Gene Editing


P1. If same-sex couples have the potential to procreate, then they should be permitted to marry

P2. Same-sex couples have the potential to procreate through gene editing technology

C. Therefore same-sex couples should be permitted to marry


P1 is controversial as it assumes that the ability to procreate is the only difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples with respect to marriage. However there are likely other dissimilarities between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples relevant to the marriage debate such as the ability to accidentally procreate.

Granting P1 for the sake of argument, P2 is speculative and may or may not be true. It may be the case that gene editing simply does not work for same-sex couples. It may also be the case that gene editing is considered unethical as it must consider all the following:

  • The physical and psychological damage to the children the technique is tested and used on – especially the initial tests 
  • The potential for the same technique, and pressure for the same technique to be used for creating designer babies
  • The potential for the same technique (and public pressure to use the same technique) being used to create children from multiple people, single people, dead people, non consenting people (such as celebrities) or other embryos etc
  • The potential for the same technique to blur the lines between humanity and non-humanity
  • The impact of artificial wombs on the protection, wellbeing of the child and their relationship with their parents
  • The impact on the perceived ethics of natural childbirth or not editing the genes of children – if children can be born with selected traits then many poorer families would probably not create children naturally for fear of social shame or the child’s natural disadvantage
  • The impact on the role and safety of women who as the physically weaker species have no necessary contribution to procreation 
  • The impact on the role of fathers in society – it is likely that the role of a father would be further diminished and men would feel less obligated to support their families on a daily basis 
  • The impact on children’s privacy and identity – Children born from genetic engineering would likely be identified as such and face unwanted media coverage, medical display and tracking. 
  • The impact on children’s free will if many of their traits are predetermined
  • The possibility of baby mills or fetus farms which would commoditize children and encourage black markets
  • The possible introduction of new genetic problems which can be passed onto future generations in the child or further afield   
  • The biologization of inequality (rich vs poor) which could be harder to change than any other form of inequality
  • The danger of corrupt states enforcing genetic engineering on citizens, eugenics (which has had a terrible history) or creating a superhuman army
  • The ethics of deliberately creating numberless embryos with the intention of destroying most of them

All of which make it questionable whether it will be ethical for same-sex couples to procreate even if the technology exists. 

In addition to all the potential concerns above, we should also question the ethics of deliberately creating a child without any mother at all, or any father at all. We could make an argument based on the principle of anticipated consent and the assumption that we would reasonably expect a girl created from two men to want a mother. Throughout a girl’s life she would likely long for the mere existence of a mother, if not the direct and daily influence of a mother in her life. In this potential conflict the interest of the child should be the parents’ basic concern, and because this interest relates to a key part of the child’s identity, we should privilege this likely want of the girl over a same-sex couple’s want for a girl.