Unisexual Marriage—Philosophical Musings Over an Oxymoron

by Michael Zebulon (May 2013)

“If we take a horse’s tail and call it a leg, how many legs will the horse then have?
“The correct answer is four.
“You see, gentlemen,” Mr Lincoln went on to say…
“…you can call a horse’s tail a ‘leg.’ 
“But that does not make it a leg.”
-- Traditional        

What is it, precisely, about same-sex marriage that fails the smell test?

Easy. It isn’t marriage. Can’t be. The very nature of a single-gender relationship is non-marital. I’m not talking here about law. The history of the legal process in this country as much as anywhere else makes it amply clear that any attempt can be made to manipulate law to justify any­thing. What I’m talking about is the essence of the matrimonial proposition, not the presumptive legalities of it. All-the-same though, before we address marriage’s essence, a brief look at its legality may at least help to set the table.

As things presently stand—and until now, have always stood (wherever sanity remains a value)—anybody, of whatsoever sexual polarity or proclivity, has the same basic right to marry a person of opposite gender that anybody else (of whatsoever other erotic predisposition or carnal compulsion) has to marry someone of opposite gender. Conversely, it's JUST AS ILLEGAL for a “straight” person to 'marry' someone of the same sex as it is for a homosexual person to do so. Where then is the 'inequality' to persons? Identify it, please, for us hopelessly slow-witted types.

If a bicycle is my primary means of personal transportation, does it constitute an unjust ‘discrimination’ against bicyclists to prohibit me from riding my bicycle on the freeway-turnpike —where the driving of motor vehicles is permitted? Is the law unfair if it forbids me to ride the bicycle on the sidewalk—where, after all, pedestrians are allowed? Maybe a pedestrian, in turn, should have the same right—an ‘equal’ right, as it were—to move about freely on the Interstate that the operator of an eighteen-wheeler does? (“Equal protection,” right?)

At what point do we “call the game"?

Look, this isn't complicated: If you want to exercise the same rights as others to the matrimonial institution, then you must likewise be prepared to observe the same obligations in that regard as those others you so envy—by conforming yourself to the institution’s essential parameters. You don’t get to make up the rules of the game as you play it. Marriage has its own existence: with its own elemental—and inherent—contours. You match your behavior to those contours or you don’t get to play. 

YOU CAN’T BE WEDDED to your Aunt or Uncle—no matter how “hot” or simpatico you may find that person. You can't be wedded to your mother—even though you love her and she loves you. You can't be wedded to your wife's mother (not while you're married to the daughter). You can't be married to your child’s school hockey team. Or to a hockey puck—even if there cannot be found any “rational basis” for denying you the permanent and enduring societal validation of your relationship with said puck (OR with said team). You can't be wedded to the family Schnauzer. You can't be wedded to the back end of a vintage Buick. Parameters. 

Individuals are entitled to equal treatment. Relationships, on the other hand, are not—because not all relationships are equal. Non-marital relationships are not the equal of marital ones—and calling them marital won’t change that fact. The tactical resort by homosexual activists to piggybacking the civil rights argument—viz., in order to appropriate it unto their own case as an analogical vehicle—is bogus. It is hollow. It is presumptuous. It is disingenuous.

And, frankly, it’s downright cheap: as it trivializes and insults, by association, the historic, and justly hallowed, black civil rights struggle against Jim Crow. (And such unseemly overreaching will ultimately backfire socially on its richly deserving perpetrators.) What’s more, nobody knows better than the black community itself just how much of a travesty (dare I say, how much of a perversion?) is this shamelessly mocking attempt to masquerade the homosexual assault on marriage as a ‘civil right’ in the first place.

That observation was concretely affirmed, and most glaringly illustrated in 2008 by the more-than-robust, 70-percent endorsement received that November from black Californians by the Golden State’s "traditional-marriage" Ballot-Measure-qua-proposed-state-Constitutional-Amendment, Proposition 8 - an enormously higher response, one notes, than the still solidly majoritarian support that came from the general population [52.3 percent] in passing the measure. (And the most ferociously contorted attempts by homosexual activists to explain away those numbers fell miserably flat on their face.)

Even at their artificial, bigoted, ill-informed, and misbegotten worst, the laws formerly prohibiting interracial marriage, miscegenation, and other aspects of racial integration left, nevertheless, untouched the essence of marriage itself. The old anti-miscegenation statutes did not EVER presume to suggest that black persons could not, in the nature of things, be constituently married (or ‘bred’) to non-black persons—only that they “must” not. Unlike as in the present, thoroughly dishonest campaign, the structure and definition of matrimony were never under attack during the era of Jim Crow, even as indeed access to the establishment of marriage was arbitrarily constrained.2

There is no such thing as a ‘civil right’ to dissolve the parametric, organic structure of a preexisting and legitimate—indeed basic and universal—institution; nor a metaphysically sound justification for associating a discussion of the goals of such an overweening assault together in the same sentence with the word, “right.” Quite the contrary: there is something dreadfully wrong about it.

And posturing aside, Ladies & Gentlemen, everybody knows it.

Make no mistake about this: We are looking down the business end of an outright—and ongoing—seige here. Though, of course, the courts don’t have to concern themselves with things like that. They have the luxury of being able to ignore such considerations.

But as to why a marital requirement like gender difference exists in the first place—and why it has clearly stood the test of time throughout all eras, cultures, and civilizations for six millennia of recorded history—let us understand this much:

At its core, marriage is not about procreation or child rearing.  

At its core, it's not about passion or desire either.

At its core, it's not about companionship or caring. 

It’s not about contractual sharing of intimacies, or joint shielding of confidences.

It’s not even about two parties existing as mutual witnesses to each other’s lives. 

And, no, friends & neighbors, it’s not about obtaining ‘spousal’ medical insurance coverage, Social Security survivor payments, joint tax-filing privileges, powers-of-attorney, rights to inheritance, hospital visitation, or a truckload of other state & federal swag tchatchkes either.

Though the matrimonial relation may—and often does—entail or encourage, in various admixtures, any or all of those features (and more), none of those things is a sine qua non to marriage; none of those things—valuable, comforting, or otherwise desirable though any of them might be—is essential, integral, or finally indispensable to marriage. None of those features or benefits indeed is what makes a match a marriage—and whose absence would leave the relationship, in ultimate reality, no marriage at all. In fact, if any or all of those things did constitute the essence of marriage, then the institution would come down to nothing more, or less, than mutual use. And marriage is not about use (mutual or otherwise). Not really. Not at its core.  Not if it actually is marriage.

Most primarily—and whether consciously so perceived or not—marriage is about reconciling differences:  the most universal and bedrock differences our species can know. That is its first—and finally irreducible—function.



In its generic sense  (I’m not speaking here in purely relativistic, sociological terms, but rather, in semantic and linguistic ones), the common verb, "to marry," means more than simply to unite. It presupposes, in a manner of speaking, a fusing or melding of two diverse varieties:  e.g., of two different fluids, like oil and water—which, unmodified, could not be successfully united, could not harmoniously or safely operate together—precisely because of their disparate natures. Hence, where advisable to facilitate their coexistence, the need to marry them to each other—as, for example (and not to be pursuing too fine a point for the analogy), in a colloidal suspension.

The ultimate dividing line pertaining to humanity—and running clear through the middle of it:  its fundamental tectonic rift, if you will—is the one which separates the genders, and with them, the (often-subtly) differing perspectives and priorities that the physical (and meta-physical) distinction between the sexes inevitably creates.

The line of separation is not one that any of us ever ‘chose.’ It was already here, as it were: awaiting each-and-every-one of us upon his/her entry into this life, and it will remain behind —to confront all successive new arrivals—well after each of us has long-since exited it. For as long as we each have sojourned here, indeed for all of humankind from time-out-of-mind, the presence of that rift has generated (if not promoted) ceaseless conflict between the sexes, as well as—attendant upon their association—a running subtext of (usually less than altogether conscious) tension.

The establishment of marriage is, and has always been, a formal framework within which men and women may, if they so resolve and persist, work out on a personal level the great and ancient (and unavoidable) enmity that has always existed between the sexes because of those divergent perspectives; and, moreover, do so in a manner as to preserve inviolate—through a judicious modification—the elemental and intrinsic character of both genders, while providing intergenerational continuity for the civilized resolution of that ongoing struggle in the event that—as is typically (though not necessarily) the case—progeny may issue.

That is the essence of the thing. All the rest of marriage is, strictly-speaking, peripheral to this singular, central purpose—and either consequential to, or facilitative toward (and supportive of), its expedited functioning. Ultimately this is the most fundamental reason WHY there is no such thing as a 'marriage' between members of the same gender. The very specific, and entirely unique, kind of partnership that marriage represents has absolutely no potential (at any level) for resolving the War-Between-the-Sexes where only one of the sexes is present and represented.

And whomsoever two members of the same gender may 'choose to love' is supremely irrelevant in this regard. Whatever else the latter arrangement may amount to, it cannot rightly be called 'marriage'—of any sort. And no amount of collateral tweaking, tickling, or torquing of the language will cancel that abiding fact. Characterising a horse’s tail as a “leg” won’t make it a leg—except in the chillingly unfunny world of an Orwell, a Kafka, or maybe a Lewis Carroll on a really bad day. 

Where there is no gender rift, there is no core gender conflict (other conflicts, no doubt, in the course of things; but no intrinsic gender conflict)—and hence, no gender BRIDGE is therein required.  Marriage is that bridge.

What’s more, anybody who tells you the War-Between-the-Sexes is some species of fable, myth, or fairy tale either

  1. knows better—and is humoring you;  or
  2. doesn’t know any better—since he/she has simply never learned to pay attention to such matters;  or
  3. [Sorry, but with all due respect, there is no “C” option—all you get is “A” or “B.”  The War's deniers are either pulling your leg or they’re clueless—game over, end of discussion, please leave seat down upon exiting stall, have a nice day.]

The War is actual, it is significant, it is everlasting. It may not always be as conscious as one might assume such weighty categories of phenomena to be—but quite real it is, all-the-same. And it’s why marriage exists. Why marriage has to exist.

Are there social, societal and economic advantages to be derived from being married? Certainly. (Also disadvantages.) 

But this does not of itself mean that refusing to countenance the ‘marrying’ of two men to each other, or two women to each other, constitutes ‘unjust’ discrimination against homosexual persons or their same-sex liaisons—unless of course one subscribes to the downright goofy notion that what used to be quaintly designated “Holy Matrimony” amounts to nothing more than an amorphous entity: a blank slate, a Great Nothing, sohu va-vohu [“unformed and void”], possessed of no inherent structure or character, and into which, therefore, anybody can pour anything he/she damned-well pleases—and, moreover, that, given the consequently infinite, play-dough, silly-putty possibilities of the Magnificent Marital Marshmallow, the State may properly and justly be employed to tailor the parameters of said Marshmallow to suit the whimsy or personal pathology of any and all couplings—not to say, triplings (et sequentia)—that come forward to present themselves for its blessing.

If that’s what ‘marriage’ is about—and if indeed that’s what the State is about—then, yes, absolutely: California’s Proposition 8 (ruling out ‘same-sex marriage’) is unjustly—and inexcusably—discriminatory.

But, then, why call the institution by the name composed of the specific collection of sounds that make up the word, “marriage,” anyway?—instead of, say, marinara or marzipan or macarena or macaroni?  (Ah, yes—of course: those things do have parameters; aye, there’s the rub.)

It’s worth noting that besides the people of California—which have now voted two-out-of-two times, the first instance, thirteen years ago and by a landslide, and again in 2008 in a much more difficult effort as a constitutional amendment—to not legalize the ‘marriage’ of same-gender persons, the electorates of at least 31 other states: constituting the great bulk of the American voting populace—have also recognized the danger posed to the matrimonial institution by assaults like the present insidious and contemptuous attack, and have, via comparable ballot initiative, passed similar Marriage Protection Amendments to their own state constitutions—and by overwhelming majorities, averaging a massive 71 percent.

It is a fact, of course, that the citizenry of all states in the union conceded the wisdom—some years ago, and quite aptly—of removing from the purview of criminal law the question of homosexual liaisons (as such) as a prosecutable offense.3 But that same citizenry will never confer HONOR upon them. Not even with the sanction and ersatz ‘validation’ of a high-handed, social engineering, imperial judiciary with a post-infantile fixation for tinker toys, erector sets, and legos—or even on the say-so of the occasional, aberrant, state legislature firmly ensconced in the pocket of well-heeled (and otherwise “resourceful”) and “appreciative” friends. 

Nor, I venture to say, will the American people accord honor to such indulgences under pressure of any other external compulsion either. WHY not?—Because honor presumes more than the simple tolerance which decriminalization has already created (or set in motion): Honor presumes heartfelt acceptance and legitimacy.

And while tolerance can be demanded—for that which is not (or is no longer) ‘criminal’—you cannot similarly, and within the very nature of things, ‘demand’ acceptance. There is simply no way that any force on this earth (with or without the assistance of the State, or any of its branches, arms, or agencies) can, as a matter of practical reality, compel acceptance—because acceptance, at its root and by its very character, is wholly volitional. It’s not, in its essence, subject to any sort of constraint or command—physical or metaphysical. THAT’s why the citizenry will never confer honor upon homosexual unions.

Acceptance, whenever it is given, is always given freely—or not at all.  (It may be given imprudently, but in its fundamental nature, it cannot be given other than freely.) That is to say, even ‘grudging acceptance’ is an oxymoron: a contradiction-in-terms—a ‘kosher pork chop’—not to be found in the real world (of today or of tomorrow). If ‘acceptance’ is less than genuine, then it is not acceptance. If acceptance is genuine, then neither the State nor anything else can prevent it—marriage or no-marriage. 

But the inescapable truth is that homosexual ‘acceptance’ has no more place within the bailiwick of civil law than homosexual behavior has within the province of criminal jurisprudence.

Nor is there any such thing as a ‘right’ to acceptance; just as there is no such thing as a horse whose tail can be made, by simple declaration, to metamorphose into a fifth leg; any more than there is such a thing as a ‘marriage’ of two sexually identical individuals—or a constituently non-marital pairing that can be rendered ‘marital’ by the mere incantations of a magistrate, or by the preposterous fantasies of the walking wounded, or (for that matter) by the fixed bayonets of a Marine Brigade. 

Enough already,” they must be told—“get over it. And get over yourselves. Be content with tolerance.” 

Because if (as seems to be the case) it is ultimately acceptance and legitimacy: viz., honor—and not merely the common courtesy that is naturally embraced by basic tolerance—which  these calculating activists are really seeking for said relationships, then they are certain to be forever disappointed. Those other things—which, given the circumstances, effectively demand that the rest of us abandon the freedom of our own consciences, or behave as if we did (assuming that were even possible)—aren’t on the table.

And aren’t ever going to be on the table. Not in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And even if those other things were real possibilities, the truth is that even such “legitimacy” and “acceptance”—followed by the inevitable promotion (of the ‘option’), and then persecution (of the uncooperative) that would most surely ensue—could never produce the will-o’-the-wisp of dignity which the confirmed and practicing, non-(self-)questioning homosexual persistently craves, but which seems eternally to elude him (her); no matter what he does.

What’s more, those deluded “straight” types whose dazed-and-confused, misdirected-and-misbegotten sense of loyalty—to their deeply scarred, homosexual friends and/or homosexual family members—leads them to blindly concede or endorse the latter’s stated or presumed demands (like the mockery of ‘same-sex marriage’ or any other part of The Grotesque Agenda) are doing their own intellectual and moral integrity no service by such desperate and fawning patronizing. 

Indeed the dignity also of these “straight” supporters of the homosexual-activist desiderata will in time (perhaps sooner than later) pay a heavy price in the compounded contempt of even those sexually compulsive souls by whom it thinks to stand foursquare. Support will not (because it cannot) cure the homosexual’s problem—any more than bandaging an uncleaned wound will (or can) facilitate its healing. Quite the contrary, it will expedite its festering. And dignity will remain perpetually at arm’s length. Dignity is a faithful dog, who knows his master: knows him well, and never wanders far from him. He delights to walk at heel, but he won’t be leashed—and he won’t be pursued either. If you try chasing after Dignity, he’ll simply assume you’re playing with him, and will always outrun you, keeping himself ever—maddeningly ever—just out of reach.

Even as acceptance is never given other than freely—just so, dignity is never conferred other than inwardly. It never comes from without, but always—and only—from within. It is the natural, inevitable, downright inescapable by-product of a clear but diligent conscience—and nothing else.

Not even “marriage.”

Michael Zebulon, was once the youngest Eagle Scout on the eastern seaboard, but has lived most of the succeeding half-century on the “other” coast. He passed a genial 18 months in a controlled environment [1969-70] as a guest of the Federal government after courteously, albeit resolutely & impenitently, declining its gracious proposal of conscription in a questionable cause. (The prison system is still recovering.) Your affable author is an actor, a narrator and, as the spirit moves, a writer. He is still an Eagle Scout—there are no ‘former’ ones—but is no longer the youngest (on either shore, or anywhere across the fruited plain between).

Still, if you don’t hold that against him (or even if you do), you may contact him at:  [email protected].

[1]  Prop. 8 added the following text to Art. I, sec. 7.5 of the California Constitution:  “Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in California.” The proposition effectively prohibited same-gender couples from calling themselves “married” under California law, yet did not affect any substantive rights. Unisex couples can still file joint state tax returns, adopt children, and enjoy other marital benefits under the California domestic partnership law. (Whether, as couples, they should be able to exercise such privileges, and whether that state domestic partnership law is worthwhile, is, of course, another question altogether.)  

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to  rule—in June or July of this year—not only on Hollingsworth v. Perry (a challenge to the constitutionality of Prop. 8), but also on U.S. v Windsor, a challenge to “DOMA”:  the 1996 U.S. Defense of Marriage Act. The latter denies federal recognition to those unisexual unions which have been recognized by nine states as “marriages”; that legislation also relieves those states not recognizing such “marriages” of the otherwise usual obligation of states under the U.S. Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit Clause" (Art. IV, sec. 1) to extend such recognition.

[2]  The few remaining state anti-miscegenation statutes were struck down in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia [388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010, 1967 U.S. 1082] http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-stone/equality-and-the-constitution/loving-v-virginia-4/

[3]  Ultimately confirmed and memorialized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

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