- - Monday, May 28, 2012

The ante has just been raised in the national discussion about same-sex “marriage.” It was a small thing, easily glossed over and missed amid the daily torrent of information and images streaming from cable channels and online news.

During a midday panel discussion on Fox News on Thursday, Bernard Whitman, a Democratic strategist and consultant, used the term “marriage” in a way that caused the show’s host and his fellow panelist to think at first that Mr. Whitman had misspoken. He hadn’t.

Mr. Whitman said, “Six years ago, 36 percent of the American public supported marriage. Today, 53 percent of the American public supports marriage. … This is a fundamental evolution.”

David Webb and host Megyn Kelly interrupted the conversation to correct Mr. Whitman: “You’re mixing apples and oranges. … Our viewers don’t know what you’re talking about. … [You’re speaking of] gay marriage, not marriage.”

Mr. Whitman countered, “Gay marriage, straight marriage. It’s marriage. The topic is marriage. It’s one and the same. It’s exactly what this issue is about. That is why we have seen a dramatic increase in support for marriage over these last six years.”

There were no further challenges to Mr. Whitman’s word usage.

This illustrates an attempt to co-opt the term marriage in the latest effort to revolutionize an institution that for millenniums has been immutable. By rejecting the distinction between traditional marriage and same-sex “marriage,” Mr. Whitman implies that America never actually supported marriage until homosexuals started having access to it. Evidently, not only is the meaning of the word at stake, our history is as well. Future history books will describe how bigoted Americans discriminated against homosexuals until laws were changed to permit them to marry.

That is, no doubt, a trial balloon of sorts.

The Daily Caller reported on Friday, “More than 65,000 people have signed a Change.org petition challenging Dictionary.com to ‘correct’ its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. … The petition asks that the definition instead describe marriage as ‘the social institution under which a man and woman, woman and woman, or man and man establish their decision to live as spouses by legal commitments, etc.’”

Mike Raven, the originator of the petition, explains, “If this whole argument comes down to an intangible definition of marriage, then it’s time for that definition to change. While we cannot change the oppressive and discriminatory way that some religions continue to define marriage, we can go to an even better place. I believe it is time to correct the definition of marriage at our sources for what words mean: dictionaries.”

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph on May 10 about same-sex “marriage” in the U.S. and Great Britain, said that in Britain, “The battle now is just about a word.” The same is exactly true in the U.S. It’s not rights that are being fought for. That’s easy to remedy. The battle is for control of the word.

Mr. Whitman’s and Mr. Raven’s efforts should be no surprise. He who defines the terms wins the war for public opinion. This is made clear in writings, from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” to Orwell’s “Newspeak.” Control of the language is everything when it comes to bringing about transformational change to a nation.

Americans are for fairness and equality - it’s in our DNA. However, embedded just as deeply in our gut is the meaning of the term marriage. This is demonstrated clearly in the fact that polls show that a majority of Americans easily express openness to the idea of marriage equality, but in every one of the 32 states where it has been put to popular vote, same-sex marriage has been defeated. The problem is not rights. It’s the word marriage.

The gap between the results of polling and voting delivers a clear message: Americans do want equality for homosexuals, but marriage is not and will not be the remedy. Progressives have convinced the homosexual community that this is a battle we must engage in, yet in states where same-sex “marriage” has been instituted, couples in matching tuxedos or wedding dresses are not racing to get married. The demand for same-sex “marriages” remains rather anemic.

Something deeper is going on here. If society allows the meaning of marriage to be diluted to cover any number of combinations of household relationships, this will be an indication that our society as a whole has carelessly squandered a great inheritance handed down from hundreds of previous generations. The reason marriage is a viable target of progressives is because heterosexuals themselves have allowed their own personal reverence for the institution and participation in it to dwindle.

“Every battle is won before it is ever fought,” as Sun Tzu remarked. If progressives win this battle, it will be because the definition of marriage already has been surrendered by those who currently can lay claim to it alone.

That progressives are working so hard to chip away at the definition of marriage should be a clear signal that the term’s inviolability, pre-eminence and, yes, sacredness, must be revered and protected. Not just as a matter of law, but as a matter of greater personal dedication to one’s own marriage. The fate of the world’s oldest institution hangs in the balance.

Doug Mainwaring is a co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.

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