A New Hampshire man has attracted support for his online petition to have the word "marriage" changed from its traditional definition of a union between one man and one woman to also include same-sex couples, which he says would strengthen legal arguments for gay marriage.
Mike Raven posted his argument directly challenging Dictionary.com, entitled "Dictionary.com: Correct the definition of marriage," on the petition website Change.org. So far, Raven's petition has received 7,630; his goal is to attract 10,000 signatures.
Raven writes that he posted the petition after seeing his lesbian twin sister's reaction to the North Carolina amendment, passed in May, which continues to make same-sex marriage illegal in the state.
"I define marriage as two consenting adults, entering into a life-long relationship as husband and wife, husband and husband, or wife and wife, based on love and commitment," Raven wrote on the petition's information page.
"I started this campaign, in part, from my love and fascination with words; in greater part, from my frustration that the fight for marriage equality is still going on; and most of all, from the love I have for my twin sister," he added.
Raven argues that the problem with "marriage" lies in the most basic source -- the definition of the word -- and therefore calls upon Dictionary.com to change the definition.
"If this whole argument comes down to an intangible definition of marriage, then it's time for that definition to change," he says.
"But how could correcting the definition create the positive change we wish to see in the world? By correcting the definition, we could affect legal arguments. We could affect naysayer's perception. We could raise awareness in a positive way and reinvigorate the energy of those who'd like to see a different, better world," he adds.
The effectiveness of Raven's petition was unclear, as Dictionary.com and also Merriam-Webster already include same-sex couples in their "marriage" definitions.
Merriam-Webster defines marriage as "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law." It also adds: "the state of being united to a person of the same-sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage."
Dictionary.com's first definition of marriage is "the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.," while its second definition is "a similar institution involving partners of the same gender: gay marriage."
In their opinion piece for The Baltimore Sun, Frank O'Keefe and Perry Hall argue that "the word marriage matters."
"Traditionally, marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman, and in that traditional definition, the biological difference of the two sexes figures prominently," the opinion piece reads, first noting that "in accepting same-sex marriage, we must of necessity be willing to re-define something that has a long tradition in many human cultures."
"The wider significance of the traditional definition is that [it] is also impossible for two people of the same sex to conceive a child as a direct, biological result of their relationship. While it is true that, like heterosexuals who cannot conceive, they may adopt, or be artificially inseminated, they can never parent their own natural children in the normal sense," the authors add.
The argument among many Christians who oppose same-sex marriage is that the Bible describes homosexuality as sin, and presents marriage as an institution ordained by God to include one man and one man for the purpose of procreation.
Discussions over same-sex marriage have increased in recent weeks after President Barack Obama stated on May 9 that he supports same-sex marriage.
Federally, marriage continues to mean the legal union between a man and a woman. Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage.