Redefining Marriage to Redefine Parenthood

December 2012

By Daniel Moody

Redefining marriage actually means redefining the legal understanding of what a parent is. For everybody. The explanation, briefly, goes like this:

The definition of a marriage described the physical reality of parenthood: Permanent, heterosexual (involving both sexes), and exclusive (involving only two people). This physical reality is what gives marriage its shape. International law (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, etc) gives marriage as the right to “Marry and found a family”.

Rather confusingly, we use one word (“Marriage”) to describe two different things: the one relationship that can achieve the physical state of parenthood (a sexual relationship between one man and one woman) and the artificial legal mechanism that recognises, regulates and rewards this unique relationship. We cannot redefine the physical reality of parenthood but we can redefine the legal mechanism – which is what Members of Parliament are being asked to do.

This redefinition has an unavoidable consequence. By way of analogy: Imagine a lion in the wild. The physical reality of that object (“Lion”) cannot be altered. But we can put a cage around it and label the cage “Elephant cage”. The object does not change, but we now regard it as being an elephant. If we wished to treat a lion and an elephant as one and the same, we would have to label the cage “Animal cage” – thus describing both animals but refering to neither in name.

“Same-sex marriage” already exists. We call it “Civil Partnerships”. We are now being asked to house Civil Partnerships and Marriages within one institution (we know that the State will regard them as being the same, as the State intends to allow people to “convert” their Civil Partnership into a legal marriage just by filling out a form). Some people call this homogenisation of two physically different relationships “Genderless Marriage”, as it creates a legal definition of marriage as being between “Two adults”, and the term “Two adults” does not contain the word Man or Woman. We are being asked to legalise “Same-sex Marriage” but we will actually be creating “Genderless Marriage”.

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