The Corner

Answering the Question, Again, Patiently

How does same-sex marriage affect marriage’s relationship to procreation, given that infertiles couple may marry? A reader writes to me: “I have yet to hear a satisfying explanation for why same-sex couples must be excluded from the institution of marriage, but infertile couples or couples that are legally incapable of having children (e.g. incarceration) should not be excluded.”

Here is my answer, yet again, patiently:

Dear [Name Redacted]:

I have made this argument repeatedly.  I understand you either disagree with it or can’t hear it.

Childless and older couples are part of the natural lifecycle of marriage.  Their presence in the mix doesn’t imply anything about the relationship between marriage and procreation. They’ve always been there.

I went around saying for years “marriage matters because children need a mom and a dad.” Nobody ever said: that’s not true because infertile couples can marry. Never, not once. Sexual union of male and female who are co-parents in itself points to affirms, and regulates an ideal.

Whereas two men, if married, clearly clearly state that either the ideal for a child is not a mom and a dad or that marriage has nothing important or integral to do with that ideal.  When anyone says children need a mom and dad now, the response is a powerful rejection from gay marriage advocates:  that’s a discriminatory idea that has been disproved by science.  The logic of marriage equality has a real cultural force.

I think that is playing out in the rapid abandonment of the idea that marriage is related to children among the young.  I can’t prove it because cultural logic while a powerful force is hard to translate into social science evidence.

I can provide evidence but not proof.

If we cared seriously about marriage’s role in regulating childbearing, we would not be disrupting this norm on behalf of the maybe one-half of one percent of the population (and that is generous) who wants to enter this institution.  It cannot remain the same institution, as many gay marriage scholars have acknowledged, any more than a boy’s school can admit girls and remain a boy’s school.

Marriage equality is going to be used primarily to enforce the new moral norm: no differences between straight and gay can matter.  Or as Think Progress put it recently “At a basic level, it’s logically impossible to say that heterosexuality is better — or should be the norm — compared to homosexuality without simultaneously stating that homosexuality is worse — or abnormal. Either all people are equal in society or they are not; she cannot have her straights-only wedding cake and eat it stigma-free.”

It is possible to affirm an ideal without stigmatizing the alternatives–to affirm in the positive without pushing the negative.  But gay marriage advocates insist that any affirmation of the ideal represents a denigration of them, no matter how expressed.

We see it happening all around us while you say you cannot see it at all. Hmm, interesting.  why do you think that’s so?

If I weren’t curious I would be crushed.  So that’s a real question not a snarky comeback.

Thanks for writing to me. 



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