Friday Jan 29 2010
And Another Thing: Parenthood a prerequisite for marriage?
By: Susan Rushton
You’ve heard about the trial in San Francisco federal court on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriages. Please note that neither gays nor gay marriage are my topics in this column. So let’s all take a deep breath. Instead, I’m discussing the testimony of expert witness David Blankenhorn who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, stated under oath on Tuesday that “extending marital rights to couples who cannot conceive children would change marriage from ‘a child-based public institution to an adult-centered private institution.’” I found this odd comment so annoying that I couldn’t let it go. For one thing, I consider my 30-year marriage a very private institution. We married for each other’s sake, not the public’s sake. What we do together is none of anyone’s business. And whether we choose to have children is none of anyone’s business. We chose not to. Does that mean we shouldn’t be married? “Many seem to believe that marriage is simply a private love relationship between two people,” Blankenhorn — the founder of the Institute for American Values — wrote in an op-ed piece for the LA Times two years ago. But how deluded they are, he continues: “Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children.” Oh, yeah? What if you don’t want children? What if you can’t have them, or shouldn’t? Is childrearing the only reason to marry? Shall we cast apart all those couples who marry and are childless? Why not, if having children is the primary reason to marry? My friend Lois Granstrom of The Chocolate Shop has been married to Al for four years, together for 20. I asked her if she and Al planned to have children, and we guffawed for some moments. “I don’t get it,” she said of Blankenhorn’s comments. “It makes no sense. You get married for lots of reasons — financial, security… it’s more than just having kids.” At Big Salad Shop, customer Carl Krieger smirked at the idea. “Just because you don’t want kids doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get married,” he said. His mother, Norma, sitting across the table from him, agreed. When I approached Big Salad Shop employee Stephanie Fultz with this topic, the expression on her face was very satisfying. “You’re kidding,” her expression said. “Get married just to have children?” “That shouldn’t be the only reason to marry,” she said. “You don’t want to have kids who aren’t wanted.” A childless couple lived near my family when I was growing up. Childlessness was unusual in that neighborhood. My mother commented that a generation or two before, they would have been looked upon as suspect: people who got married solely for one another’s pleasure. The very idea. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s just fine to have children — if you want ‘em. But it’s fine not to have them. It’s fine to be married. It’s fine not to be married. I have my own preferences. So do you. But just as yours are none of my business, mine are none of yours. They’re none of the government’s business, either. Susan Rushton’s opinion column appears every other Sunday in the Auburn Journal. Her e-mail address is Rushton@ cebridge.net.