I made a few posts on this thread on gay marriage at Justin Katz’s blog. The following two posts are based on remarks I made over there.
First, I responded to another poster who made this remark (not directed to me—but it could have been):
I think the reason we go around in circles is because I assume that marriage is intrinsically [sic] about children, while you don't. I think that SSM will offically [sic] sever the connection between marriage and procreation, but you think such a connection either never existed or has been severed already. I don't see any way for us to get around this question - it is so obvious to me that the two are tightly linked that I don't even know how to explain it to you. In fact, I think that those who deny the link, even when they are of good will (i.e. they aren't denying it because of their prior committment [sic] o [sic] SSM, as in Andrew Sullivan's case), are being remarkably obtuse.
Interesting. Marriage historically has been in a perpetual state of flux. "Bearing and raising Children" certainly remains a central purpose. "Property exchanges and the connecting of two families" USED to be a purpose in this culture; it no longer is, but remains so in other cultures. Commitment & caring for your better half, solemnizing romantic love certainly seems to be an important part of marriage as well.
It's not that procreation has NOTHING to DO with marriage; procreation and child rearing are indeed vital things that marital law ought to be concerned with. But it's not the be-all, end-all of marriage. As a matter of fact, there are certain marriages that violate the "procreative purpose" as much as gay marriages would that are already permitted (without a whole lot of hullabaloo).
There are some hetero couples who have no desire to have children and do everything they can to prevent this. One response is: “Well they may change their minds.” Or maybe they won't. What if they don't? But nonetheless live a long & happy life together? Are you going to tell me that they have not been "married" in the same sense as a couple who bore a dozen children?
Or what about the infertile? The Catholic Church has a clever response: Miracles happen. But you know what, there is such a thing as "natural" as opposed to "accidental" infertility. Let's talk first about those who are "accidentally" infertile: Men or women of child rearing age who cannot bear children are biological errors. Yes, maybe a “miracle” will happen. Or maybe it won't. What about an infertile couple who never manages to have children even though they hoped for the miracle? I think this is Pat Buchanan's circumstance. Is his marriage of any less value, any less legitimate because it bore no children?
Now "natural" infertility: All women go through menopause (should they live long enough). It's part of nature's plan that a 60+ year old women not have children.
Speaking of such, my 60 something year old Aunt is getting married again: her 4th. No miracle of child birth will happen there: Her future marriage will have as much chance of bearing children as a gay marriage. It seems as though THIS type of marriage violates the "procreation" model as much as a gay marriage would. So why do we permit them?
I think this goes to show that some marriages that do not produce children or have NO chance of producing children can peacefully coexist with marriages that DO bear children without adversely affecting them. Or will someone make the argument that post-menopausal marriages DO adversely affect the institution of marriage by severing the link between marriage and procreation?