Should childless married couples give up their rights?

February 03, 2011

Peter Sprigg claims that the only public purpose of marriage is the birth and nurture of children ("Same-sex marriage is contrary to the public interest," Feb. 2). He says that heterosexual couples can choose not to have children, but that is a private purpose which is not the legislature's business. Why, then, should childless heterosexual couples enjoy all of the benefits which accompany marriage? Should childless married folks not be able to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse? Should my wife be denied insurance coverage simply because our children are grown?

If these rights are granted to heterosexual couples who are childless or adoptive parents, why should they not also be available to same-sex couples? One might even suggest that marriage supports the public purpose of couples caring for one another so that they avoid becoming a burden on the state. Such a purpose should apply to all couples, straight and gay.

Mr. Sprigg also refers to a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics. It is available online here, and a quick review of its family structure definitions suggests that it did not compare same-sex couples to heterosexual couples.

One finding which Mr. Sprigg did not mention is that children of "nuclear" families are more apt to have health insurance and access to good health care than other children. That may explain some of the health disparities, and it may well be because many health insurance plans are available only to married couples. If same-sex couples are allowed to marry and enjoy the same benefits, perhaps that statistic would change for the better.

James D. Schroll, Pasadena

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