I recently wrote about how marriage and parenthood can become linked. That’s actually a topic that has come up a number of times on this blog. The general idea is that if you think marriage is best for kids (and many people do) that this can become an argument for granting same-sex couples access to marriage. After all, they have kids and why not do the best we can for these kids. The early post (and the others referred to) talk about how this linkage can be problematic.
But though I haven’t talked about it, you can also run the links the other way round. So here is an article from today’s NYT. The idea here is that once a same-sex couple (here a gay male couple) gets married, people start to ask you about when you’ll be having kids. I’m sure generations of heterosexual couples have faced this question but I think it is pretty new on the lesbian/gay front.
I think this shows how strongly people associate marriage and childbearing. Surely the reasoning behind the question is something like “if you’re getting married it must be because you are thinking of having children.”
It’s not surprising, really. In more instances than I can count, I have seen different sex couples happily cohabit without marriage right until they decide to have kids. That’s when they got married. And they did get married, in some ways, for the kids. If people see same-sex couples and fundamentally no different from different-sex couples (and I think more and more people do that), then why wouldn’t you expect the same behavior.
In this view, marriage really is about children rather than about romantic love and pair bonding. And maybe, as the article suggests, this is a generational shift. For older gay and lesbian couples marriage isn’t about kids. It’s about recognition of their relationship, it’s about equality and dignity.
I don’t mean to paint these views as monolithic or to say that there is really a huge cultural shift. But there’s something quite striking about the cultural phenomenon identified in the NYT piece. I find much food for thought–about the relationship between marriage and parenthood and about the normalization of same-sex couples.