This has been an exciting week for equality. On Tuesday I was right there with everyone else, listening to the tapes and wishing all kinds of imaginary ills on Justice Antonin Scalia. What struck me more than anything else was the lawyer defending Prop 8, Charles Cooper, insisting that the ability to create children made heterosexual marriage legitimate and homosexual marriage downright wrong.
OK, there are a lot of problems with this argument, many of which were brought up by the justices. It is ridiculous, but for me it is also personal, because it calls my own marriage into question.
One in six heterosexual couples in this country experiences infertility. That means that nearly 17 percent of all couples who try to conceive a baby have considerable difficulty, and many seek help from a fertility specialist. For 20 percent of these couples, doctors can find absolutely no reason why they are infertile. Some couples choose to treat their infertility, and others don't. Sometimes something as mundane as money makes that decision for the couple. Treating infertility is expensive and usually not covered by insurance.
My husband and I are one of those couples. When I was 21 years old I sat in an exam room (in the paper gown of humiliation) and listened, silent and shocked, as my doctor explained that I would never have children. We were right out of college at the time and didn't even have health insurance, much less any spare $1,000 bills lying around to pay for even the most elementary treatments. We spent a couple of years getting ourselves settled and insured (which luckily covered diagnosis, but not treatment). The doctors figured out what was wrong and thought that they could fix it. We scrounged and saved and just managed to pay for the low-level treatment we needed.
Then, seven years after first hearing that I would never have a baby, our first son was born. We went back to the doctor for our second and third, which we could actually afford at that point, because the drugs I needed were now generic and affordable. We are lucky. Extremely lucky. We know it, and we are grateful.
But given Cooper's logic, I'm left asking, "So was our marriage not real for the first seven years?" We couldn't create children together any more than a gay couple could. And the same goes for 17 percent of heterosexual couples in this country.
OK, yeah, we were able to eventually produce children. But that's us. There are thousands of couples in this country who choose to adopt, or to live child-free, when medical intervention does not help them. Where do these couples stand? There's no possibility of kiddos for them, so is someone coming in to enforce mandated divorces? Or would these couples be required to try third-party treatments like sperm or egg donation if they want to remain married? Or would that not count because it's not "natural"?
And the question goes beyond that. What about when people have finished having children and choose to permanently end their fertility through tubal ligation or vasectomy? Is that even worse, because people choose to end their childbearing abilities?
And none of these points even addresses those heterosexual couples that get married after their fertile years are over, or couples of any age who simply don't want kids.
No one is mandating that any of these couples get divorced. (At least not yet.) Why? Because having children doesn't really have anything to do with being married. Two people get married because they want to. And that's the only reason they need -- unless they're gay. Then they have to come up with reasons and justifications for wanting to spend their lives with someone and have that union protected by law.
I married my husband because I literally could not imagine my future without him in it. It was about me, and it was about him. It was about love and trust and loyalty. Those aren't exclusively heterosexual traits.
And I want all my sons to have that same right, no matter whom they bring home to Mama.
(By the way, thank you, Justice Kennedy, for acknowledging the nearly 40,000 kids in California who are being raised by same-sex couples. But please also remember the approximately 4.2 million gay children under the age of 19 who are currently growing up in this country. They count too.)