Posted by: bridget | 25 February 2007

Tortured Logic

Jeff Jacoby is usually very logical, but he misses the boat when he declared that marriage and child-rearing are so intrinsically related as to preclude gay marriage, but allow marriage of infertile couples or those who have no desire to reproduce. This comes on the heels of Washington State’s ballot initiative that would require the state to dissolve unions of couples who do not reproduce within three years of matrimony.

He analogises to cars: the primary purpose of cars is to drive, but there are other aspects of them that make them subject to government registration. He gets too caught up in his own analogy, however, and misses the fact that analogies prove very little. If a heterosexual union is like a driveable car that someone may register, absent the fact that it may never leave a garage, a homosexual union is like a car that may be registered, absent an engine. The fact that driveability and cars are intrinsically linked does not stop the government from registering cars that are not driven (out of desire of the drivers) and cars that are not driveable or are only nominally driveable (originating from the characteristics of the particular car).

There can be many strong arguments against homosexual marriage. The idea, however, that marriage is too related to child-rearing is simply silly. Given that the government does nothing to regulate heterosexual unions with that goal (from the Washington idea of dissolving infertile unions to allowing the divorces of couples with children as readily as those of childless couples), the state – or anyone who opposes same-sex marriage – has a difficult time arguing that this is an essential part of the government definition of marriage.

That leaves opponents to argue religion or public policy. Mr. Jacoby misses the point that, just because rational people oppose an idea, every justification in favour of that opposition has merit.



  1. I agree that this argument is pretty much a dud- for many of the reasons you stated.

    -J. Kaiser

  2. Thanks for stopping in, J. Kaiser.

    I meant to re-write this post. Mostly, I see laws governing marriage that have NOTHING to do with procreation and everything to do with committment between two people.

    We allow parents of children to divorce as readily as those who are childless.

    In most states, once you get married, your will is null and void and your spouse gets everything (until you rewrite it). This is applicable even if your spouse is not the parent of your children. (Some states divide up the assets so the spouse gets 2/3 and the children split the remaining 1/3.)

    When you file taxes, the most important status is single or married, not whether or not you have kids with your spouse. You don’t need to be married to get exemptions for kids, nor do you need kids to file jointly.

    As far as I know, no state in the country waives normal marriage requirements (AIDS tests, fees, age limits, etc) if the couple is expecting a child.

    Fact is, we don’t have child-centered (or even child-focused) marital laws.

  3. Holy sweet Jesus. I just completely got upset and went off in International Human Rights class after hearing my classmates and professor calmly discuss how the U.S. might effectively and “morally” institute population control. The initial topic was China’s population control.
    I ended my discussion by saying that I can only see their arguments working if one starts with the assumption that we are all wards of the state and not free citizens. At that point, several people looked at me like I was a space alien and were like, duh, we ARE all wards of the state.
    I’m going to go drink a handle of whiskey now. Single most depressing thing I’ve ever heard in law school.

  4. Hug? Hug?

    Human “Rights??” Is that what they are calling it now? One of the many problems with abortion is that if women are allowed to do it, they can be forced into it… especially when we justify abortion as birth control, or, worse yet, a necessary way of controlling our population. Yuck!

    The moral way for the US to institute population control is to close the borders. Considering that our birthrate is below replacement rate, that would do it in a hurry. Anything else is contrary to the ideas of freedom and free will.

  5. I know. But I’m pretty sure I scared the shit out of some 2Ls and guaranteed myself an F in the class. I pulled no rhetorical punches and argued head to head with the professor as if he were another student and not a professor. He probably hates me now.

  6. Scaring 2Ls is a good thing. They need a little excitement.

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