But is marriage simply the union of two human beings or is it specifically the union of a man and a woman? If the latter, then the union of two men or two women is no more a “marriage” then is the union of a man and an animal, reptile, wall, or whatever, regardless of how much the two human parties love each other. In fact, there are conservatives who have asked, “If a woman can marry a woman, why can’t she marry her dog (or, horse, or plant, etc.)?” There is even a gay activist, watchdog website called BoxTurtleBulletin, deriving its name from remarks prepared for Senator John Corwyn in 2004 (although never spoken by him): “It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right.”
While Senator Corwyn did well by not delivering these remarks, the very real question of the definition of marriage remains, especially in places like my current home state of North Carolina, where, for the first time, the people will be allowed to vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and woman. Simply stated, if marriage is the union of two people, then same-sex couples have as much right to marry as do opposite-sex couples. But if marriage is the union of a man and a woman, then same-sex couples no more have the right to “marry” than do the aforementioned human and goat (although there is, quite obviously, no comparison between the two situations).
These, then, are some of the questions that must be answered in the current debate. First, what is marriage? Conservatives would point out that, with virtually no exception until recently, marriage has always been the union of a man and woman, not simply the union of two people.
Second, why should marriage consist of only two parties? Supporters of natural, organic marriage argue that marriage consists of only two people because of the uniqueness of the male-female union. Otherwise, what’s so important about the number two? Why not more?
Third, since most Americans agree that government should have limited involvement in the lives of its citizens, why is the state involved in the issue of marriage? Opponents of same-sex marriage point out that the state conveys benefits on marriage because marriage conveys benefits on the state, namely, the possibility of procreation along with the ability to join a child to its mother and father.
For the next seven months in North Carolina, leading up to the May 2012 vote, the debate will be raging.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.