Same-Sex Marriage and Infertility

One argument used to justify the expansion of marriage to include same-sex couples is the example of male and female couples who are infertile.  The ‘Discussing Marriage‘ website features a somewhat foundational philosophy of marriage called the conjugal view of marriage which I may cover later.  But in a nutshell, this view forwards the idea that traditional marriage is a unique relationship which the state has an interest in because of the potential for procreation.  Other relationships may be valuable and fulfilling, but since there is not the potential for procreation in these relationships, the state does not have the same type of interest in them.  Thus no need to treat these other relationships in the same way they would treat a traditional marriage.

So the argument to justify the expanding definition of marriage to include same-sex couples here would be:

P1:  Some traditional couples are married, yet cannot have children
P2:  Traditional couples that cannot have children can continue in a marriage relationship recognized by the state
P3:  There is no fertility requirement for marriage
C1:  The marriage definition should be expanded to include same-sex couples

Responses to this argument are many, and I would refer you to the link above to review many responses.  The main responses to me is that infertility is often unknown prior to marriage, and infertility is sometimes treatable, and may be cured at some future time.  So P1 is often not known going into a marriage, and may not be a permanent condition.

P2 is understandable because infertile male-female marriages do not undermine the conjugal view of marriage the way other relationships would if they were called marriage as well.

P3 is a statement that leads to what Discussing Marriage calls the revisionist view of marriage.  In this view the unique unifying good of marriage is more along the lines of personal fulfillment rather than potential for procreation.  Which does not have as compelling a reason for state involvement.

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6 Responses to “Same-Sex Marriage and Infertility”


  1. 1 LBK April 30, 2015 at 5:06 am

    What about DINCs (Dual Income No Children) who intend to marry but have no children, should they be banned from being able to marry? Or as Justice Ginsburg asked should people who are too old to have children also be banned?
    And would this parenting argument then be used to justify gay couples with children or the intent to have or adopt children also be able to marry legally

  2. 2 Eric Nielson April 30, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Those are excellent observations LBK. The response here is that male/female couples who choose not or cannot have children do not undermine the conjugal view of marriage the way that same sex couples would. DINC couples could change their mind also. Gay couples do not provide a mother and father for the children that they would adopt, So there is not the same level of interests from the state.

    • 3 Bish Chan June 12, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Wouldn’t the improved welfare of the children being raised in same sex households not be of state interest? I mean even if we look at this within the conjugal view of marriage. Surely procreation itself is not reason enough. We offer incentives as we want them to raise the children in a stable environment. Is this interest abandoned if the children are raised by same sex couples or couples who are not both the biological creator of said children?

      • 4 Eric Nielson June 13, 2015 at 9:13 pm

        I believe that it would, but this issue is up in the air. The research is not robust in my view, and somewhat contradictory. And I feel this issue is a bit of a distraction. See the link from jelby below.

  3. 5 LBK April 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Eric. First, let the DINCs get married when they change their mind, not until then.

    Second, the better parenting argument is another dispute altogether and is a major can of worms in itself. In Perry vs.Brown it was a disastrous argument for the anti same sex marriage side as the lack of evidence made it just opinion, not backed by legitimate studies.

    Since then a number of right wing political groups and conservative religious organizations were ecstatic with the release of the Regenerus study which supposedly proved that traditional marriage was a better institutional for raising kids. Regenerus, a University of Texas at Arlington Associate Professor of Sociology was paid by the Witherspoon Institute, a right wing think tank, to come up with a study that proved that point and which could be used in the Supreme Court to defend traditional marriage only. It appeared to do so.

    Unfortunately, the study was a pile of Crud with a capital C. What Regenerus compared was adult children from stable heterosexual couples to those from unstable homosexual pairs. As one reviewer put it, “What would you expect from comparing children from stable families with those from unstable ones?”

    Legitimate studies basically support same sex marriage in this area. I do not expect Mormon sociologists or psychologists at a Church school to be willing to try to contradict this position, not because they wouldn’t be able to do so, but because it would probably be professional suicide.


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