Sunday, October 12, 2008

But What If God Makes You Infertile?


The New York Times has a rather vapid piece on same-sex marriage, Using Biology, Not Religion, to Argue Against Same-Sex Marriage. The authors present the views of a Christian couple who contend that their opposition to same-sex marriage arises from biology, not their religious beliefs:
“It takes a man and a woman to create children and thus create a family,” Mrs. Galloway, 60, told a legislative panel in Connecticut last year as it was considering a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
Except....
For the Galloways, the notion that same-sex couples should not marry because they cannot have children is complicated by their own story. They married nearly 17 years ago, and tried to have children. When they couldn’t conceive, they became foster parents in the hope of adopting.
If the argument truly is that biology dictates the answer - couples who can't have children shouldn't be allowed to marry - why should the Galloways be permitted to remain married? Why should any infertile person be allowed to marry? If the solution to God's will is adoption, as the Galloways suggest at least in relation to their own inability to bear children, how is their marriage different from that of a same-sex couple that adopts?

What of a fertile couple that chooses not to have children, or an infertile couple with no intention of adopting - should they be allowed to marry? How does "biology" justify their marriage?

It's sleight of hand - the argument is quietly shifted from biology - the capacity to reproduce - to "gender roles":
The notion that gender roles are unimportant in raising children is “bunk,” added Mrs. Galloway. “It is not an accident that it takes a man and a woman coming together to create a child,” she said.
Certainly, it's not an "accident" that species that reproduce sexually engage in sexual reproduction. That's a given. But what do we make of "biology" when mommy mantis bites off daddy's head or mommy wolf spider eats daddy. Even if we stick to humans, the mere fact that a species engages in sexual reproduction does not necessarily require that the father have any involvement in the child's life past the point of conception. And that's true even when parents have the best of intentions:
Mr. Galloway, whose father died when he was 3, said being raised solely by women - his mother and his aunts - hindered his development and altered his sense of self-worth.
The Galloway's argument is premised in sociology, not biology. And even in that context, its based upon personal experience and opinion, not empirical data.

This emphasis on biology roughly parallels the idea that "if we call it 'intelligent design' it's not really creationism." When the religious argument doesn't gain traction, spin it into something you can try to rebrand as science, even if there's no actual science involved.

1 comment:

  1. Well put. When I read about this the other night I was a little drunk and had a very strong urge to call Mr. Galloway ((203) 374-4132) and rant to him about many of the things you put so articulately. Lucky for us both I drank a glass of water and went to bed instead.

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