Wednesday, January 26, 2005
the polygamists are coming! http://www.redstate.org/story/2005/1/26/182844/204
This is a real legal problem for proponents of gay marriage — insofar as they are also opponents of polygamy. ... if one wants gay marriage but no polygamy, one must, I fear, either descend into slick sophistry, or stare a pulverizing contradiction in the face
Paul makes this assertion but does not justify it, and neither does the article he quotes. But what evidence is there for it? I really don't see why polygamy neccessarily follows from gay marriage. There seem to be successive lines in the sand, but society is deciding which one to embrace. There are enough gays who want to be in a marriage that moving away from "one man and one woman" towards "two people" definitions of marriage seems a natural broadening.
However, extending the definition to "N people" seems much more radical a change. For one thing, gay couples are as socially conservative with respect to attitudes towards monogamy as hetero couples, so any theoretical attempt at legalized polygamy would face concerted opposition from a unified hetero/gay monogamy front.
Also, polygamists are in such a tiny minority (I mean, not even Mormons do it anymore) that they lack even the "ten percent" rhetoric of the gay movement, let alone any organizational strength. Where is the broad-based support? Not even in Vermont :)
Additionally, the basic arguments about gay rights which gay couples desire to have on equal basis with married heteros do not scale to polygamous situations (visitation, financial, etc). Its a huge paradigm shift in going from a couple to a collective.
Finally, polygamy is illegal. Being a monogamous homosexual is not. Any attempt to rationalize polygamy would have to challenge that lifestyle's legal status before any "progress" could be made on any other front. And what polygamist is going to acknowledge breaking the law? Theirs is a behind-closed-doors under-radar existence. Coming out, as it were, represents enormous risk. The cost benefit of advocating polygamous marriage is vanishingly small. The would-be polygamist would have to assert that they *intend* to get married to N people AFTER polygamy is legalized for their argument to have any weight, and in so doing, they admit that polygamy is not something they currently engage in. Gay couples, in contrast, are gay regardless of whether they are married or not. They can better argue that being gay is as much a condition as it is a choice.
Ultimately, I support gay marriage because the concept of monogamy - even as practiced by gay people - is one that society needs to lace higher on the list of values. We heterosexuals have devalued marriage through 24 hour divorces, annulments, and whatnot - here we have a cohort of people forcefully arguing for a sea change in the positive direction of these values we want to promote.
I consider arguments that equate gay marriage to polygamy, or worse, bestiality or necrophilia etc (as I had to endure yesterday afternoon on Houston talk radio) to be a dehumanizing tactic rather than a legitimate debating one. The slippery slope argument falls apart because people are not corpses, dogs, etc. They are human beings. And their desire to have a union of devotion and faithfulness is one that many heteros should take a lesson from.
Really, the best way to deal with the marriage issue is to get teh givernment out of it. I am married to my wife; this is fact, not because of my marriage certificate but because of our bind and our sacrament. I would prefer to see all traces of marriage erased from the government books and civil unions that encourage monogamous behavior instituted, completely gender-neutral. Let the churches synagogues and mosques define marriage, as it should be.
Slick sophistry it is!
(1) For one thing, gay couples are as socially conservative with respect to attitudes towards monogamy as hetero couples.Say what? How about some evidence? All the evidence I've seen points exactly the other way: to the fact that gay culture is fiercely, irretrievably promiscuous. It found its very identity in joyous promiscuity, sexual experimentation, etc.
(2) Also, polygamists are in such a tiny minority.Gays are a tiny minority. Gays who desire monogamous marriage are a minority within a tiny minority. Outside of the Western world, however -- and this is important because our immigration policy has us bringing in such people at a very rapid pace -- polygamists are hardly a tiny minority.
(3) Finally, polygamy is illegal. Being a monogamous homosexual is not. Any attempt to rationalize polygamy would have to challenge that lifestyle's legal status before any "progress" could be made on any other front.Polygamy may be illegal, but polyamory is certainly not. Take a peek at many NBA players, who have fathered children by three, four, five, six different women. What is illegal is not multiple sexual relations (even long-term multiple sexual relations) at the same time, but only the legal codification of those relationships.
There is no law against a man maintaining multiple lovers. There are laws against his marrying them.
The whole point of the gay marriage movement is the demand for no legal descrimination against a certain (very new) vision of marriage. As Cosh writes elsewhere,
"You can snicker all you like, but these are real people backed by all the crushing weight our society gives to multiculturalism. What are you going to tell Mr. Issaka or Mr. al-Saud when he asks why the recently-invented demands of gays and lesbians for certified nontraditional couplings were met with dizzying speed, but his desire to build a tripling or a quadrupling that is traditional and even sacred to him cannot be addressed?"
Additionally, the basic arguments about gay rights which gay couples desire to have on equal basis with married heteros do not scale to polygamous situations (visitation, financial, etc). Its a huge paradigm shift in going from a couple to a collective.This is the most convincing argument for me. Gays want equal protection under the law; to do the same for polygamists would require a whole new set of laws.
May I make a differentiation. If change is through legislative action, we can move the line however we choose. We may set it to heterosexual couples only, monogomous couples only, polygomous couples, or whatever definition we see fit.
However, if a court argues that gay marriage is a Constitutional Right under equal protection, the same legal logic cannot be stopped from encompassing other types of relationships that demand equal rights to married couples.
This is one reason why I sincerely hope this debate stays in the legislatures and out of the courts (see: Massachusetts).
Finally, polygamy is illegal. Being a monogamous homosexual is not.That's not a fair comparison. The illegality of polygamy is that it is illegal to have more than one marriage sanctioned by the state(s). Cohabitation of multiple lovers in a way that typically qualifies as "common law marriage" were it just a heterosexual couple is generally not illegal. Equally, cohabitation of mongamous homosexuals is not illegal, but having the state sanction that as marriage is illegal. Thus, both sets are being told that their desired goal is illegal, though neither are actually breaking the law as it stands.
Additionally, the basic arguments about gay rights which gay couples desire to have on equal basis with married heteros do not scale to polygamous situations (visitation, financial, etc).I beg to differ. I have a good friend in a polygamous family. He has a legal wife and a non-wife, all living happily under one roof. In the state that they live, there is nothing illegal about this arrangement, i.e. no "cohabitation" laws. It is also a community property state. If he and his legal wife are killed in an accident, however, his non-wife cannot smoothly inherit the estate. Instead, she would have to pay the estate tax. (Fortunately, that is becoming less of an issue.) Also, if there is a divorce, the non-wife will have no legal claim on the estate. And as for visitation, there are multiple kids (some from each wife) who have had various medical problems and hospitalizations. Both wives consider themselves mothers of this large brood, but in hospital settings, they have been required to lie and claim to be an aunt or a step-mother.
It may not, in fact, be a slippery slope, but I still think they deserve their rights to legally sanctioned marriage.
a few points
1) polygyny (that is, one man + more than one woman) has been the social ideal in the majority of post-hunter-gatherer societies. greece, rome and hindu india are exceptions to this rule.
2) homosexual marriage has not been the norm anywhere that i know of.
3) there are points of similarity between heterosexual polygyny and heterosexual monogamy in that they are both unions which lead to children in a conventional fashion. such is not the case with monogamous homosexuals sans reproductive technology or adoption.
one can approach the issue form a utilitarian or rights angle. in general, i think the state has some incentive in keeping marriages monogamous because polygyny tends to open the field for elite men to build up large households which can be problematic in various ways (social distance between father his many children, rivalry between wives, etc.). but, even in societies (mostly muslim) where polygyny is legal very few men engage in these sort of marriages. the major exception seems to be the gulf state where artificial economic conditions are at work.
the major argument seems to be that polygyny is more "normal" than homosexual monogamy in that in most cultures the former has been much more common & acceptable than the latter. a subsidiary argument seems to be drawn from legal concepts based around equal treatment.
i don't think the polygyny-is-more-normal argument holds in that in western societies women have legal equality, some rather abnormal in the historical context. so, cross-cultural "normality" isn't that big of a consideration in my opinion. as far as the legal case, i don't think that people have a "right" to marriage, and i tend to side with those who think this should be left up to the states....
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