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Marriage—Designed for Procreation?

Christianity and atheismThe most popular argument against same-sex marriage from Christians that I see is that the purpose of marriage is procreation. (It makes me wonder if the only advice they would give a couple considering marriage would be about sex positions and lubricating oils.)

Where did this idea come from?! My guess is that a couple of Christian strategists had a conversation something like this.

First Guy: We’ve got to find some way to differentiate same-sex marriage from straight marriage.
Other Guy: Yeah—some significant difference.
First Guy: So what would a gay marriage not be able to do that a straight marriage can?
Other Guy: Let’s see—they can love each other, they can support each other through difficult times …
First Guy: They can provide sexual satisfaction, they’ll have two incomes in many cases …
Other Guy: Hey, wait a minute—they can’t make babies!
First Guy: Sure, that’s it! Let’s just spin it to imagine that that’s the sole purpose of marriage!
Other Guy: The sole purpose? But what about all that other stuff?
First Guy: Whatever—the argument just has to be plausible at first glance. It doesn’t have to actually make sense.

Seriously? Is that all you get out of the marriage vows? “I promise to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy as well as in sorrow,” and so on doesn’t sound like “Make babies!” to me.

And what would these people do with marriages that don’t produce children? Some couples don’t want children and others can’t have them. More than 10% of couples have a fertility problem. In other words, if every single homosexual person paired up and got married tomorrow, they would still be far exceeded in number by the straight couples simply unable to make babies. As anti-gay-marriage advocates lie awake at night and worry about other people’s happiness, I wonder if this fact troubles them as well.

And what about couples beyond child-bearing age? My wife and I are too old for more babies, for example. Does that make our marriage invalid or inferior?

It’s easy to smoke out these Christians’ true opinions on the subject. Ask these opponents to same-sex marriage why a straight couple should get married instead of living together, and the procreation argument goes out the window, replaced with profound thoughts about love and commitment—precisely the reason same-sex couples want to get married.

The marriage-creates-babies idea is clung to like a life preserver, but the simple fact is that marriage doesn’t make babies, it’s sex. And, as I’ve said in a previous post, let’s remember that the apostle Paul was against sex and made clear that the best marriage was no marriage at all.

A variant of this argument is that a straight couple provides a better environment for a child than a same-sex couple. I’ve heard evidence that this is true and other evidence that it doesn’t make much difference, but I’m in no position to evaluate them. It certainly seems to me that other factors in life—having enough money, no domestic violence, no drug use, a safe neighborhood, and so on—can overshadow the parents’ gender. But this argument is irrelevant in those situations when two biological parents simply aren’t an option.

Imagine a lesbian woman, divorced with a child. The mother could live alone, she could live with a woman partner, or the two women could get married. What’s the best situation for the child? Mom and Dad isn’t an option; they’re divorced. Mom and Stepdad aren’t an option; Mom’s a lesbian. Seems to me that there’s room in this situation to allow for Mom’s happiness, and that could provide another adult to help with the parenting. Where’s the problem? We probably agree that single-parent households aren’t best for raising children, and opposing same-sex marriage only stands in the way.

A final element of the Christian position is a rearguard action. Concerned about the charge of bias, they argue that their position does not discriminate against homosexuals. After all, they say, the restriction that someone can only marry someone of the opposite sex applies to everyone equally.

I’m sure this absurd argument was as foul-smelling when it was applied to those in love with someone of a different race in 1967 when mixed-race marriages were still prohibited in 17 states. “There’s no discrimination here. You can marry anyone you want … as long as that person is of the same race as you.”

Yeah, right.

Christians don’t need to be born again.
They need to grow up.
— John Shelby Spong

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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