Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Marital Status Discrimination

I have written about the case of the lesbian couple who are suing their doctor for sexual orientation discrimination. I had argued that the doctors had a good, non-religious reason for refusing Artificial Reproductive Technology to unmarried women: the need of children for a father. I just got an e-mail from an attorney on my list:

You stated:
"The doctors actually could have a solid, non-religious reason for their reluctance to artificially inseminate an unmarried woman: the doctors might believe that children need a father, and are entitled to have a relationship with their father. We should not criminalize that belief."

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what these doctors' policy was, i.e., not to practice certain forms of artificial reproduction on single women. But the plaintiff in this case alleged it was because she was a lesbian, not because she was single. At the time, discrimination on the basis of marital status was not covered by the statute. Now it is. So now a doctor who does ART has to serve single women on the same basis as married women.

So marital status is now a protected class.

1 comment:

John Howard said...

Jennifer, I think there is a way around the marital status discrimination law, though it may seem silly:

Two people being married is not the same thing as them being married to each other. So it isn't discriminating based on marital status to not allow people to conceive together who aren't married to each other, since even if they were both married, we wouldn't allow it. OK, it's silly, but it's true.

Ideally, we should not allow people to intentionally join gametes of people that are not committed to each other in marriage. After all, it is the couple that is reproducing, not either individual. The children are children of the couple, together, and equally. Marriage should be seen as synonymous with the right to conceive children, and nothing but a marriage should be able to claim that right.

That doesn't mean we'd have to punish out-of-wedlock births of course, because we'd consider them unintentional. But clinics and doctors and sperm banks selling to unmarried people wouldn't be able to claim that, so they would have to stop.

That's a goal of yours, right? To stop third-party procreation? To do that, we have to re-affirm that marriage means conception rights.

The flip side of that would be to re-affirm that no marriage can be prohibited from attempting to conceive together using their own genes.