Marriage an Institution Defined by Procreation
Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:04
Advocates of redefining marriage often regard themselves as the champions of equality, justice and human rights. In recent weeks, an enormous head of steam has been generated on this page of The Hoya by the repetition of these principles ad nauseam. Some have even expressed their desire to toss the historic understanding of marriage into the junkyard of social conventions, alongside racial segregation and anti-miscegenation laws. Marriage is a heavy issue, and it deserves to be evaluated by a standard of charity proportionate to its magnitude.
Charity first demands that we recognize our own shortcomings. Far too often our government and religious communities have failed to welcome gays as equal and full participants in society. In a world reluctant to respect the dignity of gays, many have acquiesced in defending the rights of everyone. Both our culture and our Church are in need of greater openness to the LGBT community.
But true compassion for our LGBT friends does not require that we rush to transform marriage into a legal tool for social inclusion. Marriage deals with far more than social statuses and governmental designations. It is central to bringing new life into the world.
This procreative understanding of marriage was never founded on prejudice or the desire to exclude. Rather, society’s recognition of the right to marriage has developed in tandem with the important governmental interest of promoting stable, permanent and procreative relationships. Social science and common sense indicate that children are more likely to flourish in healthy homes where they can come to know the dedicated love of their biological mother and father. If society neglects this reality, we will only deepen social and economic inequalities, not alleviate them.
Unfortunately, we hear little about the rights of children among the chattering world. The desires of adults now occupy our collective consciousness. Over the past four decades, marriage and the family have been placed on life support, with detrimental consequences to the well-being of young boys and girls. Divorce rates have steadily risen, followed by unintended pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births. Cohabitation progressively serves as a substitute for marriage, and two out of every five children are now raised in divorced homes.
But society should not pull the plug on marriage. The trends responsible for divorcing children from marriage are identical to those undergirding the attempt to redefine the institution. Americans have grown increasingly hesitant to view children as a constitutive element of marriage and more inclined to view sex as the natural link to procreation. The advance of same-sex marriage is the logical end point to this cultural movement. It sends the message that marriage — if distilled to essentials — has nothing to do with the procreation and education of children or the sexual complementarity that even makes them possible. Marriage is simply understood as an instrument for satisfying the romantic and sexual yearnings of individuals.
A peculiar form of self-deception is required to deny the influence of this message on the way Americans will think and act with regard to marriage and raising a family. Of course society will not collapse into a "modern-day Gomorrah" ("Marriage Equality is Imperative", A3, April 5, 2013), but honest advocates of redefining marriage know that it undermines norms such as monogamy. In a statement entitled "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage," over 300 prominent gay and lesbian activists — including three professors at Georgetown — demanded legal recognition for multiple sex, or polyamorous, partnerships. Their judgment makes sense if we treat children only as an optional supplement to marriage, like mustard is to a hotdog.
Failing to learn from this logic, some have pressed the case that redefining marriage will actually strengthen "family values" ( "Same-Sex Couples, Same Family Values," A3, April 5, 2013). At precisely the moment when society needs to strengthen the bond between fathers and their children, they would declare, as a matter of policy, that fathers are not only optional to the family unit but that they contribute nothing unique to a child’s development. If we truly wish to promote authentic human progress, let’s honor fatherhood and motherhood within the pro-child institution known as marriage.
But progress requires that we listen attentively to both sides of the issue. Our message is not grounded in bigotry or hatred but in the very nature of love itself. Authentic love is not restricted to the romantic and physical exchange between individuals. It goes far beyond that to include the possibility of bringing new life into being. Love is fundamentally co-creative. Let’s deliver it the institution it deserves: marriage.
Andrew Schilling is a junior in the College.