March was a roller coaster for proud partisans of heterosexual marriage. Voters in California fought an uphill battle but handily passed Proposition 22, defining marriage as between a man and a woman (CT, April 3, p. 15). They thus protected themselves from having to recognize pseudomarriages which other states (such as Vermont) might create between same-sex couples.
In a breathtaking plunge a few days later, Vermont's House of Representatives passed a bill creating the legal framework for "civil unions" between same- sex couples.
The Vermont lawmakers and the California voters were trying to escape the same threat: judicial activism and gay-rights activists working together to empty marriage of its traditional meaning. Indeed, the Vermont lawmakers created their "civil unions" because that state's Supreme Court had given them little choice: either swing wide the door of matrimony for homosexual couples or manufacture a parallel institution to give them the economic and social benefits enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
Unfortunately, the meaning of marriage has already changed fundamentally in our own era, leaving us with an institution that resembles a caffeine-free diet cola: all synthetic substitutions and no substance. The proposed abandonment of heterosexuality as a key ingredient of marriage is only the latest "improvement" on Marriage Classic.
ONE MAN, ONE WOMAN, MANY DEFINITIONS
At its best, the church has understood marriage as a divine gift for the blessing of believers and unbelievers alike in the context of a well-ordered society. Such was not always the case: the church's definition has shifted, sometimes radically, over the centuries. (John Witte's 1997 book, From Sacrament to Contract, is an excellent survey ...1
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