The battle over Prop 8 has gone to court in California, and the defense is proceeding with the usual arguments about how marriage is all about procreation. It seems we can’t discuss marriage equality in the U.S. without hearing that marriage is about making babies, ad nauseum like a broken record.
Meanwhile, in Portugal, something very different is going on: MPs have approved marriage rights for same-sex couples, but NOT the right to adopt children. Wherein lies the distinction?
“Adoption is a different matter from marriage, because adoption does not only involve free, consenting adults. Adoption is not a couple’s right, it is the child’s right,” he said.
To maintain that adoption is “a child’s right” still implies that same-sex couples are not equal to heterosexual couples in raising children, that family life with a same-sex couple is an inappropriate environment for a vulnerable child. The prejudice is still there. But this is interesting: it posits civil marriage as separate from parenthood. It puts marriage in one space, and children in another. The law assumes that marriage is not about making babies, it is about a relationship between two adults.
While the continued discrimination towards gays and lesbians in parenthood is unfortunate, it is so refreshing to this American to see this kind of sanity in the politics of marriage. We are long past the era in which marriage and parenthood were one and the same, if it ever occurred. Many people have children without getting married, sometimes deliberately. Many couples get married and do not have children. Do we give a couple a set amount of time to procreate or their marriage is null and void? Is a couple automatically divorced when the wife reaches menopause? Is the marriage annulled by law if either spouse becomes infertile? Is an engaged couple denied a marriage license if the woman is post-menopausal or if either partner has diagnosed infertility? No, to all questions.
If the concern is that extending civil marriage to same-sex couples will allow gays and lesbians to become parents, the answer is: that ship has sailed. Many same-sex couples already have children, and more become parents every day, with or without marriage, and those kids are turning out just fine. If you want to prevent same-sex couples from creating or adopting and raising children, you’ll need to fight that battle on another field. You won’t get any help from me.
I’m aware that this isn’t the only argument against marriage equality, but it’s probably the most obvious fish in the barrel.