Sunday, February 27, 2005
Seven years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I conducted a fierce debate in Slate about same-sex marriage. Along the way, I hazarded this prediction:
"Andrew, three years after we permit gay marriage, it will be illegal for schools to send home printed forms with one blank for the mother's name and one blank for the father's."
Did I say three years? In Canada, it's taken barely one.
In the province of Ontario, the words "wife," "husband," "widow," and "widower" are now all to be stricken from the law. The words "mother" and "father" cannot be far behind.
Ontario's action is a reminder that same-sex marriage is not just the extension of an existing legal status to previously excluded persons. Same-sex marriage is a revolution in the definition of marriage for everyone - a revolution not just in law, but in consciousnessness.
And one effect of this revolution - and for many proponents, one of the revolution's aims - is to make forever unthinkable the idea that husbands and wives each have special duties to one another, and that a husband's duties to his wife - while equally binding and equally supreme - are not the same as a wife's duties to her husband.
Once we lose that knowledge, we lose the basic grammar of marriage. It is one more reminder that in the same-sex marriage debate, we are debating not marriage's change - but marriage's overthrow.
02/27 11:34 PM