Part I. The Biological Foundations of Sex
Whether men and women of the same sex have a constitutional—much less a natural—right to marry one another is a problem our Founding Fathers could not have anticipated. There’s a reason for that, but in order to discover it we need to begin our discussion at the beginning, and by that I mean the very beginning.
The origins of life on earth are the province of chemistry or, perhaps, physics, but not biology. Biology assumes that organic life is an ongoing proposition, even in its earliest stages. And in its earliest stages the prime directive for all organisms—from the tiniest amoeba to the largest slug—seems to be: Reproduce before you die.
How did nature provide for the reproduction of its carbon-based life forms? At first the simplest path was mitosis, the spontaneous division of a cellular nucleus into a separate, identical copy of the original cell. This was a quick and easy means of organic reproduction with one big problem: By producing clones of the original cell it left no room for genetic variation and the emergence of different life forms, i.e., evolution. If you want your organism to survive long enough to reproduce itself, you’d better give it a mechanism for adapting to a changing environment. The simplest way to do this is to have it join its nuclei with the nuclei of a different, potentially stronger organism. The challenge is to find a way to attract another organism and have it penetrate your nucleus—or vice versa—without being devoured in the process. Nature would answer this challenge by providing for the sexual differentiation of organisms for the purpose of expanding the genetic profile of offspring. This would make the survival of the offspring—and hence their own ability to reproduce—that much more likely.
Part II. The Genesis of Marriage
The varieties of heterosexual reproduction in nature are vast and wonderful, from the mate-devouring antics of the praying mantis to the bizarre embrace of the cuttlefish, but eventually two trends began to assert themselves in the most advanced species: spontaneity and monogamy.
The most advanced creatures in terms of intelligence and social organization, such as crows, dolphins, certain of the great apes and humans, engaged in sexual intercourse when they felt like it and generally mated with just one sexual partner for life. The biological advantages of such an arrangement are obvious: offspring can be produced year-round rather than just seasonally and the male becomes a reliable partner in the rearing of said offspring. But these advantages came with a downside: sexual spontaneity tended to encourage sexual promiscuity, as in the bonobos of Central Africa and the Hawaiian Islanders of early Polynesia. The tendency toward promiscuity came into conflict with the tendency toward monogamy. The male-dominated human societies tried to solve this problem by creating a culture of strict totems and taboos aimed principally at the suppression of female sexuality but impacting male sexual behavior as well. The most significant and symbolic of these totems was the marriage ceremony, a concept whose origins are shrouded in prehistory but which has survived to the present day.
Part III. The Absurdity of Same-Sex Marriage
The whole point of the concept of marriage is to control the sexual behavior of the human female, and the whole point of controlling the sexual behavior of the human female is to enlist the human male in the care and feeding of the young. Thus the concept of marriage represents a delicate balance between the feminine need to nest and the masculine urge to flee. Without heterosexual intercourse and the possibility of progeny, the very concept of marriage is meaningless. Since two people of the same sex are physically incapable of procreative intercourse, a marriage ceremony between them is an empty charade devoid of its biological, historical and cultural significance. This is not to say that gay and lesbian persons cannot love one another and form lasting relationships. It is merely to say that the phrase ‘same-sex marriage’ is a contradiction in terms.
Part IV. The Absurdity of Marriage Equality
If a concept can be shown to be empty or incoherent, it would be futile and self-defeating to try to fit it into that panoply of concepts that constitutes our map of reality. Such is the case with the concept of ‘marriage equality,’ an incoherent jumble of two totally distinct and unrelated concepts.
As I have shown, the concept of marriage derives its utility from regulating the sexual behavior of the human female, while the concept of equality is much older and broader and derives its primary utility from the acts of weighing and measuring. Equality in a social or political sense is a much more recent invention of 18th-century political philosophy and relies heavily on the theory of natural rights. In a political context, equality simply means that the power of the state is distributed equally among its citizens. And if, with Orwell, we define political power as the ability to make another human being suffer, we can say that political equality means that no citizen can be made to suffer more than another without good reason. What those “good reasons” are is defined in the society’s system of jurisprudence which, in turn, is founded on some theory or other of natural rights. Whether those rights are spelled out explicitly in a constitution or merely implicit in a strongman’s head, there is no sense in which the human institution of marriage can be considered to be a natural right of man. It is not a natural right of man because it is more fundamental than that. It would be as if the Bill of Rights included the right to eat, sleep and breathe. Some human activities are so essential to society and the race that they go without saying, and heterosexual marriage is one of them.
Part V. The Attack on Marriage
The reason why the concept of gay or same-sex marriage is actually an assault on the institution of marriage properly so-called is because it cheapens traditional marriage by elevating it to the status of a right. Traditional marriage is what the philosopher Wittgenstein called a form of life, like worship, kinship, speech and a few others. It is a bedrock category on which all human societies are built. To proffer an alternative definition of marriage that claims to be ‘equal’ and a ‘right’ is to be guilty of what the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle called a category mistake, as when we say that our car, for example, has a mind of its own. In this case, however, it leads us to believe that heterosexual and homosexual marriage are on a par, that the two concepts are of equal clarity and merit, and that the laws and customs that enshrine the one institution ought to enshrine the other. But in order to see that this is not the case, we need only reflect that the Constitution doesn’t define marriage for the same reason it doesn’t define life, liberty, or justice: Because the organic concepts of a society are the foundation upon which its whole system of rights and responsibilities is built, and we tinker with them at our peril. Such is the case with traditional marriage.