A Barren Straight Wife Watches the Prop 8 Trial

I actually don’t know whether I am officially (that is, physically) “barren” or not.

I know, though, that not long after I got married, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My doctors told me right away I’d go through six months of intensive treatment, followed by five years of hormonal treatment. The hormonal treatment, Tamoxifen, was originally developed as a fertility treatment until they discovered it caused birth defects. So between the six months of acute toxins and the five years of birth defect inducing hormonal treatments, my doctors simply assumed that that would take me to the age of 40 at which point I would be too old to have kids. And while mr. emptywheel and I considered, for maybe a second, going through the very dangerous (because it involved high levels of hormones) process of saving eggs, and while we could have insisted I stop the hormonal treatment after two years, we ultimately decided that we could be perfectly happy being an aunt and uncle.

And, having made the decision to remain childless, my husband and I promptly plunged deep into discovering what “in sickness and in health” really meant.

Going through that kind of challenge taught me a lot about marriage. There was the adjustment, for both of us, of me losing all my hair (except, unfairly, that on my calves, though mr. emptywheel removed that for me with duct tape). There was the quiet companionship, the two of us together at home–with me usually asleep by 8–a big break from the athletic team-focused social life we had shared since we met. There was the legal nightmare when mr. emptywheel almost lost his visa and work privileges, and with them the health benefits paying for my care. And there was the quiet relief at the end of treatment, the two of us staring up at the southern sky together from a hut in a fishing village in Brazil.

I may be barren, but I think any couple that makes it through such life-changing events together gets full claim to the title of marriage.

But, as Audrey Bilger points out, the Prop 8 proponents envision not just denying that title–marriage–to same sex couples. They would deny that title to a lot of straight couples, too, couples just like mr. emptywheel and me, who remain childless. And they would go further in imposing their gender roles on all of us, with stupid husbands (really, they did make a point of saying men were less intelligent than women!) whose job it is to keep their daughters chaste and women defined primarily by their breast feeding and–later–cooking.

Defenders of the ban on same-sex marriage believe that husbands and wives have specific roles, determined by their sex, and that without role models of two opposite-sex parents, children will grow up to think they can do whatever they want. As they see it, same-sex marriage is the outcome of individual liberty and the right to pursue happiness — gone too far. They target all who resist the idea that biology is destiny. No matter that the bulk of academic research shows that gays and lesbians make good parents. To the so-called marriage defenders, science is no match for sacred texts and the way things once were and are supposed to be.

There’s a reason the pro-Prop. 8 defense team fought to keep this trial from being broadcast on the internet. They prefer the ballot box to the witness stand because their message is far more persuasive and well cloaked when it’s delivered in carefully crafted sound bytes about defining marriage and protecting the family. In a trial, however, the reasoning behind their pitch must stand up to legal scrutiny. If one man and one woman are necessary because procreation is the “central or defining purpose” of marriage, as the lawyers defending the constitutional ban have argued, then what do they really think about straight couples who choose not to have children? Should unwed mothers be forced into wedlock? This is where it gets scary — for everyone!

Such questions didn’t come up much during the 2008 campaign because the anti-gay marriage forces largely succeeded in controlling the terms of the debate. Frank Schubert, head of the PR firm that ran the Yes on 8 campaign, in a recap panel presentation to the 2009 American Association of Political Consultants Pollie Award Conference last year, explained how they crafted the message. Schubert noted that since most voters are moved primarily by self-interest, and since, in preliminary focus groups, most heterosexual subjects indicated that this issue had nothing to do with them and that they didn’t see how same-sex marriage affected their own lives (sound familiar?), the best approach to move such voters was to appeal to unknown scary consequences, fabricated or not. As his associate Jeff Flint put it, “Something could happen that you may not like so you need to vote yes [on Prop. 8] to stop that from happening.”


It’s time for straight voters to see that they’re being had. The enforcement of “traditional” marriage — one primary goal of the anti-gay marriage movement — would affect the entire population, not just because marriage is a basic civil right, which of course it is, but because Americans should be free decide how to build their own family life. While many thrive in conventional roles as fathers out in the workplace and mothers in the home, not everyone wants — or is even financially able — to live that way, and no one should force them to do so.

Go read all of Bilger’s piece. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen for why–aside from the really obvious point about defending equal rights for all–everyone should be watching the Prop 8 trial closely.

86 replies
  1. LabDancer says:

    You are certainly not barren: there’s all of us out here, lined up right behind the freepster [to say nothing of the lab].

  2. PJEvans says:

    I’ve said that if they really believe that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, they should require that the prospective bride is pregnant by the prospective groom, as demonstrated by medical/DNA tests, before they’re allowed to marry. Of course, then they’d have to allow sex before marriage ….

    • emptywheel says:

      Wouldn’t happen. It’d put out too many men as infertile.

      One point I really wanted them to get to was when they were insisting that–psychological definition of “intact family” notwithstanding–“biological family” really meant “genetic.”

      As the plaintiffs pointed out, it in fact includes adopted kids. But I really wanted them to challenge teh DIs for proof that all those “biological” fathers had genetic proof.

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    The straight voters have not been had. Like it or not, there’s a large portion of the population that simply doesn’t like gays. Most don’t say anything obvious for fear of being seen as a bigot, but when the curtain goes across the voting booth they vote what they mean.

    I think that even if every voter had full factual information, no lies, no hate advertising, the outcome of the vote would have been the same.

    Boxturtle (As for being barren: Nonsense! You raised a husband!)

    • emptywheel says:

      Actually, I think the vote was close enough that that’s not really true. If nothing else, this suit has exposed enough of the inner workings of the Prop 8 campaign to make the difference in 2012 or whenever this next comes up on CA’s ballot.

      • rxbusa says:

        I live in CA and was here for the vote and I also think there was a confusion factor in that a yes vote was against gay marriage.

        As another “barren” wife I find the nonsense about marriage being only for procreation to be a crock, but it’s all they got.

        this morning I looked up their witness Blankenhorn. What a bunch of nonsense. Here is an op-ed he wrote from 19Sep08 LA Times.

        A strange argument. Seems to argue more in favor than against marriage for gay adoptive parents if you accept adoption. And what about artificial insemination? Or surrogate mothers? “For these reasons, children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the [mother and the turkey baster and no one else] who brought them into this world.”?????

        And hugs to you, Marcy.

  4. behindthefall says:

    EW, you are quite a writer. And quite a human. And so, it seems to me, is your mr. emptywheel. Thank you for the most moving thing I’ve read in, well, maybe years.

  5. Peterr says:

    As a pastor, I’ve seen all too many stories like yours, Marcy.

    I’ve done weddings for couples in college, I’ve done weddings for couples in their 80s, and I’ve done weddings for folks in between. In 20+ years of presiding at weddings, I’ve never inquired into the fertility of the couple.

    If fertility and procreation are so damned important, maybe the state’s marriage license ought to be revoked if no children are produced within 5 years of marriage.

    If fertility and procreation are so damned important, maybe women who have entered menopause ought to be prohibited from marrying at all.

    If fertility and procreation are so damned important, maybe the marriage ought not to be performed until it is proven that the couple is fertile, and pre-marital sex ought to be required instead of prohibited.

    Or . . .

    maybe fertility and procreation aren’t the ultimate be-all and end-all of what marriage is about.

    A powerful post, Marcy. Peace to you and Mr. Emptywheel.

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      Okay, now you’re making me respect religion again, Peterr.

      Wonderful piece, EW. I’d have been out of the eligible group at your age too.

  6. Becca says:

    I’ve learned a lot about the concept of ‘projection’ these last few years… like when the other side calls us ‘fascists’ and whatnot.

    Your post, emptywheel, reminds me that the anti-same-sex marriage people keep talking about the ‘slippery slope’ — how if two people of the same legal gender can marry, well, then it’ll soon be polygamy/polyandry and group marriages and incest and bestiality.

    I hear their arguments as to what constitutes a ‘real’ marriage — and I’m chilled. Their ‘sanctity’ argument only holds water if THEY get to define the religious parameters of an acceptable marriage; in other words, faiths that are right now okay with same-sex marriage are themselves inherently invalid. They argue about gender-roles — with these bizarre Ozzie and Harriet definitions and worse, they talk about the need to enforce those roles, where the husband works, the wife stays home and keeps house, and the kids all grow up into exactly those roles. Yes, as you point out, they say that marriage is for having babies, and so the infertile, the elderly, and the childless-by-choice are also relegated to 2nd class status.

    Over and over what I’m hearing is other people insisting I live up to their expectations and according to their religious beliefs. I know our side has right, when we talk about civil rights and equality, but this is also a matter of freedom of religion and freedom of personal choice. And I do worry sometimes that we lost sight of the fact these people really do want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

    Why else would they also be arguing there’s no “wall between church and state” and trying to enforce a fundamentalism-only culture with our military. They do not mean us well.

    • bmaz says:

      I am just now coming back to this thread in earnest, but when you say this:

      I hear their arguments as to what constitutes a ‘real’ marriage — and I’m chilled. Their ’sanctity’ argument only holds water if THEY get to define the religious parameters of an acceptable marriage

      This is exactly what was behind Judge Walker’s repeated questions during opening arguments as to whether “the state ought to get out of the marriage business”. Because if the definition of “marriage” has to be tied to what the religious norm of it is, the government has no place sanctioning or putting its imprimatur on it. Yet, for a “marriage” to be legal, the state must indeed sanction it and, at the same time, Constitutionally the government is not permitted to discriminate on such a basis. Thus the inherent conflict at hand.

      • PJEvans says:

        I keep hoping that what we end up with is
        ‘marriage’ which is the government-sanctioned side, licenses and all, and
        ‘matrimony’, which is the religious version, and a separate thing entirely.
        You can get either one (or both, to the same person), but the government doesn’t recognize or perform the religious ceremony, and the religions shouldn’t perform the secular one. (Well, maybe some religions would. I can’t see it bothering the Pastafarians, for example.)

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    Yah,@7, except corp $ now is liberated to infuse in campaigns by the Citizens United decision, though I have yet to look for the seams in the slip opinion; some reporters are saying Scotus is going to see more on its hands off approach to campaign finance; I read a report congress is preparing a retort in the wake of the Scotus can of electoral worms it released this week in that case. From a CA denizen perspective, the campaign contributions from out of state turned the race on 8. I think ew makes a presentation of one of strongest other points in judge Vaughn Walker*s current deliberative gristmill concerning the initiative*s thorough trial. My take was the issue seems to deal more with private morality than politics; and that it is perhaps a century too soon in societal history to address dispassionately.

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    re [email protected], re the campaign opinion, reference photo of Chuck Schumer and Chris Van Hollen; caption in local paper says, they have developed draft law already to present in (chamber) of congress, there. The link is to a different article, as the local news outlet has yet to post their own article on their website; however, the ap photo is the same with the Rep and Senator yesterday.

  9. JasonLeopold says:

    Marcy, I agree with Peterr, this is an incredibly powerful post. You really are gifted at what you do. And this post is a perfect example. I appreciate that you were able to share the personal details about your life as a way of explaining what’s at the heart of the prop 8 trial, which you have covered so well these past couple of weeks. Bilger’s article is a must-read, no doubt. I live in California and am shocked to know so many pro-Prop 8 people who really don’t know why they are pro-Prop 8 and, despite the intelligence of some, just can’t see or don’t want to see that they are being had as Bilger wrote. I am wondering if they even care that they’re being had, which I don’t think they do. One question I have asked people I know who were proponents of Prop 8 was “how will it affect you if the same sex got married? How will it change your life when you wake up in the morning and go to work or get your coffee?” No response. Because they had no idea and they knew it wouldn’t change their lives one bit. I just felt it was prejudice. I don’t know.

  10. orionATL says:


    I really wish you would stop refering to yourself as barren.

    That word simply does not fit you, that is does not fit the person and personality you are.

    If you have to use a word to describe your not having a child, just use “childless”. It is accurate and evaluately neutral.

    “Fertile” is what would call you.

    “Caring”, and caring deeply, is what I would call you.

    Protecting fiercely, as a mother her child, that’s you.

    Creative is what you are, in the same way, though at a higher level of behavior, than fundamental biological creativity.

    Your constrained generative circumstance has resulted in your “parenting” a politics system that, over and over again,

    Has struck me as filled with child-like adult behavior on the part of our Political leaders,

    And child-like demands by corporate interests on Our society.

    If you feel a personal loss I can understand that,

    But from my distance, all I can say is:

    thank god emptywheel is looking after our nation

    And has the time to develop her caring In ways that may change this society from going bad to doing good.


    • Phoenix Woman says:

      I think she’s trying to point out how ridiculous it is of the Prop 8 people to be so fixated on procreation as the be-all and end-all of marriage today. (And I liked Peterr’s pointing out that he, as a preacher, has married plenty of people who are themselves “barren” without anyone objecting to the weddings on infertility grounds.)

  11. posaune says:

    Thank you, Emptywheel.
    What a thought-provoking post.
    As for “barren?” Hardly.
    You’ve given us and our children so much!

  12. Jeff Kaye says:

    For me, the issue is one of privacy, and by privacy, I mean respect for the inherent dignity of a human being living through the sufferings and joys of a human existence in an indifferent universe (do I sound too much like Woody Allen here?).

    Actually, EW, your brilliant and brave post is a perfect example of what I mean. I very much respect you opening up your personal struggles in order to benefit people at large, and do your best to push pack the reactionary wave exemplified by Prop 8.

    I think Bilger’s article was wonderful, and aims precisely at the reactionary core of the Prop 8 campaign, which was anti-woman, anti-sex, anti-gay, and anti-human liberty.

    As to BoxTurtle’s views about the straight bigots, I prefer to think of them as uninformed individuals succumbing to fear. Sexuality and gender are associated powerfully with basic personal identity. In a world where one’s powerlessness and insignificance is brought home to the average person each day, the individual responds with various defenses against such assaults upon their basic esteem: identification with grandiose subjects (like media stars), possession of status objects (cars, high-tech stuff, big houses), and derision of those who are different, as their existence is experienced as a threat to one’s own wobbly sense of self.

    Reaction today is driven by fear. The “war on terror” is all about whipping up fear. But if one increases the insecurity of the masses of people, one gets various side effects: fear of infection, fear of outsiders, fear of sexual potency (gays must be having sex all the time, right?), and fear of invasion, both national and personal. Freedom is seen as dangerous, and latent dependency needs for safety make people yearn for authoritarian and totalistic leaders and ideologies.

    Reaction must be defeated on all sides. I applaud those working day and night to defeat one of the major reactionary movements of our time, that which coalesced around Prop 8.

    • Petrocelli says:

      Very well said, Jeff; as always.

      Fear of change makes them unwilling to go outside their limited view of the way things should be, because familiarity gives a certain sense of comfort. This is why they are unwilling to support gay rights or climate change or evolution.

  13. aztrias says:


    Likewise we married found we unable to conceive. Following our catholic church guidance, we did NOT try artificial methods and remained married. We adopted an abandoned, sick newborn at a local hospital.

    We were consoled, prior to knowing of the difficulty, that the church’s guidance was to **not** to use artificial methods.

    So my Church is behind a political movement that would define us as the lesser than other couples. Awesome.

    My adopted son is less a son than a birth son, we the lesser parents.

    Our family is less in god and man’s eyes than others because of simple, privative biology. So much for an enlightened god of love. Marriage is rooted in the basic animal instincts to procreate that define humanity.

    It’s insulting and our sanctimonious neighbors are making more enemies than allies.

    • Jesterfox says:

      Jesus wasn’t biologically related to his father either. Was he a “lesser” son. Was Mary a “lesser” mother, Joseph a “lesser” father? I don’t think so. Bless you and your husband for adopting this abandoned child. There is nothing “lesser” about you or your relationship with your new son.

  14. prostratedragon says:

    What makes anyone think that they can define the marriage of others, let alone that the state could?

    And apart from the mysteries of love, why would anyone deny the right to make the everyday committments to whomever sought the opportunity?

  15. tejanarusa says:

    I vaguely remember a case 30 yrs ago or more, of a priest somewhere in the southwest refusing to marry a paraplegic man and a woman because the man was unable to father children, supposedly, due to the paraplegia.

    Memory is so vague I almost wonder if I’ve imagined it, or it was a tv movie or something. But that is certainly the argument’s ultimate conclusion.

    Great piece, from one “barren” woman to another.

    Brrr – that is a chilly word, isn’t it?

  16. skdadl says:

    When these debates were happening here (and there’s no guarantee they won’t happen again), I definitely took the arguments of the anti-same-sex zealots personally. They don’t like to admit that they are invalidating a lot of straight marriages, and beyond that a lot of lives, plain and simple, but they are. I think Bilger is right to press them to admit to their underlying conviction about sex — it’s just for procreation, punkt — because most North Americans are beyond accepting that and can easily see the threat to their own liberty in that dogma.

    I was 39 when my husband and I got entangled, and we briefly (but not very seriously) thought about having a wee bairn just because it was there to think about. But we were already too old; too many other people would have been affected; and we were giving each other something else that was good for us both, that I would even say he had earned (in his fifties, two grown children already). Older partners need each other for many reasons that no one else can understand or has the right to judge. My husband saw me through a health scare and then I saw him through a catastrophic illness. How is that not a real marriage? Who could have done it better? Ain’t I a woman?

    I hate seeing us vote on basic liberties; I really do. Nobody’s bill of rights should be up for a referendum. But the threat is ever-present. We have marriage here, and choice, and no death penalty — but that could change almost overnight, as some of us are starting to realize.

  17. DWBartoo says:


    The first time I encountered your words, I realized that here was a profound intelligence, when I saw the first video clip, I knew that to be of a rare depth indeed, but it is your humanity, which you have just now shared with the rest of us, which gives you your most signicant power, because your humanity is premised upon recognizing the humanity of everyone else.

    You and Mr. EW are a most potent couple.

    And the children of many tomorrows will benefit from your work if the rest of us have the courage to listen and the fortitude to behave with an understanding of what your work means to the entire human family.

    You make a difference and, by doing so, encourage, support and inspire the best angels in all who have a mind, a heart, and the desire to manifest courage, tolerance, and understanding.

    You are a national treasure.

    And a true matriarch.


  18. oldnslow says:


    Was trying to write just the perfect thing and then DWBartoo said it so very well.

    Was at a small FDL dinner some time back and Marcy came in and was greeted and treated like the rock star she is. It was a treat to be there and the memory is cherished. While it was intimidating for a poorly educated person to be around so many really smart people, Marcy was, and I’m sure is, as gracious as she is brilliant.

    National treasure indeed.

  19. skdadl says:

    OT, but just a wave at any other Canucks present who are planning to go out and thumb their noses at King Steve today. There are anti-prorogation rallies happening in dozens of cities; Toronto will be huge, but I’m doing local solidarity. I figure we can get at least a couple dozen DFHs in my town, plus one little old lady in a cagoule and sunglasses, and that’ll scare ’em.

    This has been a Facebook thing: I don’t think there’s ever been a bigger Canadian group (well over 200,000 now), and it has spawned all the locals. Steve said Canadians don’t care about the “games” in Parliament, and that has made people really mad. For a change.

    There are rallies also in NYC, Dallas (?!?), and San Francisco, if anyone wants to go hug an uppity Canuck for the day.

    • DWBartoo says:


      The discontinuation of meetings of Parliment without dissolving it.

      Are your politicians behaving badly?

      You, Petro, and the rest of Those Who Are Above America simply must keep us informed as we’ve no idea at all what that must be like./s/not s

      I fear we live in a Fairyland of mythology, hubris, and money, coupled to a morbid sense of superiority./not s

      What “game” are your epiphitics about?

      Whatever it is, I am certain it does not bode well.

      Let there be genuine solidarity among us in the international (and universal) struggle for humanity’s sake. (“They” are already well-organized, it seems.)

      Yet somehow, skdadl, the best minds are to be found on our side of the divide.


      • skdadl says:

        I’ll try to keep this short because I appreciate EW’s tolerance for the OTs so much.

        Steve is in contempt of Parliament right now over prisoner transfers to torture in Afghanistan. At first that looked more like incompetence than anything else, but the scandal has grown because Steve and his ministers stonewalled and lied, so … Steve prorogued. Last year he prorogued because he was going to lose a confidence vote. For some reason, people weren’t outraged last time, but they are this time. He insulted ordinary people. He may have outsmarted himself. Let it be.

        Proper proroguing is just a formality when a government come to the end of their agenda but don’t want to call an election. They need to deliver a new throne speech and budget, so they prorogue, often just for days. That’s not what’s going on here — Steve let 37 of his own bills die in order to duck and run.

        • Petrocelli says:

          It is particularly disgusting that Stevie is trolling out his “Ahm a gonna save dose poh peeple in Haiti, if it’s da last thing I do !” line to recover some good karma.

          I hope that these demonstrations grow large enough to give the Opposition some frikkin’ Spine to topple his regime.

          The HarperCons are slowly but surely eroding our Rights & Freedoms and they need to be turfed, toot sweet !

        • Phoenix Woman says:

          Proper proroguing is just a formality when a government come to the end of their agenda but don’t want to call an election. They need to deliver a new throne speech and budget, so they prorogue, often just for days. That’s not what’s going on here — Steve let 37 of his own bills die in order to duck and run.

          So all the Liberals have to do to tie Harper’s hands is to put him in situations where he has to choose between answering questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees and getting his legislation passed? Schweeeeet!

          • skdadl says:

            Well, sort of. Harper still is in contempt, and he still will be when the new Parliament starts up. But two things: he is perfectly capable of defying the rules, and the opposition have let him get away with that before. So … we dunno what’s going to happen.

            The opposition is so weak. You know this song, of course. I’m not a Liberal, but honestly, any other Liberal leader would do. Instead, we have Iggy (Michael Ignatieff) — think Cass Sunstein. Imagine that you had Sunstein as a leader. That’s what the Liberals here have on offer. People just don’t respond, y’know?

  20. emptywheel says:


    THanks for the very generous words. I don’t really think of myself as “barren.” As tejanarusa says, it’s a chilly word, but one that best encapsulates the hateful implications of the prop 8 folks’ argument. And yes–I’m well aware that being childless gives one the freedom to invest in the community in ways others can’t (such as by going to SF to cover the trial).

    Also, one thing I didn’t say in the post, bc I didn’t want that to be the emphasis, but which is key, is that a same sex couple wouldn’t have had the same advantages mr. ew and I did. For starters, they wouldn’t have been able to sponsor their spouse for a green card, not in any state. And in most states, they also wouldn’t have been able to offer their spouse health insurance.

    So same sex couples that make it through an event like this–without the legal advantages given to hetero couples? They more than earn the title marriage.

  21. Pade says:

    It is my take after watching the bigots all these years(as a lesbian with a background in education and counseling)that the anti gay movement is full of people denying their own sexuality. I believe they are motivated by fear – of their own denial. Just look at all the repressed Republicans.

  22. wavpeac says:


    My brother is gay and has a partner who he has been with since college. We love both of them very much. It is so painful to see such beautiful human beings denied such an important “right”. Your post was courageous and poignant.

    The Christian right has this thing going where literally everything they believe seems to be within the template of power and control. They have an angry God, a judgmental God, and a controlling God. This God they worship completely skims over issues related to love, commitment and discipline. This is where human beings grow, this is where we evolve to some concept of ourselves greater than we could ever be alone.

    It’s in the loving, not the anger, it’s in the staying, not the leaving. It’s in the accepting, not the denying. It’s in the sharing not, the keeping.

    You accomplish all of these daily, and are a great role model both spiritually and intellectually.

    This denial of what is important hurts all of us, exponentially.

    Thank you

  23. DWBartoo says:

    Freep is a transformer – a good transformer.

    But you, Petro, where’s your solemnity?

    What, with all the proroguing goin’ on up there, are you doing down here, spreading good will, harmony, and balance, and making everybody laugh?


    • Petrocelli says:

      ErmI blame the really good Scotch that’s leeching out of my Liver …

      Hawaya, DW ?

      Harper needs a good pro-rogering …

      • DWBartoo says:

        You’ll want to watch yer language there, Petro, else the Mods will think yer up ta sumthin’ …


  24. Petrocelli says:

    3 in a row, eh … where’s that HatPin, this calls for a celibation !

    {{{ The Wheelers and their extended family here }}}

  25. cbl2 says:

    good morning Emptywheel,

    yeah, what all these smart kids said – we, your readers aren’t jaded but quite spoiled by your work and it is easy to forget you are also a damn good writer – powerful reminder of same in this post

    • DWBartoo says:

      You is resourceful … and all ways wise, Petro.

      Brings to mind the old ditty: “Candy’s dandy …”(and so forth and so on).

  26. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for being willing to share your story in such a personal way.
    I, too, am childless, and got married at an age when having our own child was impossible– even though my new wife has told me, several times, that she would love to have my baby! By the logic of the Prop. 8 people, since I was a failure at procreation, I should never bother getting married, unless to some fertile woman half my age.

    You are right that hanging the rationale for marriage on procreation is way off base. It may be *a* reason, but it is not *the* reason. I got married at retirement age because my personal theology tells me that being in an intimate personal relationship of commitment was important to my personal growth (I’d been married once before, but was divorced). My personal theology includes a bit of Plato, who taught that Eros was necessary to draw us out of ourselves and in touch with the divine. I saw marriage as one of my life’s last major important challenges without which my life would not be complete. I don’t project that as a rule for anyone else, just my goal. And it is my great good fortune to have found a woman who truly loves me. I don’t have kids, but she does. They won’t ever think of me as their father, but to their kids, I’m their Grandpa, and that is priceless.

    And you’re spot on about the importance of being Aunt and Uncle. In my role as uncle, I have become the tie amongst all my siblings– I see more of them *all* than any of my siblings. So don’t neglect your role as Auntie! It will mean a lot to your nephews and nieces!

    You’re right. The Prop. 8 people have it all wrong. They don’t understand the true significance of marriage. You get it. They don’t.

    Bob in AZ

  27. ffein says:

    Nice post, Marcy. I’d like to expand on the “aunt and uncle” aspect of your life. When I was growing up I had two aunts and uncles on my mom’s side who didn’t have kids. And one aunt on my dad’s side who wasn’t married and didn’t have kids. Going to visit them and take trips with them are some of my best memories. My single aunt was an artist and my MOST favorite memories are of spending time in her studio and “helping” — I was allowed to get my hands in the ink and the paint. She had endless patience. Only one of my aunts is still living and she’s 92. I’m the one physically closest so I’ve taken responsibility for her care, which seems only fair given the time she spent with us kids. A little closer to home, my oldest son and his long-time mate are not married because she’s quadriplegic and would lose important benefits if they were to marry. Anyhow, thanks for all you do for the community!

    • skdadl says:

      A little closer to home, my oldest son and his long-time mate are not married because she’s quadriplegic and would lose important benefits if they were to marry.

      ffein, it hurts me to read that. A few months ago Nicholas Kristof published this column in the NYT about his friend M, who has had to divorce her beloved husband in order to go on caring for him without facing bankruptcy, and when I grasped what Kristof was saying, I just cried through the rest of the column. These things are too cruel.

  28. klynn says:


    Thank you. I wish I had more words to express my appreciation but I am wiping tears from my eyes and find myself lost for words. Others state my thoughts better…

    “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
    — Marcus Cicero

    “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
    — Melody Beattie, best selling author and journalist

    Your words build gratitude in our hearts and minds, parenting our virtues to create a vision for a better tomorrow.

  29. dipper says:

    Dear Marcy,

    I would like to repeat what behindthefall said:

    “EW, you are quite a writer. And quite a human. And so, it seems to me, is your mr. emptywheel. Thank you for the most moving thing I’ve read in, well, maybe years.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  30. dakine01 says:

    … children will grow up to think they can do whatever they want.

    They would have hated my father, who in the late ’50s supported my mother’s decision to go back to school and finish her degree (he had a 9th grade formal education). Part of Dad’s support was teaching me that there was no such thing as “man’s work” or “women’s work” but that it was work necessary for anyone to do in order to keep the family moving along with life. So Mom taught me to iron (learning first with handkerchiefs) and I learned most of my cooking skills from Dad (learned to fry some pretty fair chicken watching Dad in operation).

  31. 1boringoldman says:

    A poignant post, unfortunately read by the choir. Excellent points in the comments as well. But I don’t personally think the Gay Marriage issue stays on the front burner just because of its actual content – the same to a lesser degree for Abortion. These are just two of the methods used by the other team’s strategists to sharpen the distinction and division between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. With the Communists gone, polarization was going to be harder to maintain so they found some new parameters to channel the hatred needed to maintain an electorate. Take away Gay Marriage, Abortion, Taxes, and Godless Hippies and the Republicans are virtually unelectable [if Taxes were the only differentiating factor, our brackets would win hands down].

    The bind they have us in is that their provocations get our juices flowing because what they are saying is so hurtful. It allows them to reframe our zeal into an attack rather than a defense. And, unfortunately, they have sowed the seeds of the “recruitment” and “pedophilia” mythology much more deeply than we really know.

  32. Jim Moss says:

    Thanks for having the courage to share your personal struggles. It puts a human face on the issue when so many on the other side are trying to de-humanize.

  33. Mauimom says:

    the age of 40 at which point I would be too old to have kids

    Just FYI, I had my two kids when I was 42 and 44.

    Makes it a little tough to mesh college tuition bills with social security, but worse every pain and penny.

  34. Mary McCurnin says:

    I think it is immoral to have too many children. I believe in zero population growth. But I don’t think it is my place to insist that other couples only have two kids.

    I also feel that the prop 8 people are the same types that put the bible verses on the rifle stocks that are sent to the middle east. Maybe their are also the same type of people who just founded an all white basketball league. Maybe they are even the same type that just handed the country to the corps. Tweenie weenie minds filled with anger and dark hatred.

  35. temptingfate says:

    My wife and I have not gone through some of your tribulations but we don’t have children either. We have been married for a bit more than 30 years and those years have been pretty wonderful, at least from my perspective. The idea that marriage is simply about having children is at once both ignorant and irresponsible. To make a joining of two people about having offspring may be appealing to the religious right but ignores the issues we all face including our effect upon the population as a whole. The love of two people is much more important than being able to prove that they are able to produce children on demand. The arguments around having or not having children because of sexual orientation are not useful because it ignores people’s individual needs for the sake of so called larger issues. Somewhere along the way the anti-gay people forgot that love and the wish to protect those you love is more important than the ability to produce offspring.

    These people are not focused on families so much as they are interested in winning the race to the largest producers in the gene pool. If the “Population Bomb” was correct then everyone left will soon understand the downsides and the price will be paid by those that fight for what is available. The framing of heterosexual procreation completely ignores the the question of love.

    Sometimes those we think are the winners in the procreation parade may be those we haven’t evaluated long enough.

  36. eCAHNomics says:


    Thank you for this emotionally compelling but also legally compelling argument against Prop 8. As a straight woman, without much respect for the institution of marriage, having 2 bad ones, I have been schooled tremendously by the testimony in this trial. The world is not me. And even if it were, everyone deserves a chance to come to my conclusions by my crooked path.

  37. vegasboomer says:

    “Defenders of the ban on same-sex marriage believe that husbands and wives have specific roles, determined by their sex…”

    They can ‘think” whatever the fuck incoherent shit they wish. Legally codifying their juvenile, internally inconsistent worldview is entirely another matter.

    Replace “sex” with “race” and you have a very old story.

  38. PPDCUS says:

    Thanks again for another outstanding post, Marcy. Hope you’re able to get out with the FDL Prop. 8 trial team and enjoy some of S.F.’s restaurants and nightspots.

  39. DupinTM says:

    You rock! As something in recompense, what do you advise me to name my future child? Empty or Wheel notwithstanding, kinda doesn’t trip off the tongue correctly. So, suggestions?

  40. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Marcy! God Bless you for sharing yourself with us! I couldn’t think of a better Aunt/role model for my daughters than Aunt Marcy!

  41. Cellar47 says:

    Procreation and is the Fundies’ alibi. this about their demand for highly specified gender roles. As gays and lesbians don’t have specified gender roles we are the enemy and must be punished. They don’t just want to deny us marriage. They don’t just want us back in the clsoet. They want us DEAD!

    AIDS arrived as a seeming answer to their prayers. but it didn’t kill us. It brought us out of the clsoet as never before. And once out the call for marriage rang out.

    Thanks for the personal story, Marcy.

  42. robspierre says:

    This “traditional” definition of marriage is like “fundamentalist” religion: a modern invention masquerading as the way things have always been. Traditionally, marriage has never been about procreation alone. Traditionally, it is also about mutual support (that sickness and health thing you so eloquently mention) and regulation of the good old urges (to paraphrase St. Augustine, it’s better marry than to burn).

    This invented tradition depends in large part on the conflation of the two kinds of marriages in a republic like our own. Sacramental marriage is the religious rite and spiritual experience. Civil marriage is the paperwork that secures property rights, inheritiance, etc. Separation of church and state should keep these apart. But the practice of letting clergy function as magistrates (by signing licenses), obscures the separation.

    If some feel that their religion bars homosexuals from marrying, that’s their prerogative. They can deny sacrametnal marriage to anyone they like. But they should not be allowed to deny the legal protections and dignities of civil marriage to anyone on religious grounds.

    So I think we need to go beyond merely striking down religiously sanctioned prejudice masquerading as civil law. We need to explicitly separate sacramental and civil marriage. Let the religious marry in church. But the church wedding should have no legal standing. To be legally married, everyone should have to marry in front of a secular magistrate as well.

  43. JohnLopresti says:

    I appreciated the term of art *barren*. It sent me looking at literature which employed its concept volubly, Sophocles to Garcia Lorca. It seems fair and honest, yet emotional in the works of those two. On the tamoxifen matter, I am not sure the side-effects caveats ew described pertain strictly to that botannical derivative; it is nice there was some medical doubt about the certainty that the effect would be irreversible. I voted for p8 twice in its two recensions in two separate elections, yet, it is not a law I would write; it seemed merely letting people decide what their lives will be like. Predictably, VWalker*s trial elicited a wide range of concerns for me. However, I would continue to vote for a subsequent p8. One of the factors in quantifying and projecting its impact could become evident as data begins to appear over several decades as various countries, like recently Argentina, enact similar licensures. Some of such *test* populations might be sufficiently disequal to the US* as to make it a stretch to offer comparison. Clinical psychologists, sociologists, anthropoligists, all will have an opportunity to study those prototype outcomes over generations. Forty-nine years ago a film in Italy appeared with the title **Divorzio all*italiana**, which created a stir in social circles of several modern countries. In English its title was poorly translated in a rendition which I shall not echo here. However, the interaction among successive modern generations seemed fairly accurately depicted in the English rendering of the film title, even though the original language nuance was lost in translation.

  44. scribe says:

    As I sit here thinking about it, of all the married couples in my acquaintance in my rough age-group of, say, 30 to 55, I can think of three examples of stay-at-home moms who devote(d) full time to raising their children (at least until they started school):

    – the wife of a hedge fund owner/manager (who has now gone back to work as the kids get older),
    – the wife of a very senior executive of a TBTF organization,
    – the wife of a the head of the M&A department at a major branch of a major investment bank.

    No others.

    No doctors, no lawyers, no schoolteachers, and surely no industrial workers (or similar worker-scum).

    Even the mothers who “stay home with the kids” wind up having some money-making employment to contribute to the family fisc.

    So, wingnut, please don’t feed me your Prop 8 bullshit about the glories of stay-at-home moms. They no longer exist outside zoos.

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