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That Tail Ain't a Leg

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Recently, Steven Spielberg released his award-winning film Lincoln. In one scene, Lincoln saunters into the War Room and has one of those conversations, mixing philosophy with his thoughtful wit, with two young men.


Lincoln asks them if they ever studied Euclid and then dives into his point:

Euclid's first common notion is this: “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning. It’s true because it works. Has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is self-evident. You see, there it is. Even in that 2,000 year old book of mechanical law, it is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

There’s a lesson here for us as we consider the subject of marriage in light of this week’s commemoration of both Lincoln’s birthday and National Marriage Week.

Lincoln was proving that slaves, by their nature and their very humanity, were indeed equal to free men, not living property. What made them slaves was not that they were not human. What made them slaves was that they were captured and called slaves. In every other respect, in every other characteristic, they were human.

Lincoln asked, “If I call a tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have? Five? No, just four. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it so.” In the same, way, calling a human a slave doesn’t make him less human, even if he is treated less humanely.

Lincoln used this illustration to make the point that unilaterally and arbitrarily redefining words doesn’t change reality. You might succeed at fooling a few for awhile, but eventually someone is going catch on and call out the deception.


Today, homosexual activists have tried to co-opt the allusion to slavery to advance their demand to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Nice try, but if Lincoln were chiming in, he would undoubtedly bring up Euclid. A union of two men or two women is not the same as the union of one man and one woman, and all the rhetorical sleights of hand can’t change that biological and social reality.

It’s one of those “self-evident truths” Lincoln referenced. It’s true because thousands of years of science and social history tell us so. Basic biology easily dispels the notion that such a contrived union can’t even approximate the distinct nature and function of the only true definition of marriage—the joining of one man, one woman.

Only the union of a man and woman has the complementary features of nature that cannot be replicated any other way. Only a man and woman can procreate, same-sex couples, naturally, cannot.

Fiction has to yield to truth—there is only one definition of marriage.

So, this year, as we celebrate the life of the Great Liberator, let’s remind those advocating a redefinition of marriage that “that tail ain’t a leg.”

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