“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” — Abraham Lincoln
There’s a truth in that statement that many people forget nowadays. In their zeal for a certain cause, they misuse terms and language to promote their point of view, without regard for the actual meaning of those words. Hence, we have “choice” to refer to the killing of an unborn child. (The child is not given any “choice” in the matter.) We have “death with dignity” to refer to suicide. These euphemisms are often used to distract people from what someone is really trying to accomplish.
We have another example of that in this morning’s News-Journal and in the comments on their site about the article. The problem with this article is not so much its blatant lobbying for passage of the non-discrimination bill in the Senate. (Although at what point will the News-Journal admit it’s long since dropped any notion of objectivity in its reporting? And what do those people who think the News-Journal is biased towards conservatives have to say about articles like these?) The main problem I have with this bill is not that it would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; it is, after all, common decency not to discriminate against others for actions that do not affect their work performance. It’s the fact that once this bill does become law, it will almost certainly be used as the basis for a lawsuit arguing that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman violates the terms of the bill, even if the bill explicitly were to state that it required no such action.
This is where the five-legged dog comes in. The basis of this lawsuit will be that the definition of marriage in law, and in practice everywhere in the history of the world until the last decade or so discriminates against same-sex couples. It will be claimed, as we have seen often in the past, that as a man (or woman) is not allowed to marry another man (or woman), the marriage law is discriminatory against same-sex couples.
The idea that the true definition of marriage is discriminatory is incorrect. After all, it treats all people the same under the law. Any two people of the opposite sex, regardless of sexual orientation, can get married. If people choose not exercise this right, that is their choice. So, we’re responding to a false claim of discrimination.
A relationship between two members of the same sex cannot be a marriage, by definition. Calling a relationship between two members of the same sex a “marriage” no more creates an actual marriage than calling a tail a leg gives a dog five legs.
Given that many advocates of redefining marriage argue that it’s necessary to do so in order to handle certain issues like inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Redefining marriage in order to handle these issues is like using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly. After all, both of those issues and others of the same sort can be dealt with narrower, targeted legislation without approaching anything on the scale of creating the legal fiction of same-sex marriage.
So, creating a fictional “marriage” is neither necessary nor honest.
Legislative action creating civil unions would at least be more honest than pretending we can redefine marriage. These would have many of the appearances of a marriage without making the law pretend that it was. The problem with civil unions, though, is that because they look like a marriage, people will mistake them for a marriage. It is hard to believe that couples in civil unions will introduce themselves as “partners” or what-have-you instead of “spouse.” They’ll view themselves as being in a marriage and will refer to it as such.
Marriage is in enough trouble in today’s society without confusing the issue even more.