Dictionaries Redefine 'Marriage' in Wake of British Gay Marriage Legislation

Several English dictionaries have changed their definition of "marriage" to include same-sex couples following the passage of legislation that allows gay couples to wed in England and Wales.

The Macmillan Dictionary now defines marriage as "the relationship between two people who are husband and wife, or a similar relationship between people of the same sex."

"In broadening the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions, the dictionary is simply reflecting a change in the way the word is used," said Michael Rundell, editor-in-chief of the Macmillan Dictionary, in a press release. He added, "It's important to recognize that there is more to updating a dictionary than adding new vocabulary – though we have plenty of that, too."

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Rundell says the definitions of "husband" and "wife" may change in the future as well.

"In a same sex relationship two men are probably not going to refer to themselves as 'wife', but if it's two women, they might, so we need to keep an eye on that," he said, according to The Guardian.

The Oxford English Dictionary and the Collins English Dictionary have also recently made changes to their definitions of marriage, according to Gay Star News, and the changes have been met with mixed reactions.

"Score! #EqualMarriage," said one Twitter user.

"Macmillan Dictionary have redefined marriage. Sorry, but UK law is not enough to change the order of Creation and the way we normally speak," tweeted Roman Catholic Bishop Charles J. Scicluna.

The law allowing same-sex marriages and civil unions to be performed in England and Wales was approved by parliament and Queen Elizabeth II in mid July. Gay couples will be able to get married there starting in the summer of 2014.

A spokesperson for The Christian Institute, a U.K. charity that is "committed to upholding the truths of the Bible," indicated in an email to The Christian Post that changes to the legal definition of marriage are making a significant impact on society.

"We always warned redefining marriage in law would twist language and alter people's understanding of key words like 'husband' and 'wife'," the spokesperson wrote. "Here in the UK, there is already talk of multiple-partner relationships as the next step. This issue affects everyone, because it shapes society's view of human relationships and family life. Words matter. Definitions matter. Marriage matters."

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