Last week, Ryerson University (Toronto) decided to give ethicist Margaret Somerville of McGill University an honorary doctorate. This caused quite a stir; it occurred at the beginning of Pride Week, and most of the fuss is over her refusal to support same-sex marriage. She believes it is not ethical, since children have a right to know both of their biological parents -- one man and one woman. Gay couples might engage in some sneaky genetic engineering to create a child from two men, or two women....
There are so many things about this that annoy me. Firstly, take a look around. How many non-biological parents are there currently? She states that children have a right to know their biological roots -- yes, this makes sense, but it also ignores the hordes of adopted children, especially those from overseas, who do not. Does this make adoption unethical? She opposes artificial insemination for lesbians for this reason. Does she also oppose it for straight couples?And finally, what irritates me most, there is the assumption that gay people want to have their marriages recognized legally so they can have kids!
This annoys me excessively; it says to me that she considers marriage to be an institution created for the sole purpose of procreation. I am a childfree married person. Does this make my marriage invalid? Does this make marriages of people past childbearing age invalid? My spouse and I went into our marriage with the intent NOT to have children, and after having lived together for some years first, we dealt first hand with the assumption that we had finally decided to marry in order to have children. She completely ignores the fact that marriage does not equal procreation, as well as the fact that procreation is not limited to the married state.
I think that this is an insult to childfree couples as well as to gay couples. Perhaps we want to be legally married to participate in the benefits of such a state, legally and socially. Perhaps we want to make our love and committment permanent and recognizable. Perhaps we want some of the same rights that procreating couples receive. To consider gay marriage unnecessary legally, or even unethical, due to the spurious rights of nonexistent children is to miss the point. Gay marriage is necessary because it is the right of the currently living partners to share in the benefits of a legal marriage.
And, please, stop assuming that every single living person wants to procreate. There are other ways to find meaning in life.