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Very Clever

February 14th, 2007

Last year, the Washington Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, upheld a ban on gay marriage. The decision specifically cited the production of children to be a core reason for the decision to limit the definition of marriage to include only same-sex partners:

…encouraging procreation between opposite-sex individuals within the framework of marriage is a legitimate government interest furthered by limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Angered by this decision, some gay rights activists are trying to expose the flawed logic behind this ruling by taking it to the logical extreme: if the legally defined purpose of marriage is to procreate, then all people who cannot or do not procreate must be barred from the institution of marriage.

Thus Initiative 957, called the “Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance,” was born. It is a referendum proposed for the state ballot that would require procreation for a marriage to be legitimate. Any married couple unable to produce children within three years would have their marriage annulled until such time as they could produce children. Otherwise, they would have to make do with a legally unrecognized “social union.”

Now, it is fair: if you’re going to exclude gays on the basis of inability to procreate, you should not discriminate–the principle should be applied universally. If the true purpose of marriage is to procreate, then it should be legitimate to ban all non-procreators, not just the same-sex ones.

Of course, this very act of fairness shows up the idiocy of the principle. Marriage is not just about procreation. Which, of course, is the whole point. The idea of I-957 is not to have the measure passed, it is to call attention to the flaw in the stated reasoning of the so-called “defense of marriage” campaign sweeping the country. The “logic” and legitimacy of using the yardstick of procreation to define marriage falls to pieces when you realize that it must also exclude childless straight couples, else be discriminatory by nature.

If these “defense of marriage” yahoos want to discriminate against gays, they should simply come out and say so. And of course, they’d probably love to. But then, if they did, they’d never get any anti-gay laws passed, because these days you can’t get bigoted laws passed unless you dress them up real pretty.

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  1. February 14th, 2007 at 15:12 | #1

    My guess is that all this will do is instigate a new definition which will essentially say that in order for a couple to qualify for a legally-sanctioned marriage, they couple must have the potential to procreate. Then this will have the other side insisting on fertility testing as part of the ability to get a marriage license. That effort will try to exclude any opposite sex couples who are infertile or beyond the age of having children from marrying…and on, and on, and on.

    It’s all just tap-dancing around the real problem which is the homophobic or religious objections to homosexuality. I guess at least the religious nuts come out and state their prejudicial reasons, unlike the politicians who are dishonest about their motives.

  2. Tim Kane
    February 14th, 2007 at 19:49 | #2

    Two of my best friends got married knowing that they could never have children, she having cancer at an earlier age that eliminated that possibility.

    They adopted two children from China. Two wonderful children and have one of the most wonderful families I have ever seen.

    By the way she’s an Irish person with a brit passport, her two children are chinese, that makes the husband the only American in their household – but what a house hold it is. She’s a near perfect mother, he’s a near perfect father, and so their children are coming a long wonderfully.

  3. Helen
    February 15th, 2007 at 00:38 | #3

    So I take it that someone who is unable medically to have children is excluded from marriage? What about seniors who marry for companionship? Does this mean that their marriages will be annulled if they don’t produce an heir in a timely fashion? Will they be able to adopt?

    People will have to have babies just to prove they can. No pressure on families is there? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Did the lawmakers in Washington get together with the Japanese lawmaker who talked about women being baby-making machines? Sounds like they both have a few screws loose!

  4. Luis
    February 15th, 2007 at 01:19 | #4

    A positive effect of the story is that many people don’t initially “get the joke” of the initiative… and that is that nobody expects the initiative to actually pass, especially the people who are pushing it. Their point is not to further restrict marriage, it is instead to point out how stupid and bigoted the homophobic “defense of marriage” bozos are by taking their logic and agreeing with it–in a way that aims the hurt at most people, and not just gays. That’s “aiming” the weapon, by the way, not “firing” it.

    The fact that people are asking themselves what it would be like if non-procreators were banned from having recognized marriages and were instead relegated to the social backwaters of “civil unions” (clearly no one likes the idea) probably better than anything else conveys the idea of what is being done to gay people in this country.

    That’s why it’s clever: not because they actually want to annul all non-childbearing marriages, but because by doing this and making people consider what things would be like if it really passed, they have found the best possible way to make people sympathetic to their situation. Otherwise, people just skim over the issue without internalizing it, without really understanding what’s being done. And if people don’t feel the sting, they won’t realize exactly what depth of bigotry we’re dealing with here.

    Instead, people are asking themselves what would happen if they or their loved ones were denied the same rights, and people don’t like it. They’re feeling the sting. And after all, if you think civil unions are a fair deal, then you should be happy to settle for them yourselves, right? But if they’re not fair to you, they how are they fair to gay people?

    Therefore, if you’re against this initiative, you must be against the anti-gay “defense of marriage” nonsense.

    If these people were writing a persuasive essay in my class, I’d give them an “A.” To make the audience feel so strongly and personally the problems the minority faces, it’s genius.

    Well, except for the part of making sure that everyone understands the whole point of the exercise… that they’re not really seriously trying to get such a law imposed… after everyone first feels what it would be like to be discriminated against thusly.

    I’m interested in seeing where this will lead.

    [NOTE: comment modified from original]

  5. February 15th, 2007 at 21:47 | #5

    Actually, I don’t find it all that clever. What it does, more than anything else, is provide ammunition for people who oppose gay marriage in the first place to use this as an example of what lengths those awful people who “hate marriage” will go to in order to ruin the blessed instutition for everyone else, which will lead to calls for even more strident “protection”.

  6. Luis
    February 15th, 2007 at 21:56 | #6

    Maybe. Since it depends on people believing for at least a little while that the proposition is serious, being on the edge like that, it could make people believe for too long that it’s serious.

    The thing is, I just personally can’t see that. But maybe that’s me. I just can’t see, if one truly thinks about it, how one could accept that the initiative as stated is really, really serious. Maybe if you never think about it–but if you were challenged to consider it, I really don’t understand anyone believing it’s “real” in that sense, unless they were predisposed to hating the people behind it in the first place.

    As for it being used against gays, I see that as less likely. After all, if any public statement were made using this initiative as a reason to restrict gays, it would be pretty easy to make such a statement look foolish.

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