Update: Here's the website for the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance and Initiative 957. If you want to know how you can help, Washington state residents can download and circulate petitions. The rest of us can send donations.
This is funny, and given that bit about non-procreative sex in the previous post, I couldn't help posting about it. Given the constant use of the "gays can't reproduce" as a reason we should be able to get married. (i.e., the purpose, or one of the primary purposes, of marriage is to produce children, and since gays can't reproduce they don't qualify) I suppose it was inevitable that someone would propose that heterosexuals must reproduce if they want to stay married.
Proponents of same-sex marriage have introduced a ballot measure that would require heterosexual couples to have a child within three years or have their marriages annulled.
The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance acknowledged on its Web site that the initiative was "absurd" but hoped the idea prompts "discussion about the many misguided assumptions" underlying a state Supreme Court ruling that upheld a ban on same-sex marriage.
The measure would require couples to prove they can have children to get a marriage license. Couples who do not have children within three years could have their marriages annulled.
All other marriages would be defined as "unrecognized," making those couples ineligible for marriage benefits.
Of course it's an "absurd idea," but it's merely the logical application of the idea that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation, or that the ability of both partners to reproduce with one another is one of the defining characteristics of marriage. It's taking the Washington Supreme Court's ruling (PDF) at face value.
…the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to
opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of
the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging
families where children are reared in homes headed by the children's
In other words, it's taking a flawed argument to its logical extreme.
There are a number of flaws here. First, heterosexual couples need not swear an oath to reproduce in order to receive a marriage certificate. Heterosexual couples need not even be capable of reproducing to marry: no fertility tests are necessarily conducted for the granting of a marriage license. Elderly people who are incapable of bearing children get married all the time. Couples who simply don't want children can still marry. Marriages are not annulled by the state if a couple fails to produce children.
Furthermore, sexual reproduction is clearly possible without marriage (or do these people still believe that married couples sleep in separate twin beds and that a stork delivers them a baby?). Family units exist where nobody is married. Single moms and dads abound.
Clearly the primary purpose of marriage is not sexual reproduction.
Gays in fact can reproduce. They're not sterile. Many a lesbian has become pregnant through artificial insemination. Surrogate mothers aren't a new invention by any means.
It has been said that there's a state interest in supporting the reproductive family unit, and that is absolutely true. This can be accomplished, however, without excluding non-reproductive families; there's no reason that homosexual couples must be excluded any more than there's a reason that sterile couples or couples who simply do not wish to have kids should be excluded (and these heterosexual couples are not excluded at present). While there is a rational basis for the government to support heterosexual reproductive marriage, there is no rational basis for supporting it to the exclusion of others.
Of course, no one would dream of telling infertile heterosexuals they can't marry simply because they can't reproduce. I guess just possessing the proper plumbing is enough to qualify, even if it doesn't quite function. They might technically be considered handicapped, as they are biologically and anatomically unable to fulfill that primary purpose of marriage, and we can't discriminate against the handicapped here.
Plus, and I've actually had this argument presented to me, their particular combination of genitalia represents at least a symbolic potential for procreation, and that's enough. And don't forget (I've heard this one too) that "God" might miraculously cure the barrenness. Then wouldn't we feel foolish for not letting them get married? The same would apply to elderly heterosexuals who are past their reproductive years, but want to marry.
Even heterosexuals who choose not to have children can make the cut. Again, there's the argument for symbolic potential due to the required combination of genitals, etc. There's also the possibility that they might "accidentally" reproduce, whether they want to or not, and thus fulfill that primary purpose of marriage. The New York Supreme Court actually applied that logic when it ruled that since heterosexual couples tend towards "reckless procreation", while gay parents actually become parents through very deliberate efforts (IVF, adoption), they're actually less stable and thus require protections that our families don't need.
But the New York court also put forth another argument, sometimes called the "reckless procreation" rationale. "Heterosexual intercourse," the plurality opinion stated, "has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not." Gays become parents, the opinion said, in a variety of ways, including adoption and artificial insemination, "but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse."
Consequently, "the Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples."
To shore up those rickety heterosexual arrangements, "the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only." Lest we miss the inversion of stereotypes about gay relationships here, the opinion lamented that straight relationships are "all too often casual or temporary."
And of course we can reproduce. Not with same-sex partners, but we don't check out reproductive abilities at the closet door.
Mom, dad and newborn baby — it seems typical enough but consider the dad — San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty is gay and the mom, Rebecca Goldfader, is a lesbian.
Rebecca Goldfader, new mom: "We're choosing to co-parent in a way that might be considered alternative, but is actually somewhat traditional."
Somewhat. There's a mother and a father but there's no romance.
Rebecca Goldfader, new mom: "Actually I see Bevan and I not being a romantic couple as a benefit. A lot of straight couples have said that as well, like you don't have to deal with that whole other set of issues. Your focus is on the child."
Gay parents are not new. According to a UCLA study, about 70,000 children in California are living with gay parents. Many same sex couples are adopting, others have children from previous marriages and some women go the donor route. Both Dufty, who is 51, and Goldfader, 40, wanted a biological child. The result is their baby girl, Sidney.
Bevan Dufty, new father: "Because of our respective ages and the chronology of our life, we had to go to intervention. We wound up doing invitro fertilization."
I guess the argument would be that Dufty and Goldfader "cheated," because they didn't produce their offspring "the old fashioned way." So they, like many others, fall into the strange new category of non-family households. So might reproductively challenged heterosexuals under the "procreation is primary" argument. Perhaps, then, we can turn back to the tradition of having the consummation of the marriage confirmed by witnesses standing around the bed, or at least have the couple wave a bloody sheet from the window. Otherwise, Bufty and Goldfader could marry, reproduce, and never actually have sex with each other. In fact, they might even still be gay, and have (non-marital, of course) same-sex partners. But they still produced their own biological child, and are both raising and caring for her.
In any case, though, there's the bugaboo that sex in the previously mentioned heterosexual unions does not and/or cannot serve a procreative purpose, barring an accident or an act of "divine intervention." And if the sexual union of those couples can't produce offspring, what other purpose does it serve that applies to non-procreative heterosexual couplings, but cannot be applied to same-sex couples?
My guess is that this will be dismissed out of hand rather than provoking debate about the flawed arguments against marriage equality, since it's proposed by a group that supports marriage equality. Par for the course, since both two congressmen — Republican John Hostettler and Lincoln Davis— caught flack for suggesting that divorce is a bigger threat to heterosexual marriages than same-sex marriage.
But it's not all that absurd, when you consider that the theocratic right is trying to make it harder to get divorced in states like Virginia, or try as they have in other states to criminalize out-of-wedlock pregnancies (as "unauthorized reproduction") in an attempt block gays and lesbians from using IVF, as well as failure to report a miscarriage to police, and support anti-gay marriage amendments that remove domestic violence protections from unmarried heterosexual couples. The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance might not seriously want to see it's proposal become law, but organizations like Virginia's Family Foundation and legislators that proposed the (quickly withdrawn) legislation I just mentioned, are quite serious.
Unlike the folks behind the Washington bill, they fully intend to see their proposals become law one way or another. And that doesn't just apply to us queers.
When we make suggestions like that, we're usually just kidding or trying to make a point. They mean it. And they mean for it to apply to you too.