Republicans are making a lot of noise right now, accusing the Supreme Court of “changing the definition of marriage.” (They’ve done focus groups and market research and found out that this meme is the one that has the most positive response from potential donors.) But in fact, the Supreme Court has not changed the definition of marriage at all, and here’s how you can prove it.
First of all, remember that there are many different types of marriage. There’s polygamous marriage, for example, where one man has many wives. This is one of the traditional forms of marriage, appearing in the very earliest books of the Bible (for those that are interested in such things). Then there’s Levirate marriage, another Biblical tradition, in which a widow is passed on to her brother-in-law if her husband dies before she produces a son. This is the source for the New Testament story where the Sadducees tell Jesus about a woman who was married to seven different brothers, each one of whom died without her giving birth to a son.
And of course, there’s the so-called “traditional” one-man-one-woman marriage, of which there are several varieties. There’s faithful monogamous hetero marriage, and there’s adulterous marriage, and bigamous marriage, and open marriage and serial marriage, not to mention varieties of interracial, interdenominational, multi-ethnic marriages, as well as arranged marriages and marriages of convenience and sham marriages and so on.
And of course there’s also same-sex marriages. So we know of lots of different kinds of marriage. The question is, which one of them now has a different definition as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision? Has the definition of “traditional” one-man-one-woman marriage (and its many variants) been changed? Of course not, which is why conservatives can still declare themselves to be its defenders.
Then has the definition of same-sex marriage changed? No again, which is why conservatives can still declare themselves to be opposed to it.
How about polygamy? Nope. Bigamy? Nope. Arranged marriages? Interracial marriages? Multi-ethnic marriages? Nope, nope and nope. Name any kind of marriage you want, and you’ll find its definition is the same today as it was before the Supreme Court ever sat down. And if every different type of marriage has the same definition it has always had then the definition has not changed.