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A presumptuous phrase: Responsible procreation

gay marriageninth circuitproposition 8same sex marriage

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


Comments () | Archives (21)

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Mitchell Young

The law makes arbitrary distinctions all the time which may been unjust for outlying cases. There are sixteen year olds out there who could purchase and consume alcohol with no adverse affects to themselves or society, yet we insist on the 21 year age limit. There are people who could snort coke after work every night and still be productive members of society, but we totally outlaw that drug. Arbitrariness is inherent in law.

With real marriage of any sort, at least the form is preserved, even in the case of the elderly. And being that it is congruent in form, even the marriage of the elderly reinforces the importance of a societal institution that is primarily for channeling sexual energy in a way that reproduces the society. (But let's face it, a marriage of potentially fertile people is much more celebrated even by family and friends). Unlike any of the cases mentioned. A homosexual union totally negates the biological aspect of marriage.

And I can't be the only one who knows, personally, couples who weren't interested in children who found themselves with one or more, to their great delight in the long run. That can *only* happen in a real marriage.


Sure. Society as a whole makes proactive decisions to avoid harm: it makes sense to us all. But there has to be a potential harm in the first place: I have seen NO convincing argument about how gay marriage is harmful, in any way. None. Niet. Nada. Every single argument has been debunked, over and over again.

So unless someone can convincingly show that harm will/could potentially ensue of gay marriage, it's not responsibly avoiding a threat or preventing harm, it's discrimination.

Besides, marriage is not based on procreation. It never has, probably never will be.

Mitchell Young

"Besides, marriage is not based on procreation. "

Maybe you should look into the history of any European dynasty, perhaps the Tudors. Or heck, just take a look at your typical group of 30 something newlywed couples -- I guarantee 90% of those are trying to get or actually pregnant. Are their other sorts of families, yes, but I suspect that for the overwhelming majority of, say, adoptive parents, having a biological child would have been first choice.

As to harm, gay marriage harms real marriage precisely the way a knock off Prada bag harms those who purchase the real thing. It cheapens the currency. It alters the fundamental meaning of marriage. Sort of like the homosexual movement has essentially arrogated to itself a perfectly good English word -- 'gay'.


Again: marriage is not based on procreation: never has, never will be. I'm not saying that marriage does not lead to having children: of course it does. But being granted a marriage license, or not, is not based on the ability, or not, to have them. To pretend otherwise is simply not substantiated in everyday life.

This is why this article is right on: "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?" Precisely: WHY? No even remotely credible answer has been put forth.

Gay marriage also does not have consequences on straight marriage. The "harm" you see in allowing gays and lesbians to marry (it is "cheap" and it "alters the fundamental meaning of marriage") is purely ideologically based. I refuse to feel responsible for your homophobia, and I can assure you that my marriage will be viewed by my family the way it should be: a union of two loving individuals, and will be celebrated the same way, with as much pride and support, than a straight one. Why shouldn't it? And why do you assume it automatically will?


And the last line should read: " And why do you assume it automatically will be viewed differently, and not as much celebrated?" My apologies.

Mitchell Young

I did not say your union was " cheap", I said accepting such a union as *marriage* "cheapens" the value of a real marriage -- by giving the same name to something which is far outside original conception of marriage. Maybe devalues would have been a better word. As for 'celebration' I was referring to marriages of older heterosexual couples. It seems to me obvious that in real life people don't make as big a deal about these marriage, as measured by the kerfuffle over the wedding. The paradigm example is to compare the Charles and Dianna wedding to that of Charles and Camilla. And I don't know what history or sociology you've been reading, but procreation most certain was the main purpose of marriage throughout history in nearly all societies. Think 'Fiddler on the Roof" -- the first day I met you was on our wedding day' -- noting about love there, people were matched so as to produce children.


So according to your reading of The Fiddler on the Roof, marriage is not based on love then?

As for your view that gay marriage "cheapens" or "devaluate" straight ones: this is based on prejudices and homophobia, and there is no reason that gay people should tolerate such views. You yourself of course are very welcome to believe so: nothing prevents you to. But I can assure you that my family and friends do not see same-sex marriage as threatening to their heterosexual marriage. They recognize our unions for what they really are: based on love and mutual assistance.

And no. I stand by what I have said: marriage is not based on procreation. Some marriages do produce children, some don't. There is a close link between marriage and children, sure, but one does not equal the other. The only reason you attempt to make such a link is to attempt to give credibility to your opinion that gays and lesbians shouldn't marry. Having kids is not a requirement to be granted a marriage licence, and the point of this article was precisely to point out that we grant them to plenty of couples who cannot/will not have children. Besides, that is also totally ignoring the many gay couples who raise children (and the many lesbian couples who bear children too) and thos children deserve to have the families they grow up in recognized for what they are.

Mitchell Young

No, in traditional, especially non-Western societies (including that represented in Fiddler on the Roof) entering into marriage is have nothing to do with love. That in a way is the whole point of the play, the increasing acceptance of different criteria for who is a proper mate (poor Jewish taylor, okay; radical -- but Jewish -- student, okay; Russian -- treff). I have no doubt that somewhere today there exists a production in which the third daughter ends up with another female, but that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago.

And you have it wrong. Gay marriage advocates are the ones who are forcing their beliefs -- mostly via unelected judges -- on people. Contrary to scare mongering anti-Proposition 8 commercials, no one is going to prevent you from going to a Unitarian minister, taking vows and exchanging rings. No one is going to come to your house and take those rings of your finger. If your circle of friends chooses to recognize your union as a 'marriage' , that's fine with me. Just don't ask the state to force the rest of us to say that 4=5.


So marriage has nothing to do with love then? I'm sorry, I just have to laugh this one off.

And no, we're not imposing our beliefs. We are simply demanding our civil rights. Were black people imposing their beliefs when they demanded the end of segregation? Were they imposing their beliefs when they demanded the right to marry a white person? Were women imposting their beliefs in demanding the right to vote?

There is no reason why the state shouldn't recognize our unions. None. Supporters of Prop 8 have not been able to show how allowing gays and lesbians to marry will lead to harm for children, society and/or pose a threat to the American society or the institution of marriage. Put on a convincing case, show us why it's so important for us to be banned from marrying. Do your homework and convince the judges. Meanwhile, the lack of arguments from supporters of Prop 8 simply becomes more and more flagrant. It's based on homophobia, and we will NOT take that as an answer.

And I stand, once again, by my argument: marriage does not equal biology. And the questions that Karin Klein has posed in her article above are ones that have been asked again and again. Unfortunately they have not received any convincing answers. Why DON'T we bar from marrying elderly couples or infertile couples? Why don't we ban divorce if kids MUST have their BIOLOGICAL mother and father? Why not ban in vitro procreation? Why not ban adoption?

Anyways. With all due regards, I don't really see the need to argue further here. Obviously none of us will convince the other, so I am respectfully taking leave of this debate with you now.

Mitchell Young

It's been nice having a civil debate.

Karin Klein

@Mitchell and Skulander. I wanted to say the same thing. It's been a pleasure to track such a civil, well-articulated debate.

ricardo torres

Marriage is about companionship and love.
If you are a conservative, then you should want all people to find one mate and stay with that person for the rest of their lives regardless of sexual orientation.

I believe that marriage equality (along with other issues that affect gays and lesbians) is the civil rights issue of our time.

In the distant future, when we look back at history, which side will you fall on?


@Skulander, but according to Maggie Gallagher, head and founder of NOM (National Organization for Marriage) she *wants* it to be about procreation, and recently at a Yale debate she declared that her fight against even "same sex unions" (that's a quite) is not about any allegedly immediate consequences, but about her "children"! *sigh* Though, what *I* want to know is who's convincing her and her acolytes that "freedom of religion" means the oppression of Gay people to the extent that one can fire us or discriminate against us (acts that Gallagher inststs is impossible because we don't meet the perameter's of something that *can* be discriminated against) merely by employing their (Christian) religion as an excuse!


This opinion piece touches upon something that NOM refuses to: they want us to live by rules that they would never dream of asking a hetero. to live by! Unless that's their next goal, once they're through with us...


@Mitchel Young: Actually, I have studied a great deal about the history of marriage, and procreation was not a major fascet of it. It originated in Eurasia, during a time when women were property, not people. And, as such, she was buried alive with her "husband" when he died, along with his other prized valuables; while, in India, which only recently died out, women were heaped onto their husband's funeral pyres while still alive! The purpose of marriage was originally, and fundamentally, about one thing--PROPERTY and INHERITANCE! That is why the ancestral hearth-goddess and her virginity, as well as the virginity of the females (to whom the chief male was married) was so important, so that no other tribe could claim a tie to his titles and land, etc. In fact, if children WERE the main purpose of marriage, than why are there so many ancient cultures that wait a number of days before keeping or rejecting a child as a waste of porecious sociertal resources should they be sickly or malformed? Recently, the American Anthropological Association (AAA)--the largest in the world--has released a policy statement endorcing Marriage Equality based upon not only ancient historical documents, but about 200 years of field studies in world-cultures that do not mirror what you think marriage is, or what it was designed for.

This is why Maggie Gallagher infuriates me, because she blatantly misrepresents the historical and anthropological records based on nothing more than her personal wishful thinking about HOW she things that "marriage" must have evolved. She is lying to the American people and cannot substantiate her claims!


Wade@MacMorrighan: the AAA is only one of the credible American organizations that endorse gay marriage. Others doing so are the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both of whom clearly see no issues with gays marrying, and who have no serious grounds to believe that children are harmed in any ways by living in gay families.

But you're absolutely right to recall the facts about the history of marriage. In some countries women were expected to die with their husband when he died since they did not had a life of their own truly speaking, but were their husband's property. Such views are repeated in the Bible, where St-Paul prones for women absolute submission to their husband. The simple fact that women STILL take on their husband's name upon marrying is a remnant of this custom. Clearly, what marriage is, what it involves, has evolved from what it once was. As with any institution, it is not surprising: it is to be expected, and in fact only makes historical sense. Marriage has never been that monolithic institution that those opposing gay marriage claim.

Marriage has never been about having children: it's only one of the many non-sequitur which are found aplenty on NOM's blogposts. A couple does not vow to have kids when you marry, and a couple is not de-married for failing to have any, or even for trying to have any. The point that marriage does not equal children is one that has to be stressed again and again.

It's sad to see that those opposing gay marriage have to resort to lies, have to distort facts and put forth dubious claims, in order to manipulate public opinion. It's sad, but then again it's not surprising. NOM, who has picked up this blogpost, has been doing so from Day 1. NOT ONCE have they presented the truth clearly and with intellectual honesty.


Yes, Skulander, you are absolutely right! However, the main thrust of my position was dealing in, primarily, history and culture, which those that support Maggie Gallagher go at lengths to dismiss.

"A couple does not vow to have kids when you marry, and a couple is not de-married for failing to have any, or even for trying to have any. The point that marriage does not equal children is one that has to be stressed again and again."

Oh, SNAP! That's an excellent point, and one worth rubbing into NOM's collective faces over and over again! Would any of THEM, I wonder, vow to have kids, etc.?

"It's sad to see that those opposing gay marriage have to resort to lies, have to distort facts and put forth dubious claims, in order to manipulate public opinion. It's sad, but then again it's not surprising. "

And, even in Maine when the state got involved and produced ads repudiating NOM's lies and misinformation directly, the public wouldn;t believe the state in view of NOM's mendacious fear-mongering.


Wade@MacMorrighan wrote: "Oh, SNAP! That's an excellent point, and one worth rubbing into NOM's collective faces over and over again! Would any of THEM, I wonder, vow to have kids, etc.?"

Oh yeah, SNAP indeed. They dooooon't like this claim, and for good reasons: it's unsustainable. It's only one of NOM's many non sequiturs: linking things together where they don't belong.

I also had a funny encounter on NOM's blog today: usually I don't bother to repeat what happens there because it's so pointless. But I think it bears repeating. Here it goes. This person "Chairm" with whom I was discussing (NOM made a slight attempt at not censoring its blog) asks me if I thought incest should be allowed. It's a trick question, of course. But then I asked her: given that incest will produce kids, i.e. its so-called "responsible procreation" what was her arguments for banning incest. I mean, it goes both ways: given that incest results in "responsible procreation" then what was her rational, her explanation for bannin it since, according to her logic, "responsible procreation" ought to be promoted. (In the end, he/she even openly admitted that marriage was in fact NOT based on procreation.)

Now of course I knew the answer. Just like she knew the answer when asking me her question. But what I find telling is that he/she NEVER gave me an answer, or ANY kind of explanation. Not only that, NOM started censoring me (obviously, Chairm's comments got through). Now NOM likes to claim left and right that they are "winning" Then why do they need to censor people writing on their blogs? I understand that hate speech and name calling have no place: but I was offering strong arguments which obviously Chairm could not refute, arguments that were in fact irrefutable: hence the censorship. It's a typical pattern: NOM consistently manipulates public opinion and refuses to face the facts, to face ANY sort of challenge to its bigoted views and narrow definition of marriage.

Mitchell Young

I see the 'debate' has continued.

I really don't care what the AAA 'position' is -- such statements are not scientific findings but rather political pronouncements, they are not peer reviewed and are subject -- like all political processes -- to distortion by a committed hard core of activists. Likewise the APA -- after all, before 1972 they classed homosexuality as a disorder, as I believe did Freud. So who was/is right and when were they right about it? And sure, maybe they found some tribe somewhere that practices something that may look like homosexual marriage, but the vast majority of societies have heterosexual marriage as the only option (though many of those have polygamy).

Even if I was to accept your characterization of marriage based on some nameless central Eurasian culture, you are missing the obvious point -- virginity was important for property only in a secondary, once removed sense. The primary reason is that virginity ensured that the husband children, were, you know -- his. Biologically. A biological link makes possible strong claims on inheritance -- a principle that is even followed today.

As for vows -- well, such a vow would be impossible because some heterosexual couples cannot have children. But we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that homosexual couples cannot have children without involvement of another party.


Mitchell: the author of this blog post, myself, and others have pointed to you COUNTLESS times that procreation does not equal marriage, that marriage does not equal procreation. You can't accept this fact: it doesn't make it less true nonetheless. Even if homosexual couples cannot "have children without the involvment of a third party" (a fact which is FAR from restricted only to gay couples) this does not justify the ban on gay marriage. Saying "gay couples cannot procreate therefore let's ban them from marrying" deos NOT provide any kind of justification.

Science evolves: the APA does not see homosexuality as a mental disorder anymore, and neither should you, at the risk of looking foolish.

As for the AAA they are far from a group of "activist" (ahhhhh, a word the anti-gay just LOVES to use to describe in fact those who oppose them...) and the article they published, based on FACTS and EVIDENCES are in fact peer-reviewed. The ones that appear in major journals and from whom Wade@MacMorrighan has drawn his information from, anyways.

As for you accepting my characterization of marriage... And how would you define it? How would my "characterization" in ANY WAY differ from yours? In fact, it does not. Which is why it is not a "redefinition" of marriage but in fact the inclusion of gay couples in the institution of marriage as we know it now. Couples marrying today, whether gay or straight, are presumed to be doing so on the SAME grounds, principles, obligations and values (love, committment, family, and any other commonly accepted today in the actually very fluid "definition" of marriage throughout history).


But what is cristal clear is in fact your utter unwillingness to pursue the "marriage = kids" logic to its full completion. And I can clearly see why. Because according to this logic:
- A woman having a kid would be forced to marry the man who made her pregnant.
- Divorces would be outlawed.
- Couples who cannot procreate due to a physical issue would not be granted a marriage license.
- Elderly couples would be denied a marriage license as well.

The fact is, no one inquires further about kids, as long as the marriage is between a man and a woman. Sure, kids usually result from a heterosexual union but there isn't a connection in anyone's mind. The ONLY reason why this connection is being made now (and that wasn't made, say, 40-50 years ago when divorce rates started to skyrocket) is due to the rampant homophobia in this country. Because some individuals don't want to see lovin, committed gays and lesbians being married and they are trying to prevent, BY ANY POSSIBLE MEAN, this from happening. You will NEVER convince me that there is another underlying reason for the "marriage = kids" argument. Never.

Besides the "responsible procreation" totally disregard the fact that millions of stable, loving couples in the US and around the world have kids and raise families. And the anti-gay lobby is on a campaing to destruct our households, discredit our unions, hurting in the process our friends, kids, family, relatives, loved ones. It's called bullying. It's called HATE and HOMOPHOBIA.



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