Why Civil Unions Are Right For Same-Sex Couples

[I just submitted this to Alternet.org]

There is one right that all marriages should have that same-sex couples should not have: the right to conceive children together, to create genetically related offspring from the couple's own genes.

Attempting to create children by joining the genes of two men or two women is radically unethical and unnecessary and is a wrong-headed goal and a mis-use of resources. It requires genetic modification to reverse the epigenetic imprinting that makes male and female gametes complementary so they can join together to make a new human genome. It is not just a new form of IVF, it is a radical push into genetic engineering of human beings that should not be allowed, not just because of the high risk of genetic defects in the child, but primarily because of how it would effect society and individual reproduction rights if we allowed people to be created from engineered genomes.

But it is currently legal, and many researchers are working on techniques to enable same-sex couples to conceive using stem-cell derived gametes. And though most same-sex couples are not the least bit interested in having their children be guinea pigs and do not feel that shared biological connections are required to have a loving family, there are also many that are eager to try it. It is not science fiction, it is perhaps just a year or two away from being attempted by a reckless lab and an emotionally manipulated couple.

Congress should ban cloning, same-sex conception, and other forms of human genetic engineering with an "egg and sperm law" that would prohibit conceiving children by any means other than joining an egg of a woman and a sperm of a man, unadulterated and unmodified so that they are truly "of" the person.

This ban would create a distinction in the rights of same-sex couples and man-woman couples that should match the distinction between marriages and civil unions: marriages should guarantee the couple the right to attempt to conceive children together, civil unions should be defined by states as being exactly like marriage except lacking conception rights.

At the same time they enact the "egg and sperm" anti-cloning law, Congress should make two more additional laws. The second law would be to recognize state civil unions as marriages for all federal purposes, if the state civil union is defined as being exactly like marriage except lacking conception rights. This would provide states with uniform Civil Union language that would make it possible to enact CU's in all fifty states, even those that have prohibited giving same-sex couples the rights of marriage in their constitutions. The third law would define in federal law that no marriage in the United States can be prohibited from attempting to conceive children using the couple's own genes, and affirm that all people have an equal right to marry and procreate. Together, these laws would truly preserve marriage, while also limiting it to a man and a woman.

These three laws make up "The Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise" and should be enacted immediately. There is no reason to wait, and doing it before the election will allow people to be free to vote on other issues rather than being held hostage to their position in the marriage debate.


What is a woman?

There were some interesting articles in the New York Times recently about testing female athletes at the Beijing Olympics if they were "suspected" of being male. (article and op-ed)

I agree with those articles that verifying gender is needlessly intrusive and problematic and should not be done for athletes, but disagree when the articles veer from athletics and try to assert the broader Postgenderist position that sex itself is needless and obsolete, malleable and fluid, and should not be fixed or determined by anyone for any reason. What does it mean to "live as" a gender, if not an offensive embrace of stereotypes?

There is of course one area where sex matters: reproduction. People with intersexed conditions, XXY chromosomes, and fluid gender expression have always existed, but never has any person reproduced as both a man and a woman, never has anyone both fathered and mothered offspring. Every person has one sex which they are most likely able to reproduce as, and one sex (the other sex) with whom they are most likely able to reproduce with, and that never changes throughout a person's life. It might not match, and need not define, the legal or social or apparent sex by which a person lives or even believes themselves to be, but it usually does and always should (though its OK when it doesn't). But that "most-likely-to-conceive-as" sex is what matters when it comes to reproduction: people should only be allowed to conceive as the sex which they are most likely to succeed as. After we enact the egg and sperm law, labs would make that determination if they are hired to facilitate a conception. Obviously merely living as or legally being the other sex cannot be a way around the egg and sperm law, or the law will not shut the door on genetic modification. But that lab-determination would be private, the public wouldn't know why the couple was unable to conceive.

On the other hand, if a couple is publicly, legally, a same-sex couple, but both-sexed by their most-likely-to-conceive-as sex, they would be publicly prohibited from attempting to conceive, even though their genes were in fact complementary. A lab would have to turn same-sex couples away at the door after looking at their legal sex, they wouldn't even get to the stage where genetic imprinting matters. If they were somehow able to do it naturally even though presenting as a same-sex couple, that should be cause to correct their legal sex (though not their gender expression).

To sum up, these articles are wrong that sex is fluid and cannot be defined. A woman is someone who would most likely be able to conceive with a man, a man is someone who would be most likely able to conceive with a woman. People should only be allowed to conceive as the sex which they are most likely to succeed as, and should be assigned that sex at birth, and their fertility and sexual identity should be protected as they grow up so that they are able to marry and procreate.