I copied the image below off the web. I have no idea who these people are, but they appear to be two parents, male and female, and two children presumably belonging to said parents. While their backs are turned there is no reason to believe they aren't all perfectly happy and healthy. The universal response anyone looking at this picture would have - "This is a picture of a family" - reaffirms at its most fundamental level a family is an archetype and requires no one to reach for the dictionary when they see one or hear the word.
In spite of it really needing no definition, the legislature likes to remind us what family really means and this year is no exception. One guesses they do this out of concern some of us see something other than a family in the above picture. Worse yet, the picture or others like it may trigger some kind of liberal Pavlovian response causing some of us to propose "anti-family" policies like universal health care or a living wage law so one parent can support the family and the other can stay home with the kids if they choose.
An archetype is defined by my dictionary as "the original pattern or model for all things of the same type." A child's family is the original and, assuming it is a loving functional family, certainly the best model for the expanding circle of relationships developed over the course of a lifetime. But the archetype is the "original pattern" upon which future patterns are based. It is not the limit or extent of all future patterns.
When I consider those who are part of my family either because of some genetic relationship, by marriage, or simply because there is an emotional bond similar to that found between parent and child or siblings, certainly the archetype the image above represents is not inconsistent with any of these relationships.
How often have we either personally said or heard others say they love someone "like a son/daughter", "mother/father" or a "brother/sister"? Are such strong relationships not to be considered a part of our family if we choose to treat them as such? Why should the Utah legislature care if we do? Certainly there is no real marital or biological bond here. No real mother or father, brother or sister in the original archetypal sense.
For my part my wife and I had a daughter together. In addition, I have someone I have come to love as a son. Both will receive whatever support I can give when needed for the remainder of my life. I worry about both when I know they are struggling or suffering and I miss both when they are absent. Both I consider part of my family.
The fact the law doesn't recognize someone who is "like a son" to me as a son is beside the point. With the recent exception of legislation dealing with gay marriage the definition of family being promoted by the legislature or by town councils and county commissions in recent years are written into non-binding resolutions carrying no more legal weight than my personal choice about how I define my family outside the existing legal framework. In other words, they are both patronizing and irrelevant. They would be worth completely ignoring if they were not also intended to divide people rather than bring them together while diverting attention from more pressing issues.
I find it ironic a state whose predominate religion asks its members to greet each other in fellowship as "brother" or "sister" finds it necessary to also keep passing resolutions and bills premised upon a definition of family which is so narrow. In referring to one another as "brother" or "sister" Mormons and members of other faiths with this same/similar tradition are broadening the meaning of family at least to members of their own denomination if not to humanity at large. While this practice is modeled upon the archetype, the new pattern created is one of greater inclusion.
The resolution the legislature is considering will probably pass. No one wishes to appear "anti-family" and it has no legal effect anyway. It will have no practical effect on people either. Humans are endowed with an incredible amount of freedom and most of us will go about defining and building our families in our own deeply personal and immensely meaningful ways.
But such resolutions are still worth questioning. They enable legislators to claim at election time they have supported the family while real threats to families such as a decline in real wages, growing lack of health insurance coverage and the rising tide of bankruptcy and unemployment are largely ignored. These problems certainly place many families in real distress, often contributing to spousal and child abuse and ultimately to divorce. Perhaps a society that took a more inclusive view of family wouldn't be so willing to sweep such problems under the rug.
Regardless, I for one pity those who see family as simply the archetype and nothing more. Those of us who know it is all of that and much more are well aware what blessings they are missing.