It doesn’t take a cunning linguist to see that the definition of marriage is rapidly changing throughout the known world. Except, of course, in the Pennsylvania statehouse, where primates rule.
As if we needed more evidence that our state – with the lone exception of bodacious Montgomery County — is hopelessly out of touch with the same-sex marriage debate, here it is:
The Oxford English Dictionary, venerated worldwide authority on the English language, says it will change its definition of ‘marriage’ to include homo homo sapiens.
God save the Queens!
In all matters of the mother tongue, the OED rules. Begun in 1857 under the auspices of the Philological Society of London, the OED includes 600,000 words, three million quotations and 1,000 years of the English language.
OxfordDictionaries.com currently defines marriage as “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.’
Its second reference states that marriage can also be “(in some jurisdictions) a union between partners of the same sex.”
Gay-rights advocates argued that both definitions should share top billing, given that England last month legalized same-sex marriage. Queen Elizabeth II Herself gave the royal nod, according to the Associated Press.
Almost as if by command from Buckingham Palace, an OED spokesman confirmed a week later that ‘marriage’ would be examined closely for revision in future editions. Good man.
The OED continually reviews its wares, anyway, taking a special look at words whose usage is changing. Updates are issued every three months on revisions and additions.
Shockingly, the OED was beaten to the expositional punch – mon dieu! — by France’s leading dictionary, Larousse.
In April, more than a month before France recognized same-sex marriage, Larousse announced it would amend its definition for the 2014 edition.
In the new edition, published in June, marriage is a “solemn act between two same-sex or different-sex persons, who decide to establish a union.”
And in Canada, which legalized gay marriage way back in 2005, the definition of marriage does not even mention gender. According to dictionary.canadaspace.com, it is “the state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life (or until divorce.)
Catch my drift? Words matter. Definitions matter. While the rest of the world pushes forward on same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania remains buried in the 20th century.
Three cheers for brave politicos like Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who stood up against the state’s ban on gay marriage; and MontCo Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who continues to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
To me and thousands of others in Pennsylvania, they are the very definition of hope.