And then there were Fifteen…

Overachieving Blogger Two

Marriage, as defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary is “the relationship that exists between a husband and a wife.” Although people tend to agree with the majority of definitions that Merriam-Webster online dictionary has to offer, this particular definition has become extremely controversial. Of course I am referring to the extreme controversial topic that is gay marriage. Marriage in its traditional and historic sense has been between a man and women, but whose to say that our definitions are not subject to change.

Sign from a gay marriage protest

Today, thirty-five states in the United States have come to the conclusion that homosexuals have the same rights to marriage as heterosexuals. However, this still leaves fifteen states where homosexuals do not share those same rights. To me, this is outrageous. Who is the government to say what two people do intimately?

To paraphrase John Locke, government is designed to protect the natural rights of the people. Although this seems all well and good, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between what is, and what is not our natural right. John Stuart Mill argued that we as individuals have the right to pursue whatever we wish, as long as we do not affect others. “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost.” For the very reasons Mill states I believe homosexuals have the right to marriage. I personally am a heterosexual, however two homosexuals getting married has no bearing on my life. Mills speaks to the idea that we are free to do what we want as long as what we do does not harm others. According to TFP student action gay marriage violates many rights and morals of today’s society. However I fail to see the connection between two people’s relationship and the rest of society. Mills would most likely argue that although TFP may feel gay marriage is wrong, two people getting married causes no harm to anyone else and as a result they have the right to get married.

If one were to counteract gay marriage in the context of Mill’s writings they would most likely say that two people engaging in gay marriage does in fact harm them. And yes, if it truly does harm them then Mills would agree that gays should not be allowed to marry. Though this is a fair argument, the amount of harm it causes these people is highly subjective. The lack of objectivity in this claim, makes it unlikely Mills would agree with such a claim. On the flip side, if gay marriage is illegal, homosexuals are directly harmed. And this goes beyond the obvious emotional bruises. Homosexuals potentially lose the right to eleven hundred thirty eight legal benefits. Mills claims that everyone is entitled to their opinions but in order for their opinions to turn into practice, it must be assured this practice causes no harm to others. As a result, Mills would argue that those opposed to gay marriage have the right to their opinion, however they do not have the right to enforce this opinion into practice, since it clearly harms gays.

This debate has become a hot button topic in politics the past few years. It has become such an important issue that some politicians are putting away their personal preferences in order to accommodate their voters. Dr. Ben Carson, potential Republican presidential candidate in the upcoming 2016 election, has become open to gay marriage.

Dr. Ben Carson

Although Carson does not believe we should change the definition of marriage, he states in his new book that any two humans have the right to join in a legal relationship, regardless of his personal beliefs. Whether or not Carson is making these statements to potentially gain voters in a political campaign is unknown, but we do know that the gay marriage movement is starting to making waves even in the most conservative circles.

As the gay marriage debate continues to roll on, the writings of authors like John Stuart Mill become more and more crucial to study. If one agrees with Mill it is likely that they too will fall on the pro side of the gay marriage debate. In the last year one hundred fifty new words and definitions have been added to the Merriam Webster online dictionary. If Webster can take the time to add words like “selfie” and “hashtag” to the dictionary, I don’t believe changing the definition of a word like marriage will be too strenuous.


3 thoughts on “And then there were Fifteen…

  1. Like the others who have commented, I think this is a very interesting post. However, I think one way where this issue has to be seen is that many of the states where gay marriage is “legal” did not decide as a state that they accept this definition of marriage. Rather, the appellate courts decided that it was unconstitutional to bar gay couples from marrying. In some ways, whether or not someone is for gay marriage, this takes away some liberty from the people in that they are not actually choosing themselves to change their laws and policies in their own states. This is an interesting situation in that we have to balance the autonomy of the couples to marry who they want and the states to make their own laws without the binds of federal law and the constitution. However, you do very well by balancing this out and proving that the liberty of the couples would be harmed more in your citation of Mill.


  2. I appreciate how you tied in Mill’s reading to the controversy of gay marriage, but I would like to offer a contrasting point of view. I don’t think that the act is as self-regarding as it seems; legalizing marriage between two homosexuals involves redefining marriage, which will have an impact on the larger society. For example, will federal benefits (policies like priority housing and healthcare) apply to same-sex couples as they do for heterosexual couples? Will they be eligible to adopt and raise children? How will sex education be conducted in schools, and will parents who have objections possess the freedom to exempt their children from sex-education classes that normalize same-sex marriage? Will people have the religious freedom to express their objections or will that be immediately considered and condemned as discrimination? Refer to these case studies as interesting examples:
    Changing civil laws is not something that should be trifled with; one must consider the potential consequences on the rest of society.


  3. This post was very original and creative. I really like how you made a connection to how even dictionary adds and makes changes . I never thought about it that way. Indeed times are changing and we as a society need to make adjust to such . I think Mill would really agree that sometimes there are problems with traditions and old notions . They can keep us from progressing. The fact that most states do not allow gay marriage is harmful to our future society and it limits the rights that should be given to everyone. As Rousseau said, “Man is Born free and everywhere he is in chains “. Our society are the chains that limit the freedom of people. Laws that restrict gay marriage restricts individuals and essentially tell them that being who they are is wrong. With so many teens committing suicide because they aren’t accepted , there is no question that these laws and restriction are harmful to others according to Mill .


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