While all of these people are bandying about trying to determine what the definition of marriage should be, they really should look at the definition of another word — equality.
This is obviously a direct analogy to the tendency for people to discuss fetal rights rather than women’s rights in the abortion debate. And although equality is definitely a matter of contention for some people, maybe it would be more helpful to first establish who are “persons,” in the case of the US Constitution, or “people,” in the case of the California constitution. It seems self-evident to many people in this day and age that women and gay people (and black people etc.) are persons under the law, but that doesn’t seem clear, to me at least, in the context of these two debates. The California constitution says
A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws.
It’s not clear whether the ambiguity is in the word “equal” or in the word “person,” but “equal” seems like an easier concept to get my head around than “person,” especially since corporations are often conferred legal protection under the same rubric. It seems like defining what the argument is about would be a good first step to answering these questions, and I’m not sure why we’re leaving it for last.