I suspect I am not the only one who is curious as to what, exactly, members of the religious right mean when they cry that extending equality to gay and lesbian partners is redefining "traditional marriage."

Which tradition would they most like to uphold? The biblical version? Solomon, we are told in 1 Kings 11, had 700 wives. The medieval version? Marriage for the nobility was more a matter of property and dynastic control than love. Queen Isabella of France, for example, was betrothed to Edward II as an infant and married off (with the church's blessing) at the age of 12. According to John Boswell in his Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, marriage was not even a sacrament until the 12th century. Too ancient? Until the 1970s, women could not apply for credit or enter into many legal contracts without their husbands' consent. That kind of marriage? Of course, until 1967, if you loved someone of a race different from your own, it was illegal in many states to marry.

The fact is that marriage has constantly been redefined and shaped according to societal norms and the understanding of equality. Today, in light of the appalling ruling in California upholding Proposition 8, we see that equality does not exist for gay and lesbian persons, and that discrimination and tyranny of the majority do.

James F. Davis

Gulph Mills