In the update to one of my recent posts on gay marriage, I noted that while cleaning my apartment, I chanced upon a note I had scribbled about the debate on gay marriage, that the “burden is on those proposing the change.”
As opponents of gay marriage frequently point out, for the five thousand years of recorded human history, marriage has been an institution uniting a man and a woman in a lifelong union. And they’re right. While numerous cultures have recognized same-sex unions, they have defined them with a different name (than marriage) or required that one of the partners live his (or her) life as the gender opposite that of his partner.
In responding to that post where I faulted gay marriage advocates for not talking about the meaning of marriage and focusing only on gaining the right, a number of people commented in the same vein, demanding “equal rights,” including “full marriage rights.”
While marriage has existed for as long as we have records of human civilization as the union of one man and one woman, it has evolved over time. The question that Western civilization now faces is whether or not our understanding of the institution will continue to evolve and come to include same-sex couples as well. Perhaps, as gay couples become increasingly a part of mainstream society, the evolution will happen naturally.
That said, I think we would be well served if those who want to see that evolution took more time to express why they believe it’s important to expand the definition of marriage. The burden is on those proposing changing an ancient institution. And yet, I don’t think it’s necessarily a heavy burden, merely an opportunity to promote the benefits of relationships.