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June 05, 2012

Comments

From above:

"If the union of a man and a woman didn't have the social consequences of creating a family by nature, marriage (the stabilization of that union by society) would never have existed."

Well said. But let us remember the Creator who said "It is not good for man ("adam") to be alone and made woman!

Same-sex marriage adovcates hate when this issue is brought up because there is no good argument against it. They simply try to appeal to emotion, call you a nut, or they end up making the case against same-sex marriage unknowingly.

Amy’s central point here seems to be that many of those who advocate same-sex marriage do so for reasons which apply with as much force to polyamorous relationships, and yet these same people disavow any sympathy for polyamorous marriage. Those who proceed in this fashion are, according to Amy, being inconsistent or unprincipled or objectionably arbitrary.

I agree. Human hebetude is ubiquitous; no single sect has a monopoly on it. Many of those advocating same-sex marriage are using arguments that apply just as well to polyamorous marriage, and yet these folks get a little weak in the knees when broaching the latter. Some are no doubt doing this because it would be politically foolish to associate in the public’s mind same-sex marriage and polyamorous marriage. That would probably disincline the public to same-sex marriage and retard the agenda of those advocating it.

But putting political expediency aside and focusing only on the rational merits of the various positions, it seems to me that same-sex marriage advocates would do best to take the following route (be warned; it is a route that requires nuance, patience, and critical engagement, and so is not suitable for mass consumption). Same-sex marriage advocates should argue that society has multitudinous interests in marriage, not all of which are reducible to procreative potential, and then proceed to evaluate each putative marital arrangement on its own merits, asking such questions as the following:

(a) Are any of the important interests society has in marriage promoted by extending the status of legal marriage to arrangement X?

(b) Are any of the important interests society has in marriage actively frustrated by extending the status of legal marriage to arrangement X? (Notice that actively frustrating an interest is distinct from failing to promote it; a doorstop fails to promote scientific literacy, but does not thereby actively frustrate scientific literacy. One may not infer, therefore, from the fact that same-sex marriage or marriage among the elderly does not promote procreation that it thereby actively frustrates it).

(c) Are the benefits and harms that would accrue to individuals in virtue of legalizing arrangement X such that it is known on the basis of good public evidence (i.e., not the results of poorly constructed empirical studies and certainly not the private Holy Spirit chatter within the heart of the Mormon or Christian etc.) that (i) there is a non-negligible chance of those benefits/harms obtaining, and (ii) those benefits/harms are publicly manifest (i.e., not the occult, nebulous harms of certain religious sects, like the moral “harm” the Roman Catholic Church would have us believe betides all couples that use condemns)?

(d) Do the benefits that satisfy both (i) and (ii) in step (c) clearly outweigh the harms that satisfy those same criteria, or vice versa?

(e) Does extending the legal status of marriage to arrangement X violate any of the basic individual rights or liberties constitutive of a democratic republic? Does withholding the legal status of marriage to arrangement X violate any of the basic individual rights or liberties constitutive of a democratic republic?

I don’t pretend that these questions are exhaustive of the relevant concerns; they are just the ones that came to mind. The same-sex marriage advocate can then proceed to evaluate same-sex marriage and polyamorous marriage on the basis of the proposed criteria. If both pass (and of course “passing” needn’t mean uniquely qualifying as best according to the criteria), then both should be unashamedly advocated as sensible extensions of marital status in a pluralistic democratic society. Far from a reductio of the view of those who advocate of same-sex marriage, these criteria simply illuminate the implications of a rational, empirical, democratic, and fair decision procedure concerning legal issues surrounding marriage. Furthermore, this approach, if developed sensibly, is far more nuanced than the sophomoric “We should be able to marry whomever we love” bosh that one often hears from same-sex marriage advocates, as well as all unreasoned, instinctive opposition to polyamorous marriage which frequently advances no further than brute, visceral revulsion.

Hi Malebranche,

Why should anyone advocating polyamorous marriage need to address those questions? Where did you get them from? They’re basically questions that ultimately lead to your defining marriage – that could ultimately leave people out.

Amy,

Your post does a great job of pointing out the obvious, yet rarely comprehended, fact that those in favor of same sex marriage are still being exclusionary to a wide variety of other potential "types" of marriage. A line in the sand is still drawn and boundary lines are made clear. It's not simply a matter of "being able to be with someone you love" - they are just as "intolerant" as those who oppose same sex marriage.

Darth Dutch

Why stop at the Polyamorous argument? Why not also allow marriage between two siblings? Or a Parent and full grown offspring? The arguments all come down to the same argument when YHWH is excluded from the discussion.

1. It is a contract between two adults
2. If it is a civil right for a man to marry another man, it should also apply to a Man to marry his full grown son or daughter. After all, we are talking "civil rights".
3. It doesn't hurt anyone else.

But again, as was indicated by Amy in the initial piece, they don't want to bring into the argument those equally valid statements because they know that if ALL of it was on the table, the world as it stands now, would cringe and walk away from the argument entirely.

The gay agenda must keep the argument limited in scope in order to gain any ground with general consensus.

In the end, Marriage was established by YHWH, Designed to be between a man and a woman,and anything added to or taken away from that design introduces flaws that deteriorate society.

Shekem,

Agreed. The other point to make is that the pro-same sex marriage lobby has to make the argument that marriage is not about procreation alone since they obviously cannot fulfill that role. But, it also strikes down another of their arguments against inter-family marriage - namely, that the reason it is against the law for brothers & sisters to marry is that it will likely produce offspring that are deficient in some way. But if marriage is not about procreation, then that doesn't matter.

Darth Dutch

Shekem,

I agree with your sumation of their arguments, and it bothers me that so many people use the "it doesn't hurt anyone else" argument. Simply put, I think SSM advocates are mistaken in thinking that it doesn't hurt anyone else. Homosexual behavior is clearly destructive.

Why define marriage as two people? Because two people complete the union that society has an interest in protecting.

And if society had an interest in protecting same sex unions, then marriage should be defined in a way that includes that.

Remember that biblically marriage did include more than two people. The definition of marriage has changed as our moral understanding has developed. I see no reason to exclude same sex couples from marriage. It doesn't harm anyone. It doesn't suddenly threaten my heterosexual marriage.

I think polyamorous marriages are harder to evaluate. We have less experience with them, so we don't understand the consequences. However we have all kinds of same sex long term relationships and there's no reason to conclude that these are destructive.

Jon, marriage in the Bible never included more than two people. There were times in history when a man was allowed to have more than one marriage at the same time, but a single marriage has only ever been one man and one woman. The Bible knows nothing of group marriage.

"We have less experience with [polyamorous marriages], so we don't understand the consequences."

Jon, couldn't the exact same thing be said of same-sex marriages? Since it by & large isn't legal now and, during the short window of time it was legal, a very small number of marriages took place, we don't have a lot of data or time to conduct much analysis.

By the same token, if the above is the case, and same-sex marriages "don't harm anyone", then why not allow polyamorous marriage to take root and see what happens, then evaluate?

As Amy rightly pointed out, whatever arguments you use for same-sex marriage can be used for polyamorous marriage too; and any argument against polyamorous marriage can be used against same-sex marriage.

Darth Dutch

Jon’s point about consequences is irrelevant. We aren’t supposed to care about those. Equality is what matters – not consequences. The consequence of inequality is the greatest evil on this issue – so we’re told.

Jon, marriage in the Bible never included more than two people. There were times in history when a man was allowed to have more than one marriage at the same time, but a single marriage has only ever been one man and one woman. The Bible knows nothing of group marriage.
Amy, this is a good point. Thanks.

It’s no coincidence that this thread is shorter than many others on same-sex marriage. There’s just nothing more to say – the debate usually ends here. Same-sex marriage advocates at a loss.

Interesting debate guys. But as a same-sex marriage supporter and a member of a same-sex couple myself, I have to say that polygamy argument seems a little ridiculous myself.

I can understand the fear-mongering here, a lot of people don't want to come right out and say they hate gays, face it, a lot of people using the polygamy argument use it as a smokescreen from that. BUT

Dr Keryn Phelps made it clear why polygamy and incest aren't an issue here. It is fact that in countries which have same-sex marriage that polygamy and incest are ILLEGAL, YES... ILLEGAL! So there is NO case for such marriages in those countries!

In fact, it's the countries that have outlawed homosexuality completely that allow polygamy and incest.. GO FIGURE!

All I'm saying is, stick to the facts. Look at the wording and understand that incest and polygamy are a whole different playing field. Remember marriage in modern society has jack-all to do with children, STRAIGHT divorce rates are at more than 50% and a huge amount of families in Australia are 1 parent families.

I say; live and let live by Australian law and see what change can bring. There's always been doomsayers with every decision in this world and doom hasn't come :)

Jay, thanks for stopping by.

This has absolutely nothing to do with hating gay people.

Dr Keryn Phelps made it clear why polygamy and incest aren't an issue here. It is fact that in countries which have same-sex marriage that polygamy and incest are ILLEGAL, YES... ILLEGAL! So there is NO case for such marriages in those countries!

The point of the post is this: There is no principled objection against polygamy if we adopt the views of the same-sex marriage advocates. Current legality is irrelevant. Fifteen years ago, there was no same-sex marriage. Then people made a case for it. Now it’s legal in some places. Today there’s no polygamy, and people are beginning to make the same case for it (or the article I linked to wouldn’t exist). Why does it seem ridiculous to you that when the principles being put into place now are equally applied, then polygamy will also be legal?

Whether or not the idea of accepting polygamy seems ridiculous to you is irrelevant. You don’t think the idea of same-sex marriage seemed ridiculous to people not long ago? Polygamy is no more of a different playing field than same-sex marriage is a different playing field (and polygamy is perhaps less different, since it retains the same definition of marriage, just allows more than one). None of your comments are principled ways to exclude polygamy from your definition of marriage.

This is the question: by what principle will you exclude it in the future? Is there any argument made for same-sex marriage that doesn’t apply equally to polygamy? That’s the question.

And the point is not to say that we should fear same-sex marriage because it could lead to polygamy. This isn’t fear-mongering. It’s simply looking at the principles being argued and seeing what those principles support. If you think that what they support when applied equally to everyone is ridiculous, then they aren’t sufficient principles on which to base the changing of the state’s definition of marriage.

@ Jay -

"... I have to say that polygamy argument seems a little ridiculous myself."

Why is it ridiculous? Supporters of polygamy (or other types of relationships) are using the same "arguments" for marriage as homosexuals use:

"We love each other, therefore we should be allowed to marry."
"Rights are being withheld from us."

(There are others I can't think of at this late hour.)

Why is it valid for homosexuals to use such arguments, but not for them?


"I can understand the fear-mongering here, a lot of people don't want to come right out and say they hate gays, face it, a lot of people using the polygamy argument use it as a smokescreen from that."

Please show me what fear mongering or hate has been preached here.

"All I'm saying is, stick to the facts. Look at the wording and understand that incest and polygamy are a whole different playing field."

Why are they different? As I said above, the same arguments for marriage that homosexuals use are the same ones used by these other people.

"I can understand the fear-mongering here, a lot of people don't want to come right out and say they hate gays, face it, a lot of people using the polygamy argument use it as a smokescreen from that."

Let's take what you said as having truth to it - are you willing to admit that a lot of the proponents of same-sex marriage hide behind the label of calling others "homophobe" and "bigot" and simply call the other side names without having a reasoned dialogue about it? This is totally a side point to everything, but let's not fool ourselves in thinking that the pro same-sex marriage side doesn't hide behind labels. Your accusation cuts both ways.

Why don't we just forget about what's OK and what's not as we all have our subjective opinions when it comes to morality.
Make a marriage license available to anyone who applies for it. Simple as.
But it'll always be the marriage between one man and one woman which holds the highest degree of validity.
Equality yes, but the conscience will always be inclined to discriminate.

Marriage with a theoretically unlimited number of partners of both sexes is legally unworkable. That's really all you need.

That said, it was female emancipation that ended polygamy in the western world by ending the demand for it. Even if polygamy was somehow ever brought back it would have next to no impact on society simply because almost no one wants it and that's not going to change. Ironically, the kind of society which many in the religious right advocate, where women return to the home and lose most of their independence, is necessary if polygamy were to ever somehow make a comeback.

And Amy? A man with multiple wives isn't engaging in polygamy? Seriously?

Boo, on the contrary, I was explaining polygamy. I said a man with multiple wives has many marriages. Polygamy is many marriages, not one marriage with many people.

But I'm curious about your position on women who raise their children full time (the most important and influential job there is, and the one most central to the family). How is that "losing independence?" How is that role different from a man who has a different job full time in order to make money for his family?

Or perhaps you're saying if a woman doesn't make money herself, she's not independent. Well then I ask, what do you see as the point of marriage? To be independent? If you want to be independent, don't get married. If you want to join your life with someone else's and create one new life where you each make your unique contributions and share everything that results, then get married.

As for "female emancipation" (I'm not exactly sure what time period you're referring to) ending polygamy in the Western world, Jesus assumed monogamy when He said that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his first wife. And Paul made it clear that leaders in the church were to have one wife. Christian writers (Tertullian, Augustine, etc.) have been condemning polygamy for 2000 years. This is why polygamy has not been allowed in Christian cultures, and why Utah wasn't allowed into the Union until they rejected it.

It wasn't a lack of demand, it was an acknowledgement of the meaning of marriage--one man, one woman, one flesh--that established monogamy in the West.

Why do you see multiple marriages as legally unworkable? Countries all over the world manage it. Why do you see a lack of demand? Google "polygamy should be legalized in the West," and you'll see all sorts of court cases and advocacy groups trying to bring it back. And in fact, if we're just going by numbers, I'd be willing to bet there are more people who would like to enter into polygamy than there are same-sex couples who want to get married.

So again, if it's workable and there's a demand for it, on what grounds do you want it banned?

"Boo, on the contrary, I was explaining polygamy. I said a man with multiple wives has many marriages. Polygamy is many marriages, not one marriage with many people."

You said this:

"Jon, marriage in the Bible never included more than two people. There were times in history when a man was allowed to have more than one marriage at the same time, but a single marriage has only ever been one man and one woman. The Bible knows nothing of group marriage."

So are you trying to claim that multiple spouses had no legal or religious relationship to each other? You know in fundamentalist Mormonism they call themselves "sister wives." Of course, even if one grants your point, you're trying to divert from Jon's actual point with semantics, which was that the Bible did indeed endorse polygamy and our understanding of marriage has changed since then.

"But I'm curious about your position on women who raise their children full time (the most important and influential job there is, and the one most central to the family). How is that "losing independence?" How is that role different from a man who has a different job full time in order to make money for his family?"

No, I'm talking about actual history, when women were for all intents and purposes the property of their husband. One of the necessary preconditions for demand for polygamy to come back would be for women to be totally dependent on and subservient to men, along with massive social and economic inequality, or else there's simply no incentive to share a man.

I'll grant you that my previous statement might have been overly simplistic, but yours is as well, as the church didn't even have marriage ceremonies until the 1300s.

"Why do you see multiple marriages as legally unworkable? Countries all over the world manage it."

Countries that do not have legal gender equity manage it by allowing one man to marry as many women as he can support. Since men and women have equal legal rights in the western world, polygamy would entail a theroretically unlimited number of partners of BOTH sexes. That would create a tangled legal mess of conflicting rights and obligations.

"Google "polygamy should be legalized in the West," and you'll see all sorts of court cases and advocacy groups trying to bring it back. And in fact, if we're just going by numbers, I'd be willing to bet there are more people who would like to enter into polygamy than there are same-sex couples who want to get married."

You know, when you tell someone to google something, you should always consider the possibility that they might actually do it. All sorts of court cases? Well if they are out there they didn't show up where you told me to google. What that phrase brings up in pages on the history of polygamy, discussions of fundamentalist Mormons (many of whom don't actually want legal plural marriage because they support their kids through welfare fraud) fundamentalist Islam (there's that female oppression as a necessary condition again) and the occasional random internet debate.

"So again, if it's workable and there's a demand for it, on what grounds do you want it banned?"

You haven't demonstrated either. And has it occured to you yet that you are the one actually arguing the government has no legal basis for outlawing polygamy? Because like it or not the government can't legislate your or my religious beliefs.

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