Married to the dictionary
A reader takes exception to the South African government’s legalizing gay marriage by sending this note to The Sun.
I have taken this definition of marriage from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Main Entry: mar·riage
Pronunciation: 'mer-ij, 'ma-rij
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
1 a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>
If homosexual partners want to be in a lawfully commited relationship then this new state of relationship needs it's own lawful title.
Marriage title belongs to male comitting to Female!
Response. The reader appears to have overlooked the second definition under this entry, and also to have overlooked a significant section of the first. That is that marriage is, in part, a legal, contractual relationship. It is defined by the state to ensure the orderly transfer of property and the safety of minor citizens. As a legal relationship defined by the state, it is therefore whatever the state determines it to be. That is why, for example, the state recognizes civil marriages that a religious denomination might not consider valid.
But the larger point that the reader overlooks is that the dictionary does not legislate language; it follows language. There was resistance in many quarters when the earlier sense of the word gay was overtaken and overwhelmed as a synonym of homosexual. But the usage became widespread over time and is now well established in the language — and in current editions of dictionaries.
If gay couples continue to live in relationships that society determines to be legal and contractual, and the populace calls these relationships marriage, then marriage will be the word for it.