NY Times columnist Ross Douthat has a great rebuttal to the absurd charge that opponents of “same-sex marriage” invented a connection between marriage and procreation as a ploy to thwart the redefinition of marriage – Marriage, Procreation and Historical Amnesia
…of course that essential connection was assumed in Western law and culture long before gay marriage emerged as a controversy or a cause. You don’t have to look very hard to find quotes (like the ones collected in this Heritage Foundation brief) from jurists, scholars, anthropologists and others, writing in historical contexts entirely removed from the gay marriage debate, making the case that “the first purpose of matrimony, by the laws of nature and society, is procreation” (that’s a California Supreme Court ruling in 1859), describing the institution of marriage as one “founded in nature, but modified by civil society: the one directing man to continue and multiply his species, the other prescribing the manner in which that natural impulse must be confined and regulated” (that’s William Blackstone), and acknowledging that “it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution” (that’s the well-known reactionary Bertrand Russell).
The primary reason advocates of redefining marriage must deny the obvious truth is simply that accepting the essential male-female nature of marriage makes their position incoherent at its roots. It’s as obvious as any fact can be that male-female sexual relationships play a role in society that is unique; it’s no accident or mere coincidence that human societies all over the world, throughout human history, have set apart male-female sexual relationships in both law and custom. But any acknowledgment of this simple truth opens the door to continue making legal distinctions, and so the truth must be subverted to ideology and political correctness.
But it also had to be denied for pragmatic reasons, because the first victories in redefining marriage were via the courts, and since the unique role of male-female unions in society easily and obviously provides a “rational basis” for unique treatment in the law, activist judges had to deny the obvious truth in order to leave themselves a thin veneer of legalese under which to impose their preferred policy. So, in Orwellian fashion, they simply declared the truth to be irrational and therefore illegal.
It’s impossible to know for certain, but had judges simply adhered to the written law they swore to uphold, to precedent, and to basic logic, they would have consistently ruled that there is plenty rational basis to define marriage as it’s always been defined, as male-female, and the movement to redefine marriage would have likely been stopped in its infancy years ago. Unfortunately, that’s not the legal system we live under now.
UPDATE: Part 2 of 3 – Culture, Class and the Decline of Marriage
UPDATE: Part 3 of 3 – Marriage and Historical Inevitability