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A presumptuous phrase: Responsible procreation

December 6, 2010 |  2:04 pm

It's always teeth-gritting time when the debate over same-sex marriage turns to the words "responsible procreation," a phrase that I used to think meant not having children without the ability and commitment to care for them well. It was about pureed peas, not whether your relationship was with a person of the same or opposite gender.

Yet, as illogical as the argument about procreation always seems, it of course came up again Monday in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as the defenders of Proposition 8 sought to argue that society has a valid basis for regulating which adults can marry because marriage exists for the purpose of responsible procreation and the rearing of children by their biological parents.

If that's the purpose, why on earth do we let people marry who have no interest in having children? How can we let the elderly marry, or people with infertility problems? Why do we let people who aren't ready for responsible child-rearing give up their children for adoption, and why do we let couples who have all the desire and ability for children adopt them, and why do we let inattentive parents get married?

One could almost feel sympathy for the lawyers defending Proposition 8 -- that they have so little else on which to base their arguments than a view of families so rigid and narrow that while it insults same-sex couples, it also puts down blended families, adoptive couples, married-but-childless couples and people who find love late in life.

-- Karin Klein

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