I have, of course, been thinking a lot about the Obergefell decision and its implications. (And by the way--I never really learned very much in my German classes, but doesn't that word at least strongly suggest "fallen over" or "fall over" or something of that sort? Very appropriate if it does.) I don't feel up to writing anything of length about it, but I'll probably be posting shorter notes on particular aspects of the situation.
One of these is the word "marriage." In comments on the previous thread on the topic we mentioned the redefinition of words required to support the concept of same-sex marriage. This is almost my most fundamental objection to it: prior to any ethical concerns, concerns about the impact on family and society, etc., I had a visceral objection to the abuse of language involved. Several times in discussions (brief and unproductive discussions) with people who favored the innovation I objected that "same-sex marriage" was simply a contradiction in terms. I compared the effort to erase sexual distinctions from the concept of marriage to an attempt to erase the difference between squares and circles; henceforth those terms would be forbidden, as the terms "husband" and "wife" are now being forbidden in some places; there would be only "shapes," as there are to be only "partners" in marriage now.
Of course that got nowhere; I probably only confirmed the suspicion that I was a lunatic. Anyone bothering to respond to this objection, though, could say "Well, language changes all the time." And so it does. And that fact provides us as well as our opponents with a weapon. The redefinition of the word "marriage" is not an organic evolution of language, but an arbitrary and mechanistic decree handed down by an authority which commands less and less respect, and which apparently believes it can change reality by changing words. It presents us immediately with the problem of distinguishing what we mean by marriage from what the authority means.
I don't know yet how we'll do that; "sacramental marriage" is accurate but a bit unwieldy, and besides is specifically Catholic. But unless almost everyone falls into line with the party, some way will be found to distinguish man-woman marriage from same-sex marriage. It may be only a tone of voice suggesting implicit quotation marks around the word: They are "married." But something will develop.
Consider the typical fate of euphemisms. The word "moron" once had a specific definition, referring to a particular level of congenital mental impairment. It came to be considered offensive in that context. It and other similar terms were replaced by the more polite "mentally retarded," or just "retarded." Now, of course, those are offensive, and words like "special" are used. But no one is fooled. The condition has not changed, and the sort of person who will make fun of people with the condition, or put it to use as an insult, simply appropriates the euphemism.
What will probably develop is a sort of reverse euphemism, I guess. A euphemism is an attempt to avoid reality by not naming it; we'll be trying to name the reality which officially does not exist. We'll be trying to talk about marriage as we understood the word before it was redefined, not trying to avoid talking about it.