06 June 2006

When politics meets science: Bush vs. Gay Marriage

Bush has been pushing a Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. It's probably a good thing that it won't garner the 60 Senate votes to go forward, because the amendment hasn't clearly defined "man" and "woman."

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman. (CNN)


Biologically, there are males (XY), females (XX) [1], and other (XXY, XXX, XYY, etc., sometimes called intersex), but the terms "man" and "woman" are social constructions. If we tried to define marriage by the genes, then up to 1% of the population [2] would be entirely unable to marry because they don't fit the combined biological definition and social construct of "man = XY" and "woman = XX".

I guess we could instead define it by birth certificate, which actually is the least of many evils, since you can get your birth certificate gender changed after a sex change operation (so a MtF transexual can marry a man [3]), but you don't have to (so a MtF can also marry a woman [4]).

Ah, the amusements of loopholes. Bring on the lawsuits!

2 comments:

jim said...

so, does the 1% other, sense or know that they are not this or that? does it affect them in some way, from the genes?

zandperl said...

First off, as I understand it, the ~1% of "other" are NOT all genetically non-male and non-female - I may have been unclear or misleading in my original post, I'll go back and check it. While some will be other than XX or XY (for example, XXY), others are genetically one sex or the other (for example, XY individuals whose bodies don't respond to testosterone).

Second, there definitely are people out there who feel like they were "born of the wrong gender" - some of these go by the term transgender, some undergo sexual reassignment surgery, and for some it is a psychologically harmful condition referred to as gender identity disorder. HOWEVER, I don't know whether these various individual reactions are caused by genetic sex differences, chemicals in the womb, or something else entirely.

And lastly about whether people with different sexual genetics "know" that they're different, I've got no clue! :) Try poking around on the Intersex Society of North America - I found the page recently and it's quite educational.