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E. J. Graff Responds with a Question



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E. J. says we agree that gay marriage in some nontrivial way disconnects marriage, sex, and diapers. It reduces the connection between marriage and its erstwhile chief public purpose: regulating responsible procreation.

She then offers me a spot at the American Prospect if I’m willing to answer her compound question:

1. Why do I focus on something that affects 1.5 percent of the population, while

2. Ignoring what she thinks is the main thing that disconnects sex and diapers: legal contraception.

I don’t know if she thought the capacity to write on American Prospect was some kind of inducement. But I’m happy to answer her question here, where I blog, on the Corner.

I could say she’s already answered the first question. If gay marriage changes marriage in some nontrivial way, that further disconnects it from its core (in my view) public mission of connecting children to their moms and dad, it’s worth standing up to and against.

I would add, 1.5 percent is a vast overestimate. Maybe half of gay people are coupled. Maybe 10 or 15 percent of those couples will enter a legal union. At least half of those unions will dissolve. The proportion of the population that will be directly (i.e. nonsymbolically or institutionally) affected by gay marriage is incredibly minuscule in my view. (For the footnotes see Debating Same-Sex Marriage.)

#more#A society that is serious about marriage would gently stand up to gay people and say “not this, not now.” Changes in law are hard to undo, once they are institutionalized. I did not decide to debate gay marriage, gay-marriage advocates did. I responded to the challenge. We are making a decision about how serious we are about trying to strengthen marriage as a social institution dedicated to connecting sex, babies, moms, and dads. If we allow gay marriage, the answer is “not very serious” or perhaps “we don’t care at all any more.”

That’s why I oppose gay marriage.

Turning to the second question, why not oppose legal contraception as the most important disconnect between marriage, sex, and babies?

I don’t think it is the most important disconnect. And I say that as an orthodox Catholic who accepts the Church’s teachings on contraception. I have no reason to expect E. J. to have read my first book or my last. But the point I am making from both data and personal experience, is that people who say contraceptives have severed the link between sex and babies are just fooling themselves. Forty-two percent of babies are born out of wedlock, the majority not planned. A woman who uses contraceptives that are 95 percent effective starting at the age of 18 and marrying at the age of 28 has a 40 percent chance of getting pregnant at least once. Three-quarters of births today are unplanned by at least one of their parents.

Sex makes babies. It does so much less often if people use contraceptives, but not nearly often enough for any decent human being to judge the procreative consequences of sex morally unimportant.  

What happened in our culture was that when the promise of contraception that launched the sexual revolution failed — abortion was quickly legalized to clean up the mess.

Abortion severs the link between sex and babies by severing the babies.

E. J., I’m not opposed to blogging with you on the American Prospect. You just don’t need to offer that to get me to answer your question. I believe you have my e-mail, too.



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