January 8, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — It seems that women in the U.K. who consider themselves “married” to other women are separating in soaring numbers — at rates higher than actual divorces, which is to say among heterosexual couples, who alone can marry. One lesbian activist, Natalie Drew, blames this uptick in lesbian “divorces” on same-sex “marriage” itself.
The Daily Mail reports that “divorces” among same-sex couples increased from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019, and of the 2019 figure, almost three quarters are lesbian couples. (There were also 107,599 actual divorces that year in the U.K., an increase of 20% on the previous year.) Drew ran a clinic to help women in lesbian couples conceive children, and, as she told the Daily Mail, “a third of the 586 lesbian couples [sic] she helped to have babies between 2011 and 2015 have split up.”
Drew’s argument is that the ceremony and terminology of marriage, as opposed to “civil partnership,” encourages lesbian couples to adopt a traditional specialization of roles: “You get caught up in these expected roles, one being the breadwinner, going out earning the money, and one being the mother.”
This may seem surprising, as the legal rights and duties of marriage and civil partnerships in the U.K. are identical, but it’s an argument we’ve heard before. The heterosexual couple who fought in the courts for civil partnerships to be extended beyond same-sex couples (as in due course they were) said they wanted a legal relationship free of the “patriarchal baggage” of marriage.
It seems to be just the word “marriage” that is at issue here, since it has been stripped of patriarchal associations as far as the law is concerned. The U.K.’s Law Commission has gone even farther, taking a few moments out of its busy work of proposing more censorship in order to suggest that the legal guidelines to marriage ceremonies themselves be junked, so people can marry where and when they want, and using whatever words they wish — as long as it is (as they put it) “safe and dignified.” Will this be enough to eradicate the “patriarchal baggage” of the word “marriage”? Certainly, they are going to give it their best shot.
There is another aspect to this. Natalie Drew was in the business of facilitating women in same-sex couples having a baby. What happens when a woman has a baby? Well, the baby needs to be looked after. If there are two adults around, at least one of them will have to be at home, at least for a few months, to do this looking after — preferably the mother, who will be best placed, you know, to breastfeed the baby, and will anyway need some time to recuperate after the birth. It will then make some sense if it is the other one who goes to work, if someone needs to bring home the bacon. Is this not all fairly obvious? But if this is how things are, it is not the terminology of marriage that is the problem so much as the biology of human reproduction.
Biology, the feminists said, is not destiny, but it does have a nasty way of coming back to bite you just when you thought you’d chased it away. Drew offered her clients the chance to have a baby without the involvement of a man — at least, without the involvement of a man they had to have very much to do with. What she could not so easily banish was the masculine role: the role of the person who has not had the baby, who is needed for other tasks to protect and sustain the household while childbirth and child-rearing are going on.
Drew does have a point, to this extent: marriage is not a good model for lesbian couples, because they lack the natural complementarity of the sexes. Insofar as same-sex couples buy into the traditional model, they are going to find themselves struggling to adapt it to a quite different psychological and biological reality. For all that, as I say, the legal treatment of marriage has left us little more than the word “marriage,” it is presumably with some view to buying into its traditions, its social recognition and status, and its durability that lesbian couples are motivated to go through a form of marriage. Drew’s argument seems to be that what they want, they are not well adapted to having.
In my view, the best argument against same-sex “marriage” is precisely that the institution of marriage as traditionally understood is designed to help heterosexual couples raise their children, and it’s not going to work well for what our political elite like to call “non-traditional families.” My thought has been that re-imagining marriage to fit other kinds of couple would damage marriage, making it less supportive of traditional families, pushing it farther and faster in the direction of non-durability, for example. Drew is making a complementary argument from the opposite direction: a relationship model based on marriage, even as watered down as it is, doesn’t actually suit these other couples.
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