The End of Marriage by Allan Carlson


The End of Marriage

Sex, Procreation & the Gnostic Triumph
by Allan Carlson

When Massachusetts officials set out to defend that state’s marriage law from a challenge by seven homosexual couples, their major line of defense was the necessary connection of marriage with procreation. Making babies, the state argued in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, was the first purpose of marriage. By definition, same-sex partners could not create a child as a couple. This inability mattered, and barred them from marriage, because children usually do best when growing up with their two natural parents.

The trial court agreed with the state. The judge ruled that under Massachusetts law the primary purpose of marriage was in fact procreation. Accordingly, the state could reasonably distinguish between homosexual claimants to marriage and those heterosexual couples at least “theoretically . . . capable” of procreation without relying on “inherently more cumbersome” non-coital reproductive methods.

Even Evan Wolfson, an acknowledged leader of the “gay marriage” movement, in his book Why Marriage Matters agreed that:

At first glance, the “basic biology” argument seems to make some sense. After all, it doesn’t take more than a fourth-grade health class education to know that men’s and women’s bodies in some sense “complement each other” and that when a man and a woman come “together as one flesh” it often leads to procreation.

But of course, on a four-to-three vote Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the procreation argument, pointing to couples in which the woman was over childbearing age or that were otherwise infertile. The state could not “rationally” tell them that they could not marry.

What people are saying about Touchstone:

Indeed, the court noted, under state law even those “who cannot stir from their death bed may marry,” provided they were of the opposite sex. Moreover, infertility was not a ground for divorce, and by inference so not a bar to marriage either. In addition, Massachusetts law protected the parental rights of homosexuals and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children, and to enable “gay parenting” while denying the children involved the benefits of “family stability and economic security” found in a marital home was irrational.

If procreation is the purpose of marriage, Wolfson argues, the marriages of Bob and Elizabeth Dole, John and Teresa Heinz Kerry, and Pat and Shelley Buchanan should all be declared invalid. So should the marriage of the Father of our Country, George Washington, to Martha.

Another same-sex activist, Dale Carpenter, writing in the Bay Area Reporter, argues that if there was any merit to the procreation argument,

We would require prospective married couples to sign an affidavit stating that they are able to procreate and intend to procreate. If in, say, 10 years they had not procreated, we could presume they are unable or unwilling to do so and could dissolve the marriage as unworthy of the unique institution.

Since no one has proposed this, or anything like it, the defenders of marriage “do not take the narrow procreationist view of marriage very seriously.” Instead, they impose another rule: “Nobody is required to procreate in order to marry, except gay couples.” Such discrimination, he implies, could not survive a test by the “equal protection clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Allan C. Carlson is the John Howard Distinguished Senior Fellow at the International Organization for the Family. His most recent book is Family Cycles: Strength, Decline & Renewal in American Domestic Life, 1630-2000 (Transaction, 2016). He and his wife have four grown children and nine grandchildren. A "cradle Lutheran," he worships in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

more on sex from the online archives

28.3—May/June 2015

Of Bicycles, Sex, & Natural Law

Describing Human Ends & Our Limitations Is Neither Futile Nor Unloving by R. V. Young

31.6—November/December 2018

Of Single Importance

on the Church's Response to the Anti-marriage Tide by Diane Woerner

32.5—September/October 2019

Feral Sexuality

on the Inhuman Transformation of Transgenderism by Anthony Esolen

more from the online archives

10.4—Fall 1997

Lessons from the Nursery

The Catholic Imagination Encounters Bambi by James L. Sauer

14.6—July/August 2001

The Transformed Relics of the Fall

on the Fulfillment of History in Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon

32.4—July/August 2019

A Case of Win-Win

on Probability, Death & the Existence of God by Graeme Hunter

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone