Thursday, March 21, 2013

Because marriage isn't about parenting

The Supreme Court is set to hear the arguments involving marriage equality next week based on the cases of DOMA and Proposition 8. There have been a myriad of new stories about gay marriage, marriage equality, pro-this, and anti-that, for past two or three months. But for the past couple of days there has been much talk about gay parents creating families and the effects on children from same-sex couples. Why?

Perhaps it's started in 2009 when a lawyer defending California's ban on same-sex marriage tried to claim that gay marriage is harmful to children, referring to "the procreation purpose" of heterosexual marriage. The judge worked hard to challenge this idea. However, this conversation came back into the news last week when Washington Post writer George Will wrote about the questionable nature of social sciences and whether evidence on the harms of gay marriages, or lack thereof, is reliable. Which, I think, has now sparked various people and groups to rally up the children of gay marriages and to support their same-sex parents. These conversations have also caused the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, to release a statement for its support of marriage equality for all consenting adults. Previously, AAP has only addressed same-sex parenting, not marriage. And now the Family Equality Council has issued an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that reflects the voices of children. The brief is asking the Court to consider the lives and experiences of children who have grown up in the households of gay parents.

The way individuals and organizations are rallying together to support their families and those who have raised them to be successful adults, despite their parents being the same sex, is lovely. It warms my heart to hear these success stories and watch people fight against arguments about the quality of parenting same-sex couple are capable of. However, this dialogue, these messages and amicus briefs are unnecessary in regards to the messages we should be sending to the Court. I know, this gets into some murky territory because now it feels like I'm victim blaming. I realize the responses from the Family Equality Council and children like Sarah Gogin are reasonable after a lawyer inserted reactionary ideas into the case about the relevance of procreation in marriages.

Regardless, this new dialogue speaks to a larger issue; that issue being the way members of our society are conflating the grounds on which two people should be able to marry and what constitutes a good parent. Geoffrey Stone, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, explains this reactionary defense of law quite eloquently:
"To get a license to marry, no one in any state in the nation has to demonstrate even minimal competence as a parent. We routinely allow mixed-religion, mixed-class, mixed-race and May-December marriages, even though they might pose challenges to the children. Indeed, without asking even a single question about the possible impact on the children, we allow pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, child abusers, corrupt politicians, rapists, adulterers and convicted murderers to marry."
Stone then characterizes this debate as being "nothing but a desperate after-the-fact rationalization designed to mask ignorance, prejudice and invidious discrimination." He is on-point with his analysis of this backward argument trying to place an irrational concern on gay marriage. You see, marriage isn't about parenting. Parenting is just something that two people often do when they're married. Not all married couples become parents, though. And not all parents are married. This is a correlation, not a causation. Therefore, it is absurd to even discuss the quality of parenthood that same-sex couples can provide as grounds for whether they should be allowed to marry. End of story.

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