Neither "Gay" Nor "Marriage"

Peter Hitchens, writing in The Spectator last March, asked why we should be concerned with stopping several thousand homosexuals from getting married when heterosexual marriage is so threatened by dysfunction and divorce.  The social conservatives’ obsession with the subject is, he argued, simply “a stupid distraction from the main war,” like the battle of Stalingrad.  Hitchens concluded that, anyhow, “There is no important difference between a civil partnership and a civil marriage, and changing the name will alter nothing substantial.”

Recently, I reviewed a book about George Orwell, the author of which imagines that for the past 62 years Western intellectuals have been preoccupied with the question “What would Orwell have done (or said)?” in any given situation.  I am not one of those people.  Indeed, I had been unaware that they existed.  In the case of Peter Hitchens’ article, however, I was moved to consider the writer’s forgetfulness of Orwell’s well-known remark about people losing their freedom when words lose their meaning.  And it occurred to me also that Hitchens’ failure to recognize fundamental distinctions of category is similar to that of Henry VIII, which led to all sorts of unpleasant theological and political consequences and explains why the English equivalent of the more or...

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