A change in lan­guage

The Daily Examiner - - NEWS OPINION -

SOME­TIMES the loss of a word is dis­ap­point­ing, but doesn’t have a wide­spread im­pact. Bob Kat­ter just com­mented on the loss of the word, “gay”. I’ve had the same thoughts for decades. This was not the fault of the gay com­mu­nity but to peo­ple, who in those days didn’t want to use the word ho­mo­sex­ual. A Chicago Tri­bune jour­nal­ist lamented that he had found 126 syn­onyms for “gay” but none of them were a patch on the orig­i­nal.

On the other hand there are words, which if changed, cause a cas­cad­ing ef­fect through the whole fab­ric of our lan­guage. “Mar­riage” is one of them. It has al­ways meant the com­ing to­gether of a man and a woman. Yes to­day “mar­riage” is used in other con­texts, such as “a mar­riage of ideas”, but even there it brings to­gether things, which are dif­fer­ent.

But SSM wouldn’t have much im­pact. Try hav­ing sex­less chess. If there are two kings, when can the win­ner say “check­mate”? It’s even worse for two queens, where the check­mate sit­u­a­tion never oc­curs. No prob­lem! We’ll just come up with new rules.

New rules are al­ready be­ing as­sumed, which make the man and woman def­i­ni­tion un­ac­cept­able. But the politi­cians say that new laws will pro­tect peo­ple who want to re­tain their out­dated views. Other coun­tries such as Hol­land, Canada, and Great Bri­tain, which have in­tro­duced SSM, also cre­ated new laws to pro­tect those who prac­tise the his­toric def­i­ni­tion. Un­for­tu­nately th­ese laws were wishy washy, are not en­forced or are just ig­nored, and hetero­sex­ual peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing per­se­cuted and of­ten treated as crim­i­nals. If it is hap­pen­ing in those coun­tries it will in Aus­tralia too. In fact it al­ready is.

In Hol­land (the first SSM coun­try), they had an un­ex­pected con­se­quence, when sur­veys found that there has been a drop in the num­ber of peo­ple get­ting mar­ried, with the rea­son given be­ing that mar­riage no longer means what it once did. And be­fore long for most peo­ple, “mar­riage” will end up be­ing a lost word like “gay”. The LGBTI peo­ple sug­gest that they have been un­fairly sin­gled out. Not so. There are many other groups who for many rea­sons can’t get mar­ried, in­clud­ing cou­ples of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions, so­cial stand­ing, race, lo­ca­tion fam­ily pres­sure or other com­mit­ments. And their bar­ri­ers are just as sig­nif­i­cant as those of the SS fra­ter­nity. So when con­sid­er­ing SSM, it is an idea to stand back from the hy­per­bole and hand-wring­ing and con­sider what it does to one of mankind’s foun­da­tion words, a ma­jor thread in the fab­ric of civil­i­sa­tion?

And why is there such an ef­fort to al­low SSM, par­tic­u­larly when all cou­ples have the same le­gal rights as mar­ried peo­ple? Why don’t they come up with their own word, one they can be justly proud of and uniquely iden­ti­fies their re­la­tion­ship and avoids em­bar­rass­ment?

Will there be un­fore­seen reper­cus­sions? Def­i­nitely, one be­ing: “If mar­riage is redefined, there will be se­ri­ous and sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences for free­dom of speech in Aus­tralia”. — John Ib­bot­son,


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