Sara Whitman

Language is Powerful

Filed By Sara Whitman | June 24, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: gay marriage, language is powerful, language usage, marriage equality, partial birth abortions, same-sex marriage

I heard a great interview the other week (look for "gay marriage redux") by Julie Goodridge, one of the lead plaintiffs of the historic MA ruling. Great interview, please listen.

But I have one thing to say to everyone. Language is powerful.

It's not gay marriage. That was a term decided on by the right wing efforts to paint equal access as a 'special right.'

It's not. It's about marriage equality. It's about two people being able to get a marriage license. You can't limit it to only white people, you can't limit it to only same racial background and you can't limit it based on the gender of the two people applying.


Every time we say "gay marriage?" think "partial birth abortion," another term created (and not even remotely true) to influence those on the edge of the discussion.

It's about a legal institution- marriage- and access to it.

It's about equality because as we all know, separate is never equal.

Ah, there goes that language again. Words creating a powerful image.

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Yes, Sara, you are exactly right --- language is powerful.

When the "special right" label comes up, we can have on hand a few powerful comebacks of our own:

  • What is "special" about wanting to share your life with the person of your choice?
  • What is "special" about expecting to pay taxes based on the same household rules as everyone else?
  • What is "special" about wanting your chosen mate ... and possibly the children you have raised together ... to be cared for after your death?
  • What is "special" about wanting the automatic right to visit your mate in the hospital?
  • What is "special" about wanting society to acknowledge the importance and primacy of the closest relationship in your life?

I could go on ... but I'm sure everybody gets the idea.

I like the language of the 14th ammendment, waiting for the power to kick in for ALL of us.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I'm also hoping someone will show this to Obama.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 25, 2008 4:35 AM

Sara, excellent observations on the "M" word.

We have no choice except expecting equality.

It's not gay marriage. That was a term decided on by the right wing efforts to paint equal access as a 'special right.'

I have yet to hear anyone explain that one. How does putting an adjective in front of marriage make it a special right? Does this apply to "same-sex marriage"? What about to "interracial marriage"?

Do we have any evidence that these terms help or hurt in the polls? Do people really even know what "marriage equality" is when they hear it? Does "marriage equality" make equality a special right because it's putting a modifier in front of "equality"?

Language is important. So let's debate it lengthily.