Thursday, June 02, 2005

The real issue involved in gay and lesbian marriage.

Spottie finds it amazing that a person Katherine Kersten's age could be that hidebound; it is a tribute to her upbringing, I suppose. There is so much in her latest column raising the specter of the doom of civilization if gays and lesbians are permitted to marry to criticize, but Spottie will stick to a few points.

Kersten says the need for the protection of strictly heterosexual marriage flows directly from the fact that sex between men and women produces babies. The rest of her composition rests on this blinding flash of intuition. But the premise is a faulty one.

Marriage is both more and less than a baby making factory, a cottage industry so to speak. It is more because it establishes an emotional support network between partners, and very significantly provides legal recognition of the right and duty of the partners to protect each other. Marriage partners can inherit from each other, can make health care decisions for the each other when one partner is incapacitated, and one spouse cannot be required to testify against the other. There are many other legal incidents to marriage, as well, health insurance and survivor benefits to name just a couple.

Kersten acknowledges the existence of these attributes of marriage, and how they would be of advantage of couples of any sort, but argues they must be reserved for special people, because again, they make babies.

But a lot of marriages don't produce babies. A lot of marriages are entered into with no intention of producing babies; you don't sign an oath when you get a marriage license promising to have babies. A priest may threaten your eternal soul if you don't at least try, but there is absolutely nothing in the civil covenant we call marriage that requires the production of children.

Laying aside all the couples who get married that don't want kids, how about all the folks we allow to marry who can't have kids? Under Kersten's rule, post-menopausal women, impotent men, and infertile people of either sex couldn't get married. Society has no need for them to get married because they produce no offspring.

So reproducing is clearly not the only thing that society is trying to accomplish with the institution of marriage.

And don't be fooled by Kersten's recitation of a few anecdotes and vague referenced to "studies" about how children do better, etc. etc. There are a lot of kids from non-traditional families of several kinds who are perfectly well adjusted thank you, and kids from nuclear families who grow up to be serial killers.

So what's really at work here? It's just another face of the control freak phenomenon Spottie mentioned in the home schooling post. Kersten has her expectation of what a marriage should look like, and woe be unto anybody that suggests something else. She even says so in the concluding paragraph of the piece:

Minnesotan believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they please. (Well, clearly not all of them do.) But they don't believe that gays and lesbians have the right to redefine the institution of marriage for everyone else.

So in the end even Katherine Kersten admits this is an issue of civil rights and equal protection. Heterosexuals have something that gives them an advantage they don't want to give up. Just like every privileged class in the history of the world.

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