E. J. Dionne, a columnist for the Washington Post who is generally left of center, wrote a piece for today's paper in which he called for "a searching national debate over family values." Bravo -- I heartily agree.
Dionne goes on to say, "It will not be about whether we as a country are for them. We are. What's required is a grounded and candid discussion about what those words actually mean." Right again.
The debate about "what those words actually mean" is exactly the debate we have been engaged in for four or five decades now.
In fact, we are now only weeks away from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about what one very important word -- "marriage" -- actually means. That debate has been ongoing at least since 1993, when a Hawaii court became the first in the country to rule that defining marriage the only way it had ever been defined in the United States -- as the union of one man and one woman -- might somehow offend constitutional principles.
It is Dionne's fellow liberals, however, who try to deny that "what . . . words actually mean" is what the same-sex "marriage" debate is about. They claim that their efforts are to end "discrimination" and to affirm the equal dignity of gay-identified people -- not to "redefine marriage." They claim that the efforts of conservatives are intended to stigmatize homosexuals and to impose religious dogma on secular law.
The liberals are wrong -- the real debate is about what the word "marriage" means. Our belief is that "marriage" is intrinsically the union of a man and a woman, and that this definition cannot be changed because it is rooted in the order of nature itself. It always requires the contribution of one man and one woman to create a new human life, and it is because of this immutable uniqueness of the male-female relationship that we treat such relationships uniquely under the law.
Whatever the merits of a four-wheeled vehicle may be, it cannot be a "bicycle" -- because a bicycle, by definition, has two wheels. By the same token, whatever satisfaction some may gain from a same-sex relationship, it can never be a "marriage" -- because marriage, by definition, is the union of a man and a woman.
Liberals may be very sincere in the goals they seek to achieve in the marriage debate -- but there is simply no denying that the method they are using to try to achieve them is to change the definition of the word "marriage."
Although "marriage" is at the forefront right now, there have been similar debates about what "family" means. We argue that "families" are formed in only three ways -- by blood, marriage, or adoption. Mere cohabitation with a sexual partner does not create a "family;" neither does living in the same house with a partner's children.
The context for Dionne's column was his observations about the obvious love and devotion between members of the Biden family -- specifically, between Vice President Joe Biden and his late son Beau, who tragically died of cancer recently at the age of 46. There is no question that liberals like Joe Biden can love their family members as deeply as any "pro-family" conservative does.
This is not the issue in debate. The issue is that liberals have adopted the position that the meaning of "family" is almost infinitely malleable, defined by emotional standards rather than objective ones. However, the Bidens are not "family" because they love each other -- they love each other because they are family.
The problem with redefining "marriage" and "family" is that if they can mean anything, then they come to mean nothing. So, two cheers for E. J. Dionne for recognizing that the "national debate" is about "what those words actually mean."