Consider an alternative version of a recent court ruling: "The court finds and declares that any (here insert category) couple that satisfies all the requirements for marriage under Missouri law, other than (here insert related requirement that offends your personal interpretation of 'equal protection,' e.g., age, propinquity), is legally entitled to a marriage license."
Surely, if a mere judge with a stroke of his pen can flout a physical fact of nature and millennia of agreement in deference to how two people of the same sex say they feel about each other, there is no reason to believe that any requirements for or common understanding of marriage will long exist. "We're cousins / brother and sister / a 20-year-old woman and 14-year-old boy, etc., but we love each other. That's all that matters. We want to be married."
The door has been propped opened wide. Anyone who scoffs at such a progression in the already nebulous and ever-evolving legal understanding of marriage needs to be awakened from his nap. We may think that we can protect the age-old institution with punctuation or qualifying terms, e.g., "marriage" or faux marriage, in referring to these innovative legal/domestic relationships, but Lewis Carroll put his finger on the real issue over a century ago:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that’s all."
Already some bakers and photographers have discovered who the "master" is and that the issue is not only about words.
David O. Berger • Olivette