Monday, 24 November 2003


Jacob Levy continues to sift through his email box, looking at rationalizations for anti-gay discrimination in marriage laws.

The most popular rationalization is that a gay or lesbian couple is incapable of biological reproduction. But, of course, so are many straight couples, voluntarily or involuntarily. And many couples, although physically capable of reproducing, have chosen not to reproduce. [Obligatory disclosure: my wife and I are among the latter group.] We do not deny marriage licenses to these couples.

Several of Jacob’s readers have espoused the position that we should, indeed, deny non-procreative couples the right to marry. An unnamed, “conservative, married” correspondent writes to Jacob:

I’d suggest that only marriages WITH children get extraordinary “protection”. You can call you partner and your arrangement whatever you want but the state should only recognize existing FAMILIES and partners who have reared children as state blessed “marriages” with accompaning rights and benefits.

So, if you’re sterile and marry and don’t have kids…no bene’s. If you adopt, fine, you got a “marriage” in the states eyes and get benes. Until then, call your arrangement whatever you’d like but make all of your legal issues explicit (wills, visitation, powers of attorney) cause the state doesn’t (and shouldn’t) care about helping two, unburdened, free, adults square away their respective responsibilities to each other.

Jacob is mainly interested in the legal question of whether a right to marry would be guaranteed for these couples by the U.S. Constitution (presumably by the Ninth Amendment and the “Privileges and Immunities” clause of the fourteenth). But the public policy position, or the philosophical position, that marriage ought to be reserved for (potential or actual) biological parents is independant of that, and, barring an actual court case, seems more interesting to a non-lawyer such as me.

This political/philosophical position needs a name. Since the position could be summed up succinctly as “Marriage is for breeders”, I propose calling this position “breederism.”