I’m doing something different. This is a story that will develop over time. I’d like to incorporate your thoughts into it – which means, obviously, you have to give me some. I’ll make it sticky for a while – at least, until I think it’s done.
Kim and Leslie were descendents of the original settlers on Terra – the fourth generation to live on this distant planet colonized by the United States. They had been together for over twelve years – years during which they suffered estrangement from “polite society” and were subject to pointing fingers, pursed lips, derision and even a couple of instances of violence. There was no doubt they did not belong, but they knew no other place, no other home, such as it was. They had long resigned themselves to living on the fringe of Terra community. Kim and Leslie were not alone in their plight, being part of a minority that was ignored in demographic research.
Having a small population in need of rapid growth, and spurred on by the rulings in the U.S. before settlement occurred, Terra had developed cultural norms and laws all aimed at the same goal. Generations earlier marriage had been put before the voters of America and it had been decided by referendum that a primary defining characteristic of marriage was procreation. Aimed solely at depriving one segment of society the right to marry, this proved to be instrumental in laws developed and enforced on Terra, but with far different results.
In need of rapid growth in the number of settlers, Terra had adopted a policy that only people who procreated could be married. A requirement for a marriage license, and to take advantage of the plethora of advantages that went with it, was live child-birth. Those who couldn’t have children or chose not to, as in the case of Kim and Leslie, were simply deprived of the right to marry. By not conforming to societal norms, they mostly resigned themselves to being less than full citizens.
Religious bodies had led the way to the passage of these laws by relentlessly campaigning for procreation-only marriage. It was, the church stated, the will of God that marriage be limited to those who have progeny and that a family unit could only flourish if children were part of the equation. The Defense Of Procreation Edict (DOPE) was decidedly based on religious dogma, since the church adamantly refused to accept scientific and social evidence to the contrary. Despite studies that found that physiological inability to conceive was a natural occurrence, and that families could be valuable and fully functional without children, the religious leaders of the day considered all childlessness to be a choice – and an abominable choice at that.
Kim and Leslie had joined with others in the same situation to campaign for the repeal of DOPE and for recognition of their right to marry. Most of these protestors were childless because they were unable to conceive for natural reasons. Many, however, were older couples who were beyond the age of having children. Still others, like Kim and Leslie had made a choice to live childless. The reasons for childlessness, they maintained, were varied and inconsequential – it was simply a basic human right to marry the person of their own choice.
The effort to overturn DOPE was labeled by religious and socially conservative propagandizers as the “Childless Agenda.” If this agenda was successful, they claimed, the very fabric of orderly society would disintegrate and the institution of marriage would become meaningless.