Human Events Blog

Exit the brides and grooms of Washington State

Following the passage of Washington State’s same-sex marriage law in the past election, the Health Department has announced that it will remove the terms “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” and “wife” from marriage and divorce certificates.  Fox News offers a glimpse at this brave new gender-free world:

Tim Church, a spokesman for the Wash. state Health Department, told Fox News they will likely be removing those words in favor of more gender neutral terms.

He said the changes are necessary in response to the same-sex marriage law that takes effect Dec. 6.

“We’ve been quickly moving ahead to change our marriage certificate to make sure it fits for everyone who is going to be using it,” he told Fox News. The words “bride” and “groom” could be replaced with “Spouse A” and “Spouse B” or “Person A” and “Person B,” Church said.

The department has been taking public input but the state’s secretary of health will ultimately decide which terms are used.

“People are just happy we are aware that the form needs updating,” Church said. “One (person) expressed concern that she sees forms that she does not see herself in – and she’s forced to make a choice on a form that is not a perfect choice for her.”

“We want our form to work for everyone who is getting married,” he added.

A new generation of young romantics will be able to dream of the magical day when they go from being Person A to Spouse B.  It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, isn’t it?

On one hand, this is a relentlessly logical outgrowth of the drive to re-define marriage.  It’s no longer about brides and grooms, uniting in a matrimony that recognizes both their unity and the wonderful differences between men and women.  Now it’s about interchangeable biological units.  It’s remarkable to think there is anyone left in America who still seriously believes the number of interchangeable biological units in this synergy will remain arbitrarily fixed at two.  What about the “rights” of Persons C and D to marry the A and B they love?

On the other hand, was it really necessary to abolish words like “husband” and “wife” to accommodate the very small percentage of the overall population that wishes to engage in same-sex marriage?  Was it such a hardship for one of the people involved to sign their name in the “husband” spot, and another to use “wife?”  In the Fox News article, Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council wonders what will happen to renegade traditionalists who insist on crossing out the “Person A / Person B” verbiage and writing in “bride” and “groom.”  Will they be tolerated by the authorities with indulgent smiles, or will they be punished for thoughtcrime?

A great deal of our cultural and political chaos, extending far beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, comes from a remorseless insistence upon over-riding nature with political judgments.  Along the way, we are forced to “forget” things the human race has understood for thousands of years, including such obvious truths as “men and women are different.”  Linguistic control is an important component of that cultural conditioning.  Thought is shaped by the labels we are required to apply.  Discourse is restricted by the words we are made to use.

Here’s what we are being conditioned to forget: Men and women are different.  They need each other.  They bring different strengths and weaknesses to a unique partnership that is different from all other human relationships.  Their lives tend to follow less fulfilling, independent, and prosperous courses outside of this relationship, once they pass beyond the carefree meadow of youth.  That meadow is much smaller than we like to think it is, especially when lasting marriages become less common features of society.  The current American ideal is an adolescence that extends far beyond even what successful married parents could afford to provide… and a dangerous number of our 25- and 30-year-old children do not have successful married parents to support their lifestyles.

Looking at the averages for a large population, children fare dramatically better when raised by a married man and woman.  Population stability requires a fairly large number of families with 3 or more children, and such large families are extremely difficult to raise outside of the traditional nuclear-family model.  (They’re not exactly easy to manage with that model.)

Perhaps most difficult for our doggedly egalitarian age to handle is the truth that when marriage between men and women is not robustly encouraged, women tend to suffer more.  This is particularly true if they are left with children to raise on their own, but for a host of biological and social reasons, it is also true of women without children.  The social factors that shape this reality would appear, after decades of often ruinous experimentation, to be highly resistant to manipulation by cultural or political pressure.

There are plenty of individual exceptions to all of these truths, but they hold up stubbornly well over large groups of people.  Every cultural quirk and social policy designed in defiance of these realities has been disastrous.  A large population can be changed by political and social pressure… but usually for the worse, and clearly not in all ways.  Discarding brides and grooms in favor of alphanumeric codes is just one sign of the cognitive dissonance we have imposed upon ourselves by refusing to abandon a long struggle against common sense and human nature.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  There’s no reason that respect for the significance of the special bond between men and women should require discrimination or contempt for same-sex partners – or lifelong bachelors, for that matter.  It is commendable that our society doesn’t want to put anyone down… but we should have the wisdom to understand that certain special things can be elevated, without denigrating anything else. Growth, independence, and social stability don’t require everyone to get married, or have children, and they most certainly do not require anyone to feel badly about their sexual orientation.  But they do require a large number of people to get married, stay married, and have lots of kids.

You can leave every ounce of religious faith and respect for tradition out of the equation, and still see the simple utility of recognizing and celebrating those who do the heavy lifting of building the next generation.  At the very, very least, you can call them “brides” and “grooms,” and hope that leads to many decades of calling them “husbands” and “wives.”

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