In a letter in The Advocate published May 15, Charles Allen cited his perception of historical roots for society’s creation of the marriage contract (“Marriage was for the children!”) and then stated firmly that “since it is impossible for same-sex marriage to produce … offspring, using the term marriage for such a union is detrimental to the very meaning of the word and corrupts the purpose of the state’s right or responsibility for such a contract.”
Consider the implications of that assertion. People who are married to opposite-sex spouses but not able, for a variety of unwelcome biological reasons, to produce offspring, apparently, are “detrimental to the very meaning of the word” marriage. The clear implication of the assertion is that the state must insist on a positive fertility test before issuing a marriage license and if no offspring is produced within a reasonable time (usual legislative hedging language) should dissolve the failed contract to avoid its corruption. Adoptions don’t count in this last consideration; same-sex couples can and do adopt children just as lovingly and reliably as do opposite-sex couples.
Society has developed legally restricted privileges not dependent on procreation but associated nonetheless with marriage: for example, common-law inheritance by spouses and visitation in critical-care health facilities. Seemingly, society has a long history of not requiring ability to produce offspring as a condition (or even a first expectation) for marriage.
I do not doubt that Allen is genuinely concerned about providing children “the security of a family.” But to contend, as he does, that aim is the only one associated with “marriage” or that it can be achieved only by opposite-sex parents is contrary to experience and “tradition that has fared society well.” The long tradition of marriage has included the creation of stable, secure families that more often than not include children. Until recently it has excluded same-sex couples, but that exclusion is not based on logic.
JAMES G. TRAYNHAM