The National Review‘s Kathryn Jean Lopez handwrings over Bill “too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids” Donahue’s latest email blast about the use of the phrase “opposite-sex marriage” by the New York Times.
A Lexis-Nexis search shows this is only the tenth time the New York Times has ever used the term “opposite-sex marriage,” and only the fifth time it appeared in a news story (some columnists and letter writers have employed it). The first time anyone appears to have used this term was in the 1990s: an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1994; a Yale Law Journal article that same year; an article by Andrew Sullivan in 1996 in the New Republic; and so on. Which raises the question: Is this the start of one more round of corrupting the English language?
Here’s Donahue’s–and K Lo’s–concern:
Here’s how it will play out in the classroom: kindergartners will be told that some adults choose same-sex marriage and some choose opposite-sex marriage. There is no moral difference—it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks. Not mentioned, of course, will be that some male-on-male sex practices are dangerous. Nor will it be pointed out that only so-called opposite-sex marriages are capable of reproducing the human race. In other words, the kids will be lied to about what nature ordains.
Boilerplate, red-meat stuff.
But here’s the larger question: what should we call a marriage between a man and a woman? If we call a marriage between two men or two women a “same-sex marriage,” then why not call a marriage between a man and a woman an “opposite-sex marriage”?
The dilemma for journalists is that you have to differentiate between the two types of marriage when discussion political challenges or advocacy. Can you really have “marriage” on one hand, and “same-sex marriage” on the other when you are making comparisons?
For awhile, it seemed “traditional marriage” was the preferred comparison, but there are even bigger problems there. “Traditional marriage” is now a political slogan, used by opponents of same-sex marriage as a piece of rhetoric. So no journalist should really be using the term “traditional marriage” unless it is a direct quote from an activist.
So where does that leave journalists asked to tell stories where both kinds of marriage are being discussed? Suggestions?