Marriage redefined to the new realities

IN his letter headlined ‘Partners bill fraught with anomalies’ (March 22), Noel O’Shaughnessy refers to the Oxford Dictionary of English and the “natural law” of Christian belief to support his definition of the family unit as being a male and female and their children.

This is not the first time opponents of gay equality have relied on either the “defined word” or the “divine word” to justify their prejudice.

It may come as a surprise to Mr Shaughnessy, but dictionaries all over the English-speaking world seem to disagree with his definition. In 2003, Webster’s included in its definition of marriage “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage”.

A year later Black’s Law Dictionary added “same-sex marriage” to its marriage entry, noting that “same-sex couples have successfully challenged the laws against same-sex marriage” in some US states.

Since 2008, Webster’s Contemporary School and Office Dictionary has removed any gender reference at all, simply stating that marriage is “the state of being united to another person as a contractual relationship according to law or custom”.

And since 2000, perhaps the bible of all dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary, has included the phrase “long-term relationships between partners of the same sex” in its definition of marriage.

So you see, Mr O’Shaughnessy, the meaning of the words we use, just as the meaning of the institutions we uphold, evolves and changes, reflective of our societal evolution and change.

And, surely, nothing could do our society more good than to apply the “natural law” of speaking a language and upholding an institution that reflect how we actually live?

Noelle Moran


Dublin 7

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