New York state's highest court ruled this week that state laws preventing gays from getting married are not unconstitutional, and may stand. Whether the ruling is a setback for the gay marriage cause or not is debatable -- Andrew Sullivan thinks it's high time to move the emphasis from courts to legislatures -- but what strikes me as both pathetic and hysterically funny is the reason the court gave for its ruling: We're too responsible.
With stunning insight the court observed that a boy and girl vigorously going at it can wind up starting a pregnancy without intending to. (Amazing! Who knew?) They also noted that it's much better for children to grow up with a mother and father than in a single parent household. Therefore, they reasoned, the state has a compelling interest in promoting marriage between straights, an interest that doesn't exist with gay couples.
In contrast with these reckless and irresponsible heteros (we don't call them "breeders" for nothing), gay folks boinking away cannot start a pregnancy, intentionally or not, no matter how enthusiastically we try. Gays who really want to raise a child can do so of course, through adoption or artificial insemination, but it takes quite a bit of effort to do it. Gays can be presumed therefore to take parenthood seriously, as something we have to choose and pursue, unlike those straights who just sort of tumble into it. So we have no need of the encouragement towards responsible behavior that society bestows on straights by allowing them to get married. (See analysis by Yale Law prof Kenjio Yoshino.)
My my. We've come a long way since Pat Buchanan said we had "declared war on Nature," and that AIDS was Nature's terrible revenge. (Did no one tell Pat that, globally, most AIDS sufferers are straight?) Now it seems that Nature has endowed us with innate virtues of probity and restraint, reproductively speaking. Ol' Ma N. must think pretty highly of us. Never mind that while this argument may be a reason for encouraging marriage between straights, it gives no reason for dis-couraging marriage between gays, especially since having kids has never been a prerequisite for getting or staying married anyway. Never mind that while gay men used to be sneered at for our presumed promiscuity, the court now says that straight relationships are “all too often casual or temporary," and therefore need marital shoring up.
No, what's truly ludicrous is that this argument relies on what can only be called a demonstrably failed policy. While the numbers have declined in recent years, nearly half of all teenagers have lost their virginity by the time they graduate from High School. (Source: U.S. government.) If marriage is supposed to counteract that, it's got a hellishly high failure rate. Which, after all, stands to reason. How often does a horny 17-year-old with a ready and willing girlfriend stop fumbling with his belt buckle to think, "Wait a minute. Are we married yet?" Yeah, yeah, that's what he's supposed to think, but in practice? To us the Puritans are the prime example of sexual restraint and repression, and the word puritanical is the ultimate symbol of it. But historical studies have shown that in Puritan New England, up to 40% of brides were pregnant on their wedding day. Move up to our present hypersexualized culture and what do you expect? Please.
Whether the kids should be carrying on like that is another topic, one I won't go into now. But such a dubious rationale is a pretty flimsy basis for keeping a whole class of Americans second-class citizens.