lesbian couple owning a house together and caring each other and children for more than 30 years gets an empty paper bag.

You can say that marriage has remained exactly the same since the Garden of Eden, or at least since a number of well-known politicians defending traditional marriage decided to dump their second wives. You can also insist that the moon is 99.44% pure green cheese. That's what the First Amendment is all about. Our Founding Fathers clearly intended that folks had the unfettered right to refuse to define anything if they didn't want to.

Since the second sentence of the new constitutional offering says that "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried couples shall not be valid or recognized", you really don't have to worry about inconsistencies in what might be the "substantially" part, because you really haven't said what the definitional "substance" really is.

But never mind. When the cats stops chasing their tails, those vilified "unelected activist judges" will always be there to tell it like it is. That IS, after all, what the sponsors of these things really want.

Well, isn't it?


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