Thursday, April 22, 2010


How does one define the nature of what constitutes a family?  Can it be deduced via methods available to our physical senses?  Is its existence concrete as is a rhododendron or a light bulb or is the family wholly conceptual no more or less real than Superman, honor or a nation?

If I were to ask you to show me a family, would you show me a man (father), a woman (mother), and children?  What would differentiate this group from a similarly constituted one built of strangers chosen at random?  Would you say that the man and woman came to love one another and through that love decided to have children?  What of couples who decide to not have children?  Would they not be considered family?  Do the children need to be genetically related for this to be a family?  What of adoptive or foster children?

What of biological families who splinter and fracture?  Is a family dissolved if parents separate?  What of the rare instances of child emancipation?  Is this any different from parents who divorce?  Are step-parents considered family?  Can a child consider himself/herself to have two pairs of parents?  Does this situation or mindset disqualify these people for familial status?  If so, what then is this group considered?

Are parents and children needed to constitute a group one calls a family?  What of soldiers who served and fought together?  Would they not call themselves family?  From my own history, would fellow band members consider one another family?  Is it not uncommon to form fraternal or sororal bonds with peers to whom we are not related be it within or without organization?  And when we come across mentors who take on particular importance, are they not often considered to don the mantle of father- or mother-figures?  If the family is not beholden to biological relationships, what then forms the definition of a family?

If a family can be something other than a man and a woman coming together and the progeny thereof, might couples of the same sex also consider themselves of the familial persuasion?  What of polyamorous or polygamous individuals and groups?  Do they not consider their relationships the bases of families?  Why shouldn’t they?

This writing came about due to a conversation with an individual who repeated the mantra that traditional, American family values were under attack or in danger of dissolution because of the potentiality of legalized homosexual marriage.  First, as was elaborated upon in prior paragraphs, defining a traditional, American family is problematic at best, and more likely impossible.  And what of the values therein?  Due to their infinite variability based upon culture, geography, economics, climate, ethnicity, local and federal statutes (it was once considered a family value for children to go to work as soon as able to provide for the family, not so anymore) and evolution over time, defining these basic values proves just as troublesome as defining the families that are supposed to espouse and practice them.

The primary intent of this writing is to question the  nature and definition of the family unit, but the conversation which inspired it demands a logical examination upon its single point:  that marriage between two individuals who happen to be of the same sex (while gender is a wholly different issue) is an act destructive to people, events and circumstances outside this private union.

In any real sense, does the marriage of two men (or even of a man and a woman) in one state have an impact upon anyone else in any other state?  Other than potentially  sparking debate of its legality within that other state’s borders, likely not.  Does it have an impact upon strangers completely disconnected from the couple by way of social, legal, paperwork, or employment/service/sales connections?  Barring rather singular circumstances, no.  Realistically such a marriage would only impact a statistically minute population, primarily centered around their family, friends, those working the wedding and possibly their coworkers and acquaintances.  Logically it should not affect anyone else.

For a marriage of a homosexual couple to affect virtually anyone not mentioned, the affected person must choose to be affected.  Gay marriage in reality has no more significance to anyone not involved than some stranger’s lunch choice.  Decisions on how to live one’s life are private matters.  This does not preclude the involvement of others, but their  involvement is likewise private.  In this matter, as in virtually all others, consensual agreements combined with a lack of harm to others outside of this agreement should be all that is necessary for an act to occur.

As the family is nigh-impossible to concretely define within set parameters, that any conceptual thing could be an attack thereupon is a ludicrous assertion.  A family is an amorphous concept and we all belong to myriad families whose boundaries can be either hazy or clear-cut.  Marriage is likewise conceptual, having no concrete existence outside of paperwork.  Most importantly it is a private matter between the individuals marrying be they straight or gay, two or a multitude.  If people wish to marry they should be allowed to.  No harm will come to you or your family.

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