What definition of marriage?

Dear Editor:

There is a lot of talk about “protecting and defending the definition of marriage.” But what definition is that exactly? Is it the definition whereby marriage could only be between two members of the same race? The definition whereby married women literally became the legal property of their husbands who were then free to abuse them without penalty? The definition whereby marriage was arranged by parents, often based primarily on financial gain? The definition that allowed prepubescent children to enter into marriages with adults? The definition whereby no possibility of divorce exists? How about the definitions in the scriptures of the Old Testament which included men having multiple wives and concubines, childless widows being required to marry their brothers in-law, soldiers claiming wives as the spoils of war, etc.?

The fact is no universal definition of marriage exists historically or even across different cultures today. Marriage is a concept that evolves with societies—and in our society that evolution often comes through the mechanism of changes to secular law aimed at upholding the civil rights of individuals.

I think most of us today are thankful that our modern Western definition of marriage has very much changed over time to be more inclusive and to better embody our cultural values of equality and individual liberty. We all are living “alternative lifestyles” today compared with Biblical times. To suddenly say that we want to stop that evolution and to codify our current era’s prejudices into State law by prohibiting the possibility of future change is a very dangerous proposition—and it is ultimately one that Civil Rights history (and plain common sense) teaches us is doomed to fail.

Aaron Black, Cambridge