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Why Justice Alito is wrong to equate marriage with procreation

By Victoria Fryer 

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in favor of same-sex marriages. This decision is, of course, momentous in the progression of rights for LGBTQ Americans, and there has since been much analysis of those four justices who dissented.

Now, Justice Antonin Scalia has had some time in the spotlight over the past few days, because, as it turns out, his dissents are hilarious. He’s getting the most press for his remarks with regard to the Obamacare case, but his response to same-sex marriage is also pretty wacky.

But while we were giggling at Scalia, some of us may have missed the interesting part of Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent in the same-sex marriage decision. Because that’s also where the childless and childfree come in.

Now, whatever your opinion is of same-sex marriage, the things that the Supreme Court says about any social institution are important and are going to have impact. What Alito says in his dissent is this: “the institution of marriage was created for the purpose of channeling heterosexual intercourse into a structure that supports child rearing,” and “marriage is essentially the solemnizing of a comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing new life, even if it does not always do so.”

It’s a shame, I think, that people would see the only real purpose of marriage as having children, or attempting to have children. Sure, marriage is a great foundation for children. It’s not necessary, but it’s a nice-to-have. Similarly, children aren’t the only reason to get married. For some people, children enrich their lives and become a natural next step after marriage (or before, I don’t judge); for us childfree couples, we marry for other reasons. To formally acknowledge our mutual respect and partnership. To gain important legal protections. Because we love each other.

I don’t think that Justice Alito meant to sound like he was invalidating the purpose of marriage for people who don’t intend to have children. But I always think it’s worth examining the way people in powerful positions use language and make arguments.

Building a marriage and having children are two different things. It’s concerning that there is a faction of people out there who believe that the sanctity of marriage has anything to do with childbearing or childrearing. It’s this kind of thinking that leads people to ask, “What’s the point in getting married if you’re not going to have children?”

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

Samuel Alito

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