Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Marriage is not about children

The most frequent reason conservatives give for opposing marriage equality is because they say that marriage is about raising children. While simple logic would lead anyone to doubt that claim, it nevertheless persists. Despite what opponents claim, marriage is not about raising children.

The most obvious reason that civil marriage is not about children is that raising them isn’t mandatory. If marriage were only about, or even primarily about, raising children, then we would require all married couples to produce or adopt children within a specified period of time. Obviously, we don’t require married couples to bear or adopt children.

Similarly, opposite-gender couples that cannot have children for biological or medical reasons aren’t forbidden to marry, nor are those beyond childbearing years. Our opponents often dismiss that by arguing that, theoretically, they could bear children if some sort of miracle occurred, whereas a same-gender couple can’t without help from others—apparently miracles are quite limited in their miraculousness. Our opponents’ assertion is irrelevant: The point is that, unlikely miracles aside, those couples can’t directly produce children any more than same-gender couples can, but we don’t exclude such opposite-gender couples from civil marriage.

Opponents of marriage equality continually talk about what’s best for raising children, and while that’s a very important topic, it, too, is irrelevant to the discussion of marriage equality. Allowing same-gender couples to commit to each other in marriage does NOT prevent an opposite-gender couple from doing the exact same thing and then having or raising children together. Obviously, one has nothing to do with the other.

What many opponents actually seem to be arguing is that same-gender couples shouldn’t be allowed to raise children at all. That’s obviously a very skewed viewpoint, especially given that there are plenty of opposite-gender couples who make headlines as horrible parents. But all of that is also totally irrelevant to this discussion because not all opposite-gender couples have children, and neither do all same-gender couples, even in places where marriage equality has been enacted.

Still, plenty of same-gender couples are already raising children, often the biological children of one or partner or the other. Yet because they cannot have a civil marriage, those families are put at great risk. Under current law, the same-gender partner of a parent (legal or biological) has no parental rights—they aren’t next of kin. This situation places that family in a very vulnerable position if, for example, the legal parent dies or is incapacitated. The children could be torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known because their other parent isn’t married to their legal parent. How is THAT in any child’s best interest?

So, we’ve seen how no couple is required to raise children as a condition of marriage, that opposite-gender couples that cannot produce (or raise) children aren’t forbidden to marry, that allowing same-gender couples to commit in marriage doesn’t stop opposite-gender couple from doing the same and also that the children of families of same-gender couples are put at risk because their parents cannot marry.

Is there anything else to add? Only this: Marriages don’t raise children, parents do.

Families, with or without children, are always the most successful when they’re based on love. All children deserve to be in a home filled with love, but we all know some won’t have that. Instead of obsessing about the genders of the married partners, we ought to be doing all we can to foster and protect love. We also ought to be helping all families succeed, not trying to pit one kind of family against another.

Marriage equality will help promote stable, loving families. All of us—including children—will benefit from that and a world filled with more love.

Previous posts in this series:

Marriage is not being ‘redefined’
Why civil unions aren’t enough
There is no ‘slippery slope’
The people DO decide
Religious and personal freedom alike
Choice and the ‘gay gene’

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