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March 17, 2006

Homosexual Marriage And Polygamy

I’ve made the argument in the past that state sanctioning of homosexual marriage will inevitably lead to state sanctioning of group marriage. Charles Krauthammer, one of the most gifted conservative columnists living today, makes that argument much more effectively than I ever have.

As Newsweek notes, these stirrings for the mainstreaming of polygamy (or, more accurately, polyamory) have their roots in the increasing legitimization of gay marriage. In an essay 10 years ago, I pointed out that it is utterly logical for polygamy rights to follow gay rights. After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one's autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement -- the number restriction (two and only two) -- is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice.

This line of argument makes gay activists furious. I can understand why they do not want to be in the same room as polygamists. But I'm not the one who put them there. Their argument does. Blogger and author Andrew Sullivan, who had the courage to advocate gay marriage at a time when it was considered pretty crazy, has called this the "polygamy diversion," arguing that homosexuality and polygamy are categorically different because polygamy is a mere "activity" while homosexuality is an intrinsic state that "occupies a deeper level of human consciousness."

But this distinction between higher and lower orders of love is precisely what gay rights activists so vigorously protest when the general culture "privileges" (as they say in the English departments) heterosexual unions over homosexual ones. . . .

To simplify the logic, take out the complicating factor of gender mixing. Posit a union of, say, three gay women all deeply devoted to each other. On what grounds would gay activists dismiss their union as mere activity rather than authentic love and self-expression? On what grounds do they insist upon the traditional, arbitrary and exclusionary number of two?

Indeed, once the law is untethered from the definition of marriage which has dominated Western civilization (especially since the beginning of the Christian era) for at least two millennia, then there is really no legitimate basis for arbitrarily upholding any part of that traditional definition. And if, the Lawrence v. Texas holding that “[t]he State cannot demean [homosexuals’] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime” becomes a foundation for the establishment of homosexual marriage, then it is not an unreasonable leap to conclude that the law against polygamy likewise “furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual” and is therefore equally infirm on a constitutional basis. Hence the need for marriage amendments on the state and federal levels to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.

UPDATE: Eric at The Liberty Papers takes on the issue of homosexual marriage and polygamy from a libertarian perspective.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of gay marriage that I’ve encountered is the one that says that the government has no right to intrude into the personal relationships of consenting adults and forbid them from entering into a legal status, in this case marriage, that they wish to enter into freely. This doesn’t mean that government is endorsing the relationship, any more than it endorses a producer of pornographic films who forms a corporation to run his business. It merely means that the government is allowing people to engage in consensual activities that affect nobody but themselves. The logic, if you accept it, seems to me to be unassailable and its hard for me to find an argument that says that polygamy is per se different.

As much as I would like to endorse his position, I can’t, because the legal recognition of homosexual marriage brings with it government imposed legal burdens upon those not party to that personal relationship. After all, giving legal status to homosexual couples then subjects those who have moral and/or religious objections does not just give the parties to that marriage standing and status before the government. Rather, it also gives them certain special status regarding retirement and healthcare benefits, non-discrimination in housing, and other so-called rights (legal privileges, actually, that are framed as rights) in relationship to private individuals and entities. As such, the recognition of a legal status for homosexual couples forces non-consenting individuals with moral and/or religious objections to act in a manner contrary to their sincerely held beliefs.

So long as such parties to homosexual marriage are in a position to use the power of government to force non-consenting individuals and entities to recognize and reward a relationship that is repugnant to them, then the argument that nobody is harmed by permitting homosexual marriage (or polygamy) must fail – unless we redefine the benefits conferred by the granting of legal status to those relationships. But if we do that, don’t most of the arguments in favor of granting legal recognition to those relationships evaporate?

Others writing include Andrew Sullivan, Ann Althouse, Kathleen Kersten, Susie Bright, Sister Toldjah, , Chez Diva, Icarus Fallen, Uncommon Sense, Bullwinkle Blog, Below the Beltway, Prodigal Sun, Dappled Things, Right Side of the Rainbow,

OPEN TRACKBACKING AT: Conservative Cat, Stuck on Stupid, Adam's Blog, Samantha Burns, Third World Country, Liberal Wrong Wing, Bacon Bits, Real Ugly American, Camelot Destra Ideale, Voteswagon, Uncooperative Blogger, Blue Star, Jo's Cafe





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Comments on Homosexual Marriage And Polygamy

Rather, it also gives them certain special status regarding retirement and healthcare benefits, non-discrimination in housing, and other so-called rights (legal privileges, actually, that are framed as rights) in relationship to private individuals and entities. As such, the recognition of a legal status for homosexual couples forces non-consenting individuals with moral and/or religious objections to act in a manner contrary to their sincerely held beliefs.

There are two problems with your argument. First, a libertarian would also say that none of these priveleges should exist. Second, and more to the point, really, is that it works both ways. So you would not raise hell when someone who does not approve of people living in a Christian marriage denies them housing or jobs because of it, correct?

Your point is well made, but your position is that you have the right, as you put it, "to force non-consenting individuals and entities to recognize and reward a relationship that is repugnant to them."

The sword cuts both ways.

|| Posted by rightwingprof, March 17, 2006 04:42 PM ||

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welcome to introduce your blog @
http://review.168forums.com

|| Posted by 168 review forums, March 17, 2006 07:16 PM ||

It might surprise you to discover that I would tend towards the libertarian position regarding the existance government-mandated privileges based upon marital status (or anything else) vis-a-vis a private individual or entity.

And as for the latter portion of your argument, I have to answer that I would, in fact, "raise hell" in the face of such discrimination -- and would encourage private economic and mora efforts to persuade the adoption of a different course of action, rather than insist upon the use of the jackboot of government to do so. Boycotts and shunning are a bitch.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, March 17, 2006 11:57 PM ||

So you do, in fact, approve of forcing people to fund things of which they do not approve? How, then, can you turn around and claim that you do not?

|| Posted by rightwingprof, March 18, 2006 07:45 AM ||

The key word is "private".

If I refuse to do business with you until you change your policies, and make known your reprehensible practices with the goal of dissuading others from doing business with you until and unless you change those policies, have I engaged in any act of force? Clearly I have not done so -- you are free to do or not do as you choose. You just have to live with the responses of private individuals to your actions.

Or do you claim that boycotts and refusal to associate individuals to be an unacceptable practice?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, March 18, 2006 10:23 AM ||
Or do you claim that boycotts and refusal to associate individuals to be an unacceptable practice?

Of course not. But boycotts aren't relevant. The force is in the privileges. Their existence forces those who may not approve of either marriage or the privileges to pay for them.

And boycotting businesses for offering domestic partner benefits, etc., is relatively pointless. There are far more benefits to businesses doing that, than any boycott pressure you could bring.


|| Posted by rightwingprof, March 18, 2006 12:07 PM ||

Sorry, but granting gays marriage rights has nothing to do with polygamy. Polygamists want to have multiple wedded partners -- homosexual are just looking for a legal union between two people. Of course, Rick Santorum would also like to throw in farm animals, but that's his own personal perversion. Equating polygamy with gay marriage is another right-wing smoke screen.

Let's look at another example. Let's assume that in the U.S. that the death penalty was illegal (like in all other western cultures). If a Republican wanted to legalize the death penalty, a normal person could say, "Well, if we legalize the death penalty, then what's next -- amputating the hands of theives?" It's the same kind of ridiculous stretch that is made in the polygamy argument.

You also stated that "... parties to homosexual marriage are in a position to use the power of government to force non-consenting individuals and entities to recognize and reward a relationship that is repugnant to them..." Well, the idea of right-wingers marrying and reproducing makes me sick to my stomach. I would like to ban Republican marriages because I find the morally reprehensible.

|| Posted by johnny, March 18, 2006 05:32 PM ||

Oh how wrong you are:

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/301

Read the first paragraph carefully.

|| Posted by democratnomore, March 22, 2006 12:33 PM ||

What happened to the idea of civil unions vs. marriages?

Why is health insurance, etc., in this? Because gummint found a way to get its toe in the door and the rise of insurance companies somehow --gosh darned if I can figure out how -- led to Big Pharma and Big Medicine. It's all corrupt -- as anyone who has had a relative die of the complications of BP and BM can tell you.

As for polygamy, it was declared illegal and still is. But once "alternatively gendered marriages" get going polygamy will make a big comeback. And polygamy is a sorry mess -- ask any Mormon woman who's managed to get out of one of those unions.

Certain social/cultural arrangements mature over millenia. We mess with them at our own risk. And then we whine about the Law of Unintended Consequences. What a farce.

BTW, the norms for marriage in Rome were pretty much what the Christians adopted. We talk about Greek philosophy, art, math, etc., but we forget it was the Romans who passed on the road building, the administrative genius, the military machine. And it was the Roman *form* of marriage we adopted, though not so much its contents. It definitely didn't include polygamy or the Greek (and now Muslim) catamites.

/rant.

|| Posted by dymphna, March 22, 2006 06:17 PM ||
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