So I was listening to NPR this morning and was happy to hear the news that a federal suit is going to be filed in an effort to overturn DOMA —the fantastically misnamed Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, one of the opponents to a judicial overturn, a member of one of the many conservative groups out there — which one I can’t recall, something with “Alliance” in it — noted that in order to prevent the overturn, all that is needed is to show that there is a rational basis for limiting marriage to mixed-sex couples; and, of course, he said that procreation was such a rational basis.
The problem is that if something is the raison d’être (the rationale or basis) for granting a legal status, the condition for the status and all that goes with it — in this case the rights and responsibilities of marriage — should relate to all who seek that status. Even more importantly, such a rational basis for a status requires a higher standard of proof if you are going to exclude people from that status on that basis.
As I have pointed out many times before, procreation can take place apart from marriage and marriage from procreation. People who are incapable of procreation are not excluded from obtaining the legal status of marriage. In fact, in five states of the Union (AZ IL IN UT WI), the law permits marriage to first cousins only on the conditions either of advanced age or infertility or both — procreation is effectively forbidden in the case of these marriages! So it can hardly form a rational basis for them.
More importantly, many if not most of the benefits and responsibilities of marriage have no necessary connection with procreation: Social Security and disability benefits, visitation rights, pensions for surviving spouses, inheritance rights, tax status, and so on. These things all apply whether one has children or not, and whether one is capable of having children or not.
To argue that procreation is a rational basis for marriage that only applies in certain circumstances (and thus, hardly a basis), or that a factor that applies only in some marriages has greater importance than factors more likely to be important to all marriages (and thus, hardly rational) — is baseless and irrational.
The real rational basis for marriage is far simpler, though the state might want to avoid the religious overtones: it is not good for the human to be alone (Genesis 2:18) and two are better than one. (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Seems rational to me...
— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG