What is Marriage? – Children

We’re having some useful discussion on the previous thread about the George et al paper on Marriage. I want to turn our attention to looking in detail at some of the issues raised.

Let’s begin by exploring where the procreation and rearing of children fits into the modern understanding of marriage. Let’s assume we have two couples – one is other-sex and one is same-sex. Both want to get married. The George et al paper says that the procreation and rearing of children is one of the necessary goods of marriage and that therefore the same-sex couple cannot by definition be married because they can never procreate.

Setting aside issues of infertile couples etc, let’s turn our attention to the core issue – is the procreation of children a necessary good of marriage? You might want to conisder the following questions to help our discussion.

  • How does the established research that indicate that children fare better if they grow up with married parents who conceived them fit into the argument?
  • If the procreation and rearing of children is not a necessary good of marriage, how should the state view the procreation and rearing of children? Would any reference in law to the different treatment of the children of a married couple (eg, the fact that it is easier for married couples to register the birth of their child then unmarried couples) undermine a view that procreation and rearing was not a necessary good of marriage?
  • Can it any way by logically tenable to treat procreation and rearing of children as a good in some marriages but not others? Wouldn’t this by definition creating two different forms of marriage?

Please try and stay on topic – I will be vigilant in making sure we stick to the issue of the necessary good of procreating and rearing children.

96 Comments on “What is Marriage? – Children

  1. >>You may want to challenge the medical and scientific evidence and claim that homosexuality is not created (ie reject orientation).<<

    With all due respect, that's a very loosely worded sentence! The ideology of innate homosexuality does not depend on the idea of orientation. There's lots of evidence emerging that sexual orientation changes over time in many people. Now for me there are three successive issues in sexual orientation change:

    1. Does sexual orientation change? There's lots of evidence, studies and anecdotal, that sexual orientation does indeed change for many people over time.

    2. Can sexual orientation be changed? The gay lobby argues from an ideological position that it cannot be changed and that the attempt to do so is evidence of homophobia, internal or external. Despite that the Spitzer and Jones and Yarhouse studies, amongst others, provide evidence that sexual orientation can be changed by a mixture of prayer, spiritual healing, therapies and counselling.

    3. Should sexual orientation be changed? Clearly not in the case of someone who doesn't want to change their sexual orientation! To attempt such an action would be both unethical and counterproductive. But the gay lobby goes much further than this and asserts, again ideologically, that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) are oppressive in themselves. But this denies client choice and autonomy, which is supposed to be primary. And if a client experiences their sexual orientation as not wanted, shouldn't they, in a free society, have the right to pursue SOCE?

    All this is just a long way of saying that the idea of a fixed sexual orientation is very old hat!

    • Philip,

      The Jones and Yarhouse study is hardly very conclusive. Only 98 people, only 11 said they had changed and one said later they had lied, …

      If you were going to convince me I would need proper peer reviewed scientific papers with a degree of independence rather than reports produced by organisations about their own work.

      • DaveW,

        This research has been accepted by the APA and is cited in their review of the literature. Although you would expect larger samples for more rigorous research, this is actually a very good sample size for researching psychological therapies.

        The issue isn't the 11 who claimed they had changed by phase 1, the issue is the results of the Phase 2 results which show that for a statistically significant number of individuals there was a definite shift in their sexual identity – less to do with orientation change and more to do with the kind of "post-gay" thinking that I'm progressing here.

        • Peter,

          That is a long way from talking about wholesale "healing" and claims that "There's lots of evidence emerging that sexual orientation changes over time in many people."

          • Dave W

            Apples and oranges I'm afraid! I claimed that sexual orientation changes for some people over time under my point 1 above. In other words, it changes without the intervention of therapies or other types of mediated change, just as Andrew H's comment and reference states.

            I claimed that there is evidence that seuxal orientation can be changed under my point 2 above where I claimed 'that sexual orientation can be changed by a mixture of prayer, spiritual healing, therapies and counselling'.

            Please not the use of the word 'can' rather than 'will'. You really need to read what I write more carefully!

    • I don't know many liberals who think that sexual orientation is necessarily fixed. Some people do move from one end of the spectrum to the other whilst others stay firmly at one end or the other. See:


      ".. it is my belief that research suggests that all of us are on a scale from 0 = completely heterosexual to 6 = completely homosexual, some people live in the 3-4 place all their lives, others are always 0 or always 6, others meander around the scale, I think sexuality can be fluid."

      • In that case the "inherent and unchangable" argument for blessing certain types of relationship is defeated (as the CofE Bishops noted in their guidance on Issues in Sexuality). It just comes down to choice?

        • Missed this. It doesn't have to come down to choice at all unless you are somewhere in the 'bi' area and even then I don't think choice is the right word. You don't really choose who to love and be loved by – the choice comes in what you do with that love and that relationship.

          I think that for most people, whatever their sexuality, relationship is more important than sex which clearly fulfills a secondary role in the nurturing of relationship. Of course good old fashioned lust (in the non-sinful meaning of that word) still comes into it at times and that is hardly a voluntary thing.

          The issue for me has never been about the rather stale and pointless 'nurture versus nature' or the 'fixed versus fluid' arguments. Sexuality, wherever it happens to be on the spectrum, is usually a 'given' at a particular point in a person's life. They may choose to accept or reject it – that is their point of choice and shouldn't be imposed by others. If there was wider acceptance of homosexuality it wouldn't be such an issue and perhaps GBLT folk would be more accepting of this element of their overall identity.

          I really don't identify myself mainly by my sexuality and I'd like this to be true for everyone since sexuality is only a part of what defines us. Perhaps if homosexuality wasn't such a 'big issue' for some in society it would be less of an issue all round and folk could just get on with their lives and their relationships – and for Christian homosexual people this includes their relationship with God and with the Body of Christ.

  2. >>how do you respond to people created in the image of God as neither obviously male nor female?<<

    We live in a world that has been damaged by sin. And, despite the image of God in all of us, that reality is not going to disappear this side of glory! So some people, through the sin that warps all of creation, will be born intersex. I am very sympathetic to the plight of intersex people and I am open to the potential of corrective surgery and therapy. Much sensitive counselling and support is undoubtedly needed for the intersexed Christian.

    But God does not promise us an easy life, or a life free from the effects of sin. He also asks difficult tasks of many people in the Bible, including in our intimate relationships. Hosea was called to marry a prostitute as a witness of Israel's unfaithfulness. Ezekiel had to face God telling him that his wife would be killed the same day, and then to not mourn, again as a witness of Israel's unfaithfulness. But these prophets always had the sustaining love of God, who came very close to them and sustained them in these trials. And the intersex Christian has access to the same loving and compassionate God.

    • Sorry Philip but there is a huge gulf between choices Hosea and Ezekial made and being born intersex.

      Given your comments on changing sexual orientation I am concerned about what you think is appropriate corrective surgery and therapy. From my reading much harm has been done in the past through surgery that makes decisions far too early and often in secrecy.

      You also write of the intersex Christian, but what about those who are not Christians. What hope is there for them?

  3. Re Intersex,

    Although this is a good conversation, I want to devote some time in the near future to explore the issue in greater depth. Feel free to carry on, but do so in the knowledge that at some point in the next month or so we'll come back to it as a main topic.

  4. Philip,

    In case you haven't got email alerts switched on I have posted back to you on John Bowker. THis is a very long thread now and the hierarchical stacking of responses has its benefits but also its frustrations. When it goes over two pages as this has it can get really difficult toing and froing. I mention it only because several times you seem to have missed a response of mine. Maybe you thought it was not worth answering and that's okay but I would be sorry if you have just missed something because it was not immediately accessible.

    Peter, I realise there is no perfect answer to this and I am not grumbling at your layout which is pretty smooth. The old-fashioned way of arranging the posts strictly as they come in is a nuisance in long threads.

    • Tom

      I suspect that I haven't got email alerts switched on (how do you do it?) I had missed your further comment on John Bowker with the thread going over onto two pages. Thanks for this – I had misread his article and I just have read through it fully. As you say, it is in fact a well argued and intensely logical argument in favour of religion. I have copied it in fact for future use in arguments with atheists! I'm sorry, I hadn't heard of him before and I misjudged both his arguments and their complexities.

      I'm also aware, as you state at the end of your comment, that he is writing as a professor of religion rather than an Anglican priest. And in the 'Independent' too, where many readers will probably need some convincing about the benefits of religion! I'll look out for articles by him in the future.

      • Thanks for that Philip. I was particularly concerned because I know John Bowker and consider him one of the best advocates for religion against the kind of hard-line atheism you object to (and also fundamentalism which I do). He is never an easy read but his book "Is God a Virus?" is worth the challenge.


        Sometimes a check box appears beneath the reply box for you to switch on email alerts. At present below this I see "You are subscribed to the entry. Manage your subscriptions (in clickable bold blue)" so I guess I must have clicked the box earlier up the conversation.

  5. I can say that the answer to the question what is marriage in my opinion depends on the people themselves and how they view their own marriage or relationship. Firstly to me marriage is a man-made system either by law or by religious beliefs. I know many married people happily married for years and other no longer married, i do not think that marriage ensures a life long relationship either, i know many unmarried couples who have never married and have a great relationship and do not feel the need to obtain a piece of paper to gel their commitment to each other. I think some people do not go into marriage for the right reasons sometimes, relationship can be hard work much give and take and some people do not take this into consideration. I have seen it myself once the wedding day is over and they have to come down to earth and get to grips with everyday life they become bored and want to break up the marriage many people just do not work at it, so course sometimes the marriage has not worked out and that is very sad for both people envolved.

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