Dear Elizabeth and Maggie,
What should be done with intentionally childless marriages? Your arguments to protect the cultural institution of marriage as a child rearing institution don’t address this question. You advocate for an exclusive cultural understanding of what marriage “is”, defined by the “specialness” of procreative sex and the “rights of children”. There are, however, couples who choose “different things” as Alexa Chiang’s letter in the December 4, Washington Post explains.
“I take raising children seriously. Because I have no interest in the lifestyle of motherhood and I do not want to place my child above my other interests such as traveling, theaters, and social events, I will never commit to becoming a mother…We want different things out of life than people who choose parenthood.”
Should our government sanction their marriage and grant it a legal status? Is Ms. Chiang’s statement “I take raising children seriously” sufficient to believe that she will pay taxes for schools and services, and maybe donate time and money to make this a better world for children? Will their childless “marriage” help them faithfully work as a team that contributes more good than two unmarried individuals? Will marriage bring them happiness? Is the value to society of two people committing to take care of each other for life adequate reason to grant them special status?
Looking at the question a different way, should intentionally childless couples be stripped of their legal status until they satisfy the guardians of the institution that they don’t threaten your foundational assumptions that 1) marriage and child-rearing are inseparably linked; and 2) that children have a “right” to both a mother and a father?
Couples choose to marry and stay married for many different reasons. If marriage is available to intentionally childless heterosexual couples, isn’t it terribly unfair to deny that legal status to intentionally childless same-sex couples? If you both care about not being labeled anti-gay, you’ll grant that this contradiction is an injustice and an unintended consequence of your advocacy.