I read this article in Wired Magazine about how scientists use the word “theory” when they really mean something they are 99% sure about. Clive suggests that we use “law” instead, as in “the law of evolution” instead of the “the theory of evolution”.
I have a similar suggestion for the word “marriage”. I suggest that marriage be redefined strictly as a religious term, and as such, should be removed from the legal lexicon. I think this would be a great way to resolve the gay marriage debate. Each religion can then choose to allow or disallow marriage between anyone they want. And any one of any sexual persuasion can choose to belong to whatever religion they want, and conform to their requirements.
But when it comes to state sponsored benefits, such as the ability to designate one other person to inherit your estate without paying taxes, or share your health benefits, there should be no relationship to a religious “marriage”, any more than there is a state benefit attached to baptism, confirmation, or other religious rites. Then the state benefits can be applied with no discrimination, and without angering the religious folks. Now, there will likely be some debate around child care statutes, and a we’ll also need a new word for divorce, but these seem like pretty small problems.
Clear definitions make a lot of things easier.