November 20, 2003
The short version of this post: Marriage is about responsibility, not reproduction.
I intend to disembowl Jeffrey Rosen’s straw-man-laden, equivocating ghettoric from yesterday’s TNR Digital with a dull machete in due time. But first off, let’s define one term central to this debate:
Procreation. You will hear many, many times in the near-future the argument that gay unions aren’t entitled to state protection, because of the state’s “compelling interest in fostering procreation.”
Savor that little statement for a moment. Let it tiptoe on your tongue. Chew it gently. Spit it out.
What, exactly, could the state’s interest in fostering procreation look like? I picture official State Department broadcasts featuring Colin Powell crooning “Feelin’ On Yo’ Booty” while Katherine Harris twerks it on the White House lawn in a “Capitol Hill Is For Lovers” baby tee.
Take this “compelling interest” to its logical conclusion, and you could argue that the state should be providing a tax credit for scented candles and massage oil. The Supreme Court has already sufficiently answered the argument that the state has any business in our bedrooms. Read Griswold v. Connecticut. Or Lawrence v. Texas.
People making babies is a plain fact of life that will occur, probably in greater numbers, without the interference of the state. As is, the only state-funded programs I can think of that have a likely direct effect on procreation are intended to depress its occurrence.
I could conceive of a world where people gave up sex en masse and the state had to step in to — oh no, wait. I couldn’t.
This is an important semantic point. In the Massachusetts trial court decision that this court decision overturns, the case against gay marriage was argued on the back of the procreation argument. Separating the procreative interests of the state from the reasons for marriage goes a long way towards undermining the argument against gay marriage.
The state does have an interest in making sure that as many babies as possible grow up in stable households. Hence the desire to get formal civil support for those millions of children currently being brought up in gay households.
UPDATE: I no longer feel compelled to address Jeffrey Rosen’s argument in full. Jonathan Rauch did a good enough job.