Gay Marriage Strawman 3: Think Of The Children

Third in a four part series.

One of the most common mantra against allowing gays and lesbians to marry is that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. When asked why, the response is that only a man and a woman can make a child. Despite this basic biologically obvious observation, not all men nor all women can make a child. Otherwise an enormous fertility industry would not exist. Nor do all married couples want children despite the best efforts of some to turn back Griswold vs. Connecticut.

If children were the sole reason for marriage, then the logical position would be to deny licenses to anybody who cannot produce a positive pregnancy test result. Indeed, apocryphally (and I cite Jude the Obscure as but one literary example) many marriage proposals in times past not involving the exchange of property occurred only after a metaphorical rabbit had died. For peasant farmers there was no reason to do otherwise. And if marriage was only for raising children the fact that infertile people or post menopausal women can get married proves that there are larger issues than just procreation in the mix.

Recently David Blankenhorn has reversed his position against gay marriage which had largely been based on the pro-procreation argument.

I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens.

He makes the case that it is ironic that the gay community is embracing marriage as broader society is becoming more blasé about it, with or without children. 53% of children born to mothers under the age of 30 who weren’t married. Many weddings that do occur now include the children of the bride and groom as members of the party.

And lots of gay couples enter marriage to form families. Despite the biological headwinds they face, they have available the same resources heterosexual couples can take advantage of, adoption, donor sperm, surrogacy, etc. And to say that a gay or lesbian person is not the parent of a child just because they have no genetic material at stake is an insult to any adoptive or step-parent who has ever taken on parental duties.

But having children is not the sole or even primary reason to get married. Many straight couples never intend to have kids. Why should gay couples have to meet some higher standard? Marriage throughout history has had many purposes, exchange of property, insurance of fidelity, political bonding, but the modern notion is that marriages should be based on love and affection. While arranged marriages still occur in many cultures, the Western notion of the love match is taking root through the soft imperialism of popular culture.

And with modern contraception, children are not a necessary nor sufficient reason for a marriage. For two people to get married the necessity nor the possibility of them having children no longer makes any sense as a criteria. A mutual affection and a desire for commitment should be be all that is needed.

25 Responses

  1. Again, you pose and answer an entirely irrelevant question. The relevant question is not why some people may choose to get married, but is instead what interest the state has in recognizing it in law. The only interest the state has ever had in the business of marriage derives from the fact that sex between men and women can and does produce children.

    BTW, I really recommend that you look up the meaning of “straw man”. It does not mean “an argument that I think is faulty”.

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  2. That’s a pretty large pile of fallacies, most of which are already addressed in previous comments. For example, it isn’t a logical corollary of the proposition that the state’s interest in marriage is the interest in children that marriage be denied absent existing pregnancy. That’s pretty silly, actually.

    State recognition of marriage also isn’t necessary for a “love match” and in fact will add nothing to it.

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  3. And to say that a gay or lesbian person is not the parent of a child just because they have no genetic material at stake is an insult to any adoptive or step-parent who has ever taken on parental duties.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the first part of this, but I am adoptive parent myself and say without reservation that the law should not recognize SSM.

    It isn’t an insult in any way. On the other hand, I find your position insulting. So what does that prove?

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  4. I am adoptive parent myself and say without reservation that the law should not recognize SSM.

    And what makes you more qualified to be an adoptive parent than a gay couple other than you have an opposite sex partner?

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    • And what makes you more qualified to be an adoptive parent than a gay couple other than you have an opposite sex partner?

      All else equal, that alone makes me (or more accurately us) more qualified.

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  5. The only interest the state has ever had in the business of marriage derives from the fact that sex between men and women can and does produce children.

    What benefit does the state confer to married couples with children that it does not confer onto married couples without children? And contrariwise, what rights are an unmarried couple with children denied that a married couple with children have?

    Exactly what interest does the state have in promoting marriage to provide for children that cannot be accomplished by other means?

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  6. I really recommend that you look up the meaning of “straw man”. It does not mean “an argument that I think is faulty”.

    But “Gay Marriage Strawman” is so much catchier than “Various Fallacious Invalid Reasons To Oppose Gay Marriage”. Or one could argue that I am the one creating strawmen, only I have tried hard to find real examples of people actually asserting these opinions.

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  7. If children were the sole reason for marriage, then the logical position would be to deny licenses to anybody who cannot produce a positive pregnancy test result.

    That would be the logical position only in an utter vacuum. One could (quite logically) argue that a marriage should be established, and in reasonably good working order, before children are conceived. Just because one argues that ‘x’ is bad does not, automatically, make ‘y’ the only possible choice, given there’s a full alphabet of letters to choose from.

    Still, in the end, marriage could be looked at as a bucket, and children as water. You can have the bucket without putting water in it. You can put cats in it, instead, or a love of golf, or a shared desired for lots of cosplay, or a mutual desire to see the world.

    However, if you’re going to keep the water from getting all over the floor or soaking into the ground, you really need the bucket. The notion (I would call it a fact, myself) that a stable two-parent household consisting of one man and one woman is the best mechanism with which to raise well-adjusted children simply doesn’t dictate, as far as I can tell, that marriage be confined to opposite sex partners, two people, or even non-relatives (the last, perhaps, for genetic and general creepiness reasons). People own guns who do not shoot them. We don’t forbid a paralyzed person from, say, buying a motorcycle, even though they cannot ride one. And so on.

    Rather, it’s the single-parent and divorced households that represent the real threat, and that’s been continuing apace, and will not either improve or be exacerbated by same-sex marriage, I don’t suspect.

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  8. Exactly what interest does the state have in promoting marriage to provide for children that cannot be accomplished by other means?

    I think this is a dead end, as the state does not promote marriage, and has, in fact, promoted single-parenthood, father-replacement, and (the Men’s Rights folks would argue) an anti-male, anti-fatherhood agenda for well-on 40 years now. Whether you accept the Men’s Rights folk’s contentions or not, I don’t think it can be argued that the state promotes marriage. Or even suggests that married two-parent households are a superior method for raising children.

    qb: but I am adoptive parent myself and say without reservation that the law should not recognize SSM.

    Should same-sex couples be allowed to adopt? Or should single-parents (presumably of means) be allowed to adopt, or foster children? Myself, I’m not sure. In most cases, that would probably be better for the child than being raised institutionally.

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    • Should same-sex couples be allowed to adopt? Or should single-parents (presumably of means) be allowed to adopt, or foster children? Myself, I’m not sure. In most cases, that would probably be better for the child than being raised institutionally.

      These questions raise some difficult issues. Imo, no, although I have heard good arguments to the contrary. I think I heard Michael Medved once make the case, for example.

      Either way, I still would not legalize SSM.

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  9. The only interest the state has ever had in the business of marriage derives from the fact that sex between men and women can and does produce children.

    And, in that respect, the state has been largely anti-traditional marriage and parenthood, aside from a few tax benefits in some circumstances. For the most part, it’s been at best marriage-agnostic, and, at worst, father-hostile.

    In that respect, it makes perfect sense that the state would want to recognize same-sex marriage, as it could be seen as diminishing the primacy of traditional family structures, and the role of men and women in a marriage and in raising children. Any arrangement that includes a father would strictly be optional . . . which is entirely consistent with the thrust of the Great Society, so seems entirely in keeping with the states approach to marriage and parenthood for at least the past 40 years.

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  10. One could (quite logically) argue that a marriage should be established, and in reasonably good working order, before children are conceived.

    One very salient point about same sex couples with children is that unless the children are from a previous heterosexual relationship, every kid in a gay-headed family was wanted. Nobody ever gets accidentally pregnant from a turkey baster. In some ways this would predict greater long term stability for the relationship than an opposite-sex marriage which was the result of shotgun wedding.

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  11. And, in that respect, the state has been largely anti-traditional marriage and parenthood, aside from a few tax benefits in some circumstances. For the most part, it’s been at best marriage-agnostic, and, at worst, father-hostile.

    There is no doubt that Great Society programs have been contributors to this perception. Too many programs are means tested in ways that discourage marriage or even cohabitation with the baby daddy. In their zeal to ‘protect children’, the government has undercut traditional marriage.

    Tax structures are very delicate in that the balance between ‘rewarding’ marriage while not being punitive towards needy single parent households is very tough to maintain. I was a supporter of Dan Quayle solely for his position on eliminating the Marriage Tax, which persists in some ways to this day. I joke that gay marriage should be encouraged just as a revenue enhancer for the government.

    On slightly tangential note, some studies are trying to determine if shows like “Teen Mom” on MTV which show the harsh realities of single parenthood rather than a Murphy Brownish glamor are having a cautionary tale effect.

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  12. All else equal, that alone makes me (or more accurately us) more qualified.

    Is that alone a sufficient reason to deny gay couples the right to adopt? What if the gay couple had mitigating factors which made them even better able to care for the child than a same-sex couple, such as greater income, a stay-at-home partner (versus a two-income straight couple), lived in a better school district, etc.? Should a single straight person have priority over a gay couple? Where would the tipping point be?

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    • Is that alone a sufficient reason to deny gay couples the right to adopt? What if the gay couple had mitigating factors which made them even better able to care for the child than a same-sex couple, such as greater income, a stay-at-home partner (versus a two-income straight couple), lived in a better school district, etc.? Should a single straight person have priority over a gay couple? Where would the tipping point be?

      I have to run to work and won’t be able sufficiently to address this, but, briefly, I would not approve of adoption by gay couples per se. Since I would not recognize SSM, I’m not sure the notion of adoption by gay couples would even make sense, but I wouldn’t approve it in any event. I might consider lesser arrangements like guardianship in special circumstances, although I have no particular expertise in family law issues and all the technicalities involved. It isn’t so much a matter of comparative qualifications as of threshold qualifications. Children spring from male+female, and that is true even if you want to include artificial means. That is just the nature of reality. I don’t think we should model other relationships as the equivalent by recognizing marriages and adoptions by pairings who do not fit that pattern and cannot produce children.

      The converse question for you is whether, all else equal, and setting aside social acceptance, would you give any adoption preference to heterosexual couples? If so, why? If not, why? This goes back to the question I posed earlier in the week.

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  13. On slightly tangential note, some studies are trying to determine if shows like “Teen Mom” on MTV which show the harsh realities of single parenthood

    I think they might. It makes sense. Being informed of the reality of something tends to affect our decisions.

    Now, if there could only be a show called “Middle-Aged Divorcee” that would give the lie to contemporary divorce fantasy (like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Eat, Betray, Love), mass-media might be enlisted in the cause of promoting family stability, as well as family planning.

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  14. Consider me corked.

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  15. Either way, I still would not legalize SSM.

    Well, neither would I, although I suspect it’s going to happen, anyway, and nothing is going to stop it.

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    • Well, neither would I, although I suspect it’s going to happen, anyway, and nothing is going to stop it.

      I guess that makes you a homophobic bigot like me. /s

      I do not, however, think it is inevitable. Inevitability is what they want us to think–as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  16. kids just want attention — my 2 cents.

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  17. kids just want attention — my 2 cents.

    Pesky that way, aren’t they?

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  18. kids just want attention — my 2 cents.

    And an iPhone. And pets. And their own room. And a car. A new one, not that old thing you drive. And clothes. Nice clothes. Not boring clothes that look stupid.

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  19. I guess that makes you a homophobic bigot like me.

    Well, a traditionalist, at any rate. Traditions exist for good reasons, generally, and have stood the test of time, otherwise we wouldn’t have them. We monkey with them at our peril (because we assume we are somehow smarter than thousands-upon-thousands of years of accumulated and hard-won human wisdom) and, in pretty much all attempts to deconstruct the classic nuclear family, for no reason whatsoever.

    There are few benefits, at the end of the day, to redefining marriage and parenthood, even if the resulting outcomes of legalizing same-sex marriage are not as tragic as some predict.

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  20. And what makes you more qualified to be an adoptive parent than a gay couple other than you have an opposite sex partner?

    All other things being equal, there is value in having parents of both sexes. That gets into much larger issues of gender, nature vs. nurture, etc. My wife brings some inherently different perspectives to parenting than I do.

    Incidentally, I think Yellow’s use of straw man is being misinterpreted. As I understand it, a straw man is an easily dismissed argument you make in favor of a position you oppose. As the straw man is disproven, you win. In that context, these threads are Straw Men that yellow is bringing up, not conservatives.

    I’m headed down to the lake for several days and then am traveling. Hppy Inepenence y ll. [keybor pill]
    BB

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  21. […] I mentioned in my last post, the most common definition arrayed against gay marriage is that it is traditionally between one […]

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