I read this weekend the engaging, excellent new book by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the debate. (By the way, the Institute’s Center for Public Conversation will be hosting Gallagher and Corvino for a conversation about their new book on June 7. Stay tuned for more on that.)
One of the questions I take away from the Corvino/Gallagher exchange is the following.
If the state should recognize same-sex unions as marriages based on the principle of equality — that same-sex persons are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of marriage — could people like myself who believe that it is unjust to deliberately conceive a motherless or fatherless child – could we still argue for that view without being labeled as bigots? Further, could I write a letter to the editor, or introduce a bill (if I’m a legislator), or otherise advocate in a public forum, to ban reproductive technologies that intentionally deprive children of their own mother and father? Or would such arguments and actions constitute “hate speech” and discrimination against gays and lesbians, because it deprives gays and lesbians of the opportunity to conceive and raise their own children — one of the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage?
Here is what Corvino says:
“The view that same-sex couples are unworthy of marriage is a wrongheaded one, which should, and will, be marginalized. But what about the view that children need mothers and fathers?… [W]ill people be stigmatized, and even branded as bigots, simply because they believe that children do best with their (own) biological mother and father? Honest answer: it depends. Specifically, it depends on how they frame their point. If they make their focus child welfare, they should be fine. Indeed, on certain points, they may find surprising allies. I too lament the fact that many men don’t take their responsibilities as fathers seriously. I’d like to see the divorce rate reduced, especially when children are involved. I recognize teen pregnancy as a real social problem, particularly in poor minority communities. If the focus is on getting everyone to take more responsibility when it comes to sex and procreation and childrearing, then sign me up. But that, sadly, has seldom been the focus. Instead, “the traditional view of marriage” has become code for “no gays allowed”…. If you don’t want your child-welfare convictions to get branded as discrimination, then you shouldn’t cloak them in a discriminatory message: no gays allowed.”
What do you all think? In a gay marriage world, can I argue that it is unjust to deliberately conceive a motherless or fatherless child, without discriminating against persons in same-sex unions? Or does it constitute “hate speech” and discrimination because it deprive gays and lesbians of the opportunity to conceive and raise their own children — one of the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage?
(By the way, I realize that this question is not necessarily germane to the question, “Should we recognize same-sex unions as marriages?” Regardless of any consequences, if it is just to enact gay marriage because they have a right to marry, the state should do it. If it is unjust because same-sex unions are distinct from opposite-sex unions, it should not. I’m interested in this post of working out the implications of legalizing gay marriage.)