Vasectomies: Harming society since … wait. WHAT?!?
I have written in the past about Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, a Michigan couple who is suing the state to allow them, as a lesbian couple, to adopt each other’s children. When they brought their case before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, he encourage them to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages and, in July, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled decisively on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, he agreed to hear their case.
Michigan Attorney General and tea party darling Bill Schuette has been on the front lines of this battle, defending the state’s discrimination against same-sex couples in the realm of marriage and adoption. His most recent salvo in this War on LGBTs was a brief filed in response to a motion for summary judgment in the Deboer v. Snyder and Schuette case. In his filing, Schuette defends the ban on same-sex marriage by contending that the state has a compelling interest in “regulating sexual relationships” in Michigan to make sure they result in babies.
I’m not kidding. From his brief (pdf) [emphasis mine]:
State Defendants are entitled to summary judgment for the following reason: an opposite-sex definition of marriage furthers State interests that would not be furthered, or furthered to the same degree, by allowing same-sex couples to marry. Plaintiffs and Defendant Brown wholly miss this fundamental point.
1. Responsible procreation and childrearing are well-recognized as legitimate State interests served by marriage.
One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and always has been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.
What he’s saying is that the State of Michigan needs to regulate sexual relationships to make sure we make babies using our “unique procreative capacity” (sexy talk!)
So, this begs the question about whether or not marriage between non-fertile “opposite-sex” couples should be permitted. For example, during my first marriage, after my son was born, I had a vasectomy. When I married Anne, I was not capable of impregnating her and it was understood that we would not have children together. I probably don’t need to tell you that this didn’t prevent us from having a sexual relationship.
Should I have been prohibited from marrying her? Because, according to Bill Schuette, my vasectomy is harming society.
What about women who have had tubal ligation or a hysterectomy? What about men or women who are infertile for some other reason? Post-menopausal women? Elderly people? Are these Michiganders now prohibited from marrying in our state because they do not possess that magical and unique “procreative capacity”?
In Michigan, you are no longer required to have a blood test in order to secure a marriage license. Does Bill Schuette intend to require a fertility test now before a marriage license will be issued?
What about this whole regulating sexual relationships thing? Are married men and women now prohibited from having intercourse if there is no chance for the woman to become pregnant?
This argument is absurd on its face. While the State may well wish to encourage couples to marry to promote having babies and to, as Schuette continues to argue in his brief, force them to stay together for the sake of the children, it is certainly not the ONLY reason the state hands out marriage licenses. If it was, there would clearly be far fewer of them given out.
Emily Dievendorf, Managing Director of Equality Michigan, released this no-holds-barred statement yesterday:
This absurd overreach is a desperate move by a man with too much power. Attorney General Schuette’s insistence on government in our personal lives is hypocritical, and in conflict with the Supreme Court of the United States. Ten years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws, and this past summer when it ruled against DOMA, it found that regulating sex for the purpose of procreation is not a role for our government. Marriage is about more than just procreation, as the Supreme Court said this June, ‘marriage is a way for couples to define themselves by their commitment to each other.’ Suggesting the benefit of marriage is limited to just producing children is more insulting and damaging to the institution of marriage than anything Schuette fears. The notion that people who cannot, or choose not to, have children are not worthy of committing their life to another person is preposterous.
If it were not so harmful, it would be amusingly ironic that an attorney general whose party supports deregulation, smaller government is demanding this larger regulatory role for government in our daily lives. This brief also flies in the face of any family values platform. In the United States the share of unmarried couples has increased by 25% over the last decade and in 2012 there were 56,315 marriages and 39,892 divorces in Michigan – both statistics largely representing opposite-sex couples. If Attorney General Schuette wishes to preserve the institution of marriage, he should be allowing and encouraging both same and opposite-sex couples to opt in. The attorney general is fooling nobody on this most recent attempt to stop progress for LGBT families. In truth, as long as the law is tied to marriage the lack of marriage equality creates instability on every level and that is no good for anybody.
Bill Schuette looks very much like a man running for governor who knows that our state is as polarized as it can get and is trying to appeal to everyone. On one hand, he’s defending Detroit’s pension recipients to ensure the city’s bankruptcy doesn’t reduce their pension checks. On the other hand he’s the tea party’s front man, attacking Obamacare, defending his drug-maker immunity law, and now regulating our sex lives. For Schuette it appears that regulations are for sexual relationships, not polluters and negligent corporations.
I look foward to Judge Friedman sending this argument down in flames and maybe even giving AG Schuette a smack-down while he’s at it.
After making this illogical and offensive argument, he deserves it.
[Eclectameme by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog.Reuse of unaltered image is permitted.]