Does Gender Matter?

Marriage is much more than a simple legal convention or social tradition.

Humanity knows many different forms of relationships: close friendships, cousins, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. Why is it that every society throughout human history has favored the relationship between a man and a woman who commit to one another? And why is it that this unique relationship is called “marriage,” and nothing else is?

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss calls marriage “a social institution with a biological foundation”. He notes that throughout recorded history the human family has been “based on a union, more or less durable, but socially approved, of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children.”

Marriage provides a stable, nurturing relationship for both husband and wife, and for any children they bear, by reinforcing and disciplining human biology, in the interests of society.

After all, while not all marriages result in reproduction, the conception of human life requires both a male and female. As children require prolonged nurturing, it is in the vested interest of society to encourage stable and healthy marriages in which this nurture can take place.

The timeless anthropological purpose of marriage is to unite a male and a female to each other and to their child. Historically this has been important for the protection of the pregnant woman and vulnerable children, as well as for the economic viability of the family unit.

Advocates of same-sex marriage argue, in defiance of nature, that marriage is not related to mammalian biology and raising young, but is just about any two adults with an ‘emotional commitment’.

For example, the prominent homosexual advocate, Andrew Sullivan, writes that the essence of marriage “is not breeding” but instead “a unique and profound friendship”. A Washington superior court judge in 2004, ruling in favour of same-sex marriage, could only offer this limp definition: “To ‘marry’ means to join together in a close and permanent way”; that marriage is “a close personal commitment” that is “intended to be permanent” and which is “spiritually significant”.

But this vague sentimentality applies to many different adult relationships, and says nothing specifically of marriage.

As marriage expert David Blankenhorn comments:

I have a number of profound friendships and some intense personal commitments, all of which seem to me to be emotional enterprises. I am involved in a number of mutually supportive relationships, many of which, I am sure, enhance social stability. But none of this information tells you to whom I am married or why.

It is, therefore, anthropologically inadequate, to assert that marriage is all about “love and commitment” between any two adults, unrelated to biology and the responsibility to nurture children.

Even the libertarian philosopher Bertrand Russell acknowledged “It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

While same-sex relationships may be a significant private relationship, to be treated with neighbourly respect by all, they cannot give rise to children, so are of no institutional importance to society.

If intimate sexual relations did not have the momentous consequence of creating a child who needs stable care over prolonged periods, there would be no incentive for a legal institution of ‘marriage’ as society does not involve itself in the regulation of friendships. Society would mind its own business.

Marriage within society is all about gender. Society would cease to exist without the procreation of children, and intimate sexual relations can indeed create a child who needs stable care over a prolonged period. Therefore, society encourages the strength, health and longevity of such relationships.

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6 Responses

  1. Within your definition of a successful marriage, should we then revoke the right of two people who are incapable of bearing children, for example infertile men or menopausal women, to marriage? Also, should we then criminalise divorce within marriages which have borne children? Should we criminalise becoming pregnant if a person is unmarried? And, also within this view, what do you make of this study by the University of Melbourne in 2014 (, which claims that the only real barrier to same-sex couples’ children are societal pressures, like those that organisations such as yourself place on the children? How do you justify this ideology, when other discriminatory ideologies such as racial segregation and the patriarchy have proven to be so successful? Same-sex marriage will not only happen, but in future generations organisations such as yours will be looked at with the same disgust with which we view the KKK in our modern world. This worldview is the only thing which harms children. For the record, I am a heterosexual man in a loving relationship, and soon to be marriage, with a woman whom I adore. I have no motivation to do this other than the wish that this entire argument didn’t even need to be had.

    • admin

      Philip, comparing another point of view as being like the KKK means you should have your comment deleted, but for the sake of other people who might wonder about the question of childless couples, I will make one point.

      Every childless couple can still meet the child-centred criterion for marriage: they can provide that child with a mother and father, even if it is an adopted child. A man and woman who know they cannot bear children are no less valid a marriage – albeit burdened by the grief of infertility – because they are fulfilling the natural bond of male and female which underlies marriage, and are capable of fulfilling the bond of mother-father-child (albeit adopted) as well.

      Your comments re divorce and unwed pregnant women are trivial. Of course marriages break up; of course men do not stick with the woman they make pregnant, and the adults and children involved have to do the best they can in tragic circumstances. Clearly our ad says “the equal right, WHEREVER POSSIBLE, to both a mum and a dad”. We know it is not always possible for kids to have both a mum and a dad – as you say, maybe the parents divorce or a woman is left on her own – and many single parents I know do a remarkable job. And kids in a divorced of single-mother household do have a second parent out there somewhere, often with shared parenting arrangements. What we are objecting to is the idea of a government policy that deliberately creates an institution where it is impossible for a child to have both a mother and a father, right from the start.

      That’s what a law for same-sex marriage would do, because it carries the right to same-sex adoption and surrogacy. Marriage, after all, is a compound right under international law: “the right to marry and found a family” (Article 16, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Think of Sir Elton John and his ‘married’ partner David Furnish, who created baby Zach through surrogacy using an anonymous egg donor in India. That child is absolutely cut off from any knowledge of his mother, simply because, as the rock star put it, “I wanted someone to love into my old age”.


  2. ‘These findings are consistent with those reported by Avery and colleagues (2007) which support that, compared to children raised by single mothers and those raised by heterosexual couples, the children of lesbian couples have similar outcomes in terms of social skills, well-being, and academic performance. No significant differences were found between children in lesbian mother families and children in heterosexual families with respect to abnormal behaviour, psychiatric health, or socioemotional development.’
    ‘In terms of adolescent adjustment, Wainright and Patterson (2006) found that across a diverse array of assessments, including measures of delinquent behaviour, victimisation, substance abuse, and quality of family relationships, adolescents with female same-sex parents did not differ significantly from a matched group of adolescents living with different-sex parents. Quality of parent relationship, as opposed to family composition, has been found to be associated with positive outcomes for adolescents (Patterson & Wainright, 2008; Golombok, 1999; Wainright & Patterson, 2006).’

    Source: Titlestad, A, & Pooley, JA 2014, ‘Resilience in Same-Sex-Parented Families: The Lived Experience of Adults with Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Parents’, Journal of GLBT Family Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 329-353. Available from: 10.1080/1550428X.2013.833065. [26 June 2015].

    I could put a lot more, but I think this gets the point across well enough.

    Research, you should try it.

    • admin

      Thanks, Claire – but if you want to try some research too, check the earlier blog at

      There you can link to the detailed critique of the Wainwright study above – and as for Avery, it does not even make the cut as a valid scientific study allowing population inference (i.e. it lacks the random sample and sufficient size to be of more than anecdotal value).

      Research is only valid if it is non-biased in its sample and statistically valid; for example look at the Sullins study from 2015 finding four times the incidence of serious emotional problems among children of same-sex households compared to those raised by their biological parents.

      And putting all that aside: nobody can deny that same-sex ‘marriage’ means same-sex parenting by surrogacy / adoption – and that forces future children to live without either their mother or father. You don’t think that matters?

  3. I’m looking for arguments for gay marriage being legalise in Australia doing an oral presentation 🙂

  4. I think the sensible objection to Same-sex “marriage” must be that we, as responsible adults, need to consider the welfare of the children. Marriage is for the benefit of a man and a woman and society, but ultimately it is designed for the protection and welfare of children, withoiut which we have no continuing society. Undermining marriage therefore has widespread consequences. I

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