The Scottish Review

Marriage isn't just about procreation

By 3 April 2012No Comments

Oh, there really is some sloppy thinking around the marriage issue. Norma Allan (29 March) says: ‘the most important function of marriage is surely the procreation of children and their custodianship until adults…this deems same-sex marriage inappropriate’.
No, Ms Allan, there is a fatal flaw of logic in your statement. Most would accept that, historically, one, if not the, major purpose of marriage has been the raising of children but that has never been an exclusive purpose. The English Common Prayer Book states that the first purpose of marriage is ‘the procreation of children’. The second purpose (highly contentious in today’s world) is as ‘a remedy agaynste sinne and to avoide fornication’, in other words it keeps sex within socially acceptable boundaries. The third defined purpose however, is of some significance in the present debate: ‘for the mutual societie, helpe, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, bothe in prosperity and adversitye’, in other words for life-long comfort and companionship.
No-one has ever suggested, not even the Catholic Church, that those who are beyond child-bearing age, or those who for whatever reasons are infertile, may not marry. The procreation of children is one of the most important purposes of marriage but it is not an essential purpose. If two loving 60-year-olds agree to wed, who would refuse them on the grounds that they cannot fulfil the ‘most important function’ of marriage? Let us take that one step further. If Ms Allan seriously believes that the procreation of children is an essential function (as distinct from one of the several possible functions) of marriage is she suggesting that heterosexual couples who do not wish to bear children should be denied entry to the status of wedlock? By whom and after what process of inquisition?

     The perfectly legitimate purpose of marriage for many is, and always has been, ‘for the mutual societie, helpe, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, bothe in prosperity and adversitye’. The Church of England at least got that right and that purpose, the pursuit of loving companionship, is not unique to heterosexual couples.

The above letter appeared in the Cafe in The Scottish Review, on 3 April 2012: h

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