Of Tomatoes and Same-Sex Marriage

The battle is almost won for proponents of same-sex marriage and those in the country who have accepted the issue as one of civil rights and the rest that just want to go-along-to-get-along.

How do I know?  Tomatoes.  You see, in spite of the biological and English definitions of fruits and vegetables, the Supreme Court decided that tomatoes are a vegetable in 1893.  The argument began because of tariffs on imports and the defendant in the case wanted to recoup ten years of tariffs paid on the tomatoes he had imported.

Nix v. Hedden, docket number 149 U.S. 304; 13 S. Ct. 881; 37L. Ed. 745; 1893 U.S. Lexis 2303, or something like that.  I don’t have a clue how they code Supreme Court cases but these are the numbers attached if you’d care to ‘Google’ the case.

Justice Gray delivered the opinion of the Court.  He qualified his opinion as follows; “The single question in this case is whether tomatoes, considered as provisions, are to be classed as “vegetables” or as ‘fruit,” within the meaning of the Tariff Act of 1883.”  You see, the decision was based on taxes, and this was before there was an income tax in the United States.  Tariffs were one of the ways to collect money to support the government.  Herein lies the crux of my current argument, but let’s take a look as some more qualifying comments from Justice Gray first.

From the dictionaries of the time, Justice Gray said, “…define the word “fruit” as the seed of plants, or that part of plants which contains the seed… have no tendency to show that tomatoes are “fruit” as distinguished from “vegetables,” in common speech or within the meaning of the Tariff Act.” So, the uses of English language to define fruits didn’t hold sway in the Court’s decision.

“Botanically speaking,” (here Justice Gray cites science) “tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables, which are grown in kitchen gardens,” So the Justice ‘tossed’ (pun intended) science’s biological definition as well.

Judge Gray finished his comments with this sentence.  “Beyond the common knowledge which we have on this subject, very little evidence is necessary, or can be produced.”  The educated and experienced Supreme Court Justices, men familiar with (we shall assume) sciences of the day, men who were educated in some of the finest institutions in our nation at the time (we could demonstrate through further research), decided instead that it would be the ‘common man’s’ definition by the means he used the tomato that would define how it would be considered for the collection of taxes.

And in this deferral to the common usage and the reasons under which the question was raised we can see how a Supreme Court decision might come about on the question of same-sex marriage.

– science and biology, what proponents call ‘the plumbing argument’ will not have an effect.

– 14,000 years of practice by the human race will not have any bearing on a decision

– English may have some bearing, as dictionary.com has included same-sex unions in its definition now;

mar·riage  [mar-ij] noun

1. a legally, religiously, or socially sanctioned union of persons who commit to one another, forming a familial and economic bond: Anthropologists say that some type of marriage has been found in every society, past and present.

2.a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.

b.  a similar institution involving partners of the same gender, as in gay marriage; same-sex marriage .

(www.dictionary.com; subject word ‘marriage’ searched and downloaded 8-22-13)

– The Abrahamic religions, Judaism (orthodox sects), Christianity (orthodox sects), and Islam, still officially hold to definitions similar to (1) and (2a) above according to their scriptures.  This will have little effect due to the current arguments on the U.S. Constitution’s separation of Church and State.

– The common understanding of the word ‘marriage’, at least to 49% of the population and 85% of the population under age thirty in the U.S., and in Western society in general is that of (2b) above.

– Those cases coming before the Supreme Court and traveling through the court systems towards the same end have to do with the taxation and the distribution and access to assets of same-sex couplings.  And herein is the greatest interest of the government.

The case for same-sex marriage is a case of tomatoes.  The U.S. Supreme Court will make the decision based on how the result will distribute wealth in whatever form it takes, and that will allow the government to collect revenue according to that same distribution.

Ref: Nix v Hedden; http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/149/304/case.html

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