Opinion: Kentucky gives the weirdest argument yet against gay marriage

Gay marriage in Arkansas
A lesbian couple in Arkansas show off their marriage certificate over the weekend.
(Sarah Bentham / Associated Press)

Things are going well for the gay marriage movement. Judges in the unlikeliest corners of the country have been striking down bans on same-sex marriage. Check out the weddings Monday in Arkansas. And, as with the Proposition 8 court case in California, the defenders of the marriage bans have found it difficult to come up with rational arguments for them.

But lawyers for the state of Kentucky have reached a new low in poorly thought-out reasons for keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Attorney Leigh Gross Latherow argued that the state has a valid interest in maintaining birthrates to keep its economy vibrant, and that same-sex marriage threatens those birthrates.


In a 32-page brief, Latherow leaves out any explanation of how allowing the ban prevents a drop in birthrates. Apparently, she thinks that if gay and lesbian couples cannot wed, they’ll just break up and switch to procreating heterosexual relationships.


She also ignores the children that gay and lesbian couples do raise, via artificial insemination, surrogacy and adoption. And according to her argument, people who are physically unable to conceive or bear children shouldn’t be allowed to marry either.

Latherow’s argument is just the latest, though quite possibly the silliest, effort to produce a rational attack on same-sex marriage when none exists. Early arguments that children were best off raised by traditional, heterosexual couples fell apart under studies that so far have shown good outcomes for children of same-sex couples.

But even without those studies, the argument makes no sense. We don’t subject heterosexuals to child-rearing tests before deciding whether they can get married.

For years, the anti-gay marriage forces campaigned on the slogan “Save marriage.” But they never made it clear how same-sex marriage threatened traditional heterosexual marriage. The weakness of that slogan became abundantly clear during the Proposition 8 trial when even the defenders of California’s now-dead ban on same-sex marriage were unable to produce any arguments to bolster their claim.


The real reasons people oppose same-sex marriage are personal and/or religious. They might think homosexuality is immoral, or they might simply feel deep inside that because marriage has always been for heterosexual couples, it should remain that way; same-sex marriage seems too shocking or unusual.

But these don’t legally cut it as reasons to deny people civil rights. Latherow gets that much. There has to be some rational basis — and so far, the opponents of same-sex marriage haven’t managed to come up with one.

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