March 17, 2006

Distinguishing gay marriage and polygamy.

Charles Krauthammer says legalizing gay marriage paves the way to legalizing polygamy:
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 gay marriage advocates 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...

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?
If Krauthammer has been writing about this subject for 10 years, it boggles the mind that the obvious distinction has not yet dawned on him.

Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement. Having the state authorize your union is not the same thing as having your friends and neighbors approve of you and your religious leaders bless you. It affects taxes and employee benefits -- huge amounts of money. A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return. That's not fair. A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness.

The law doesn't assess how much two people love each other. Two persons of opposite sexes can marry for all sorts of reasons. If there were a device that could look into their souls and measure their love, we wouldn't accept the outrageous invasion of privacy it would take for the government to use it. Excluding gay couples from marrying does generate the complaint that society does not sufficiently respect homosexual love, and by harping on this point, proponents of gay marriage activate their opponents who think that's a good thing.

But it's not all about love and who respects what. It's also about economics. And in that dimension, it's easy to distinguish polygamy.

UPDATE: This one has a lot of comments! And then there are the other bloggers writing about it. Eugene Volokh is disagreeing with me, but only because he's misreading me, and if he's misreading me, I've got to expect that misreading is rampant. I've tried to keep the commenters here focused on what I'm actually saying, but I can't rein in everyone who's talking about me. There are 98 comments right now on the Volokh post, and I'm probably not going to read many of them. But let me just say why I think Volokh has misread me. He seems takes that last clause "it's easy to distinguish polygamy" to mean what it literally says ripped out of its context. But I'm not saying that the distinction is so obvious that everyone will accept it. I'm just refuting Krauthammer, who thinks there is no way to stop the slip down the slope from gay marriage to polygamy. I'm against the scare tactic that is being widely used: don't accept gay marriage or nothing will stave off polygamy. All I'm saying is that there is a principled basis for drawing a line between the two. Nothing compels us to choose that line, however. I freely admit that.

295 comments:

1 – 200 of 295   Newer›   Newest»
Pogo said...

Re: "Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement."

I beg to differ. A fundamental problem in discussing the expnsion of marriage beyond the traditional norm does in fact turn on these definitional problems.

We all end up playing the blind-men-describing-the-elephant game, or else we simply see marriage differently. Hence the rancor.

Many people, myself included, see marriage as the final result of tens of thousands of years of social evolution, which found that the most successful way to raise children was by a mother and father. This arrangement civilizes men and keeps them bound to one spouse, reducing the deleterious effects of one man controlling many women, thus limiting the social and reproductive prospects of other males, who will likely find something else to do (something not very nice). Women benefit by a stable social unit to raise a child.

The basis for this view is this: society needs children to further its own existence, and heterosexual marriage is the best way to do this. Changing the definition threatens to undermine the successful reproduction and rearing of children. Indeed, the decline of marriage itself has been accompanied by a decline in fecundity across the EU, threatening its very existence.

That's one argument; and the stakes are not small. That this arrangement is also a superior economic grouping is a necessary but not sufficient step in defining its value to society as a whole. Economic benefits could just as easily be conferred by another legal mechanism. And love? Again, necessary, but not sufficient to define marriage.

There is little guarantee that, should gay marriage become law, others would retain the economic definition you propose for very long. Very soon, many other arrangements would be demanded. Such is occurring in Canada. A slippery slope argument? To be sure.

Dave said...

"The basis for this view is this: society needs children to further its own existence, and heterosexual marriage is the best way to do this. Changing the definition threatens to undermine the successful reproduction and rearing of children. Indeed, the decline of marriage itself has been accompanied by a decline in fecundity across the EU, threatening its very existence."

This type of argument is rather facile.

First, the rearing of children can be accomplished without marriage, and often is. One does not necessarily have anything to do with the other. Second, the notion that changing the definition of marriage somehow affects the raising of children is rather a straw man: one thing has nothing to do with the other. Third, many heterosexual couples are uninterested in having children; are we to argue then that they should not be married? Finally, the issue in Europe is not so much marriage as it is the amount of children born per woman. If European women were having sufficient amounts of children out of wedlock to grow its population (the so-called "replacement number") instead of caviling about fecundity you would be complaining about immorality.

What matters is that kids are raised by people who love them, not the sexuality of the parents doing the raising, or the marital status of the kids being raised. There are, after all, many abused and unloved children in heterosexual marriages.

Dave said...

Another note regarding the existence of the EU: problems of fecundity are not threatening the EUs existence.

Econominc, cultural, political, and bureaucratic problems, all of which arise via Brussels, and not a woman's vagina, are threatening the stability and viability of the European Union.

To couch problems with its existence in terms of the amount of children each European woman bears is to reduce a highly complex political and economic problem to the rate at which women bear children. That is fatuous, no?

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo: My post is about why polygamy is different from gay marriage. Even if everything you say is accepted for the purpose of argument, my point still stands. Groups of 2 are different from groups of more than two when we think about what is fair. That's my point. Address that.

I agree that there are issues about children that aren't addressed here by me -- or Krauthammer.

Dave said...

Regarding the issue of fairness: why do we conclude that couple are somehow "fair" while polygamous arrangements are not?

The financial and economic benefits accorded to (heterosexual) married couples is hardly fair to those who wish to remain single.

AJS said...

Pogo said: "Changing the definition threatens to undermine the successful reproduction and rearing of children."

-I disagree. If that were the currently understood purpose of marriage, we would need to either (or both): 1) require fertility tests prior to marriage, 2) institute policies that punish single parenting. In other words, many married people do not beget, or raise, children. In addition, many non-married people do reproduce. I don't believe that our present society discourages either of these decisions through any government policy. Perhaps we did so generations (or 'tens of thousands of years') ago, but as they say, things change.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that you unsuccessfully try to sidestep Krauthammer's point with the economic benefits of marriage. But why should they be any different for three, four, etc. people? I think that you can make very similar arguments about the advantages of a three member marriage as to a two member marriage - that there are economic advantages to being considered married.

I should add that until recently, marriage would have been an economic disadvantage as far as taxes are concerened for childless gay partners. Why? The marriage penalty. The federal income tax was set up such that the norm was either a married couple with one major earner, or single people. Married couples earning comparable amounts would pay more than if they were single. The married filing separate rate was the tax rate for a doubled joint income. Thus, it was designed to be a wash if a couple earning comparable incomes filed together or separate. The result was that at a given income level, filing married was the lowest rate, followed by Head of Household, single, and, finally, highest, married filing separate.

But getting back to your suggestion, what about a man who has kids with multiple women? Why should one of the women get everything, benefitting the kids of one of the women, at the expense of the others? After all, they are all his kids. Why should some of his kids be covered by his health insurance, and not the rest? Indeed, phrased like this, I think an argument could be made that covering all of a man's kids with his health insurance is more important, societally, than covering another man's domestic partner. After all, the domestic partner (or homosexual spouse) can presumably get a job of his own with its own health benefits, while the kids cannot.

Finally, polygamy has a long established history, while homosexual marriage does not. Indeed, one of the major religions of the world still allows 4 wives, and the Bible is full of references to polygamous marriages. Indeed, we are already faced with the problem of what to do when a Moslem family with multiple wives moves here, where the plural marriage was legal and sanctioned where they came from.

MadisonMan said...

Regarding the issue of fairness: why do we conclude that couple are somehow "fair" while polygamous arrangements are not?

When only two are in a relationship, it's easy for an outsider to conclude that those two are equals. It's unnerving (to me, at least) to think of a relationship in which one side totally dominates the other. With a couple, I don't have to entertain that uncomfortable notion.

With polygamy, however, I am forced to conclude that one of the parties is unequal to the others. I have never seen or been party to a 3-way relationship that isn't at some point 2 vs. 1. That makes me uncomfortable, as it's not fair.

Gahrie said...

Ann,

Your insistence that marriage be restricted to two people is just as arbitrary as the distinction that it be between a man and a woman. (note: I oppose gay marriage)

First of all, there are worldwide, historical examples of polygamy (see Justice Bader-Ginsburg's remarks on international law) to justify it's legitemacy.

Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement. Having the state authorize your union is not the same thing has having your friends and neighbors approve of you and your religious leaders bless you. It affects taxes and employee benefits -- huge amounts of money. A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return. That's not fair. A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness.

First, the economic argument to support gay marriage was a red herring. Most of us who oppose gay marriage support a form of gay union to answer economic discrimination.

Secondly, the number of dependents in a family (be they children or spouses) has no determing factor in the economic definition of family. A man with sixteen children and one wife is no different than a man with twelve children and five wives economically.

Lastly, one only has to observe Canada and Scandanavia to see that the threat of polygamy is not just a slippery slope argument, but an accurate prediction of the consequences of legal gay marriages.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann:
Gays use the benefits and insurance issue only to try to get their foot in the door of the marriage chapel.

If it were only about equity for benefits, the gays and the libs would have been protesting for the single individual (gay or staraight) who really gets screwed if he dies before 62 and all his lifetime's social security "contributions" are left to no one but the government.

My point is if it were only about benefits, the libs and pols could fix that. AND it would be a fix for both single gays and single straights. And no need for mariage rights. And I don't know why the libs have not tried this tactic as a form of incremental progress to marriage goal.

Lastly, the way things are headed, employers will throw up their hands and simply grant every employee a fixed pot of gold (Say $400 per month) for fringe benefits (had to squeeze St. Patrick's Day reference in) and each employee can go spend the pot of gold however they like including helping to pay for gay partners.

That's what I will enact when I am emperor! So watch out.

AJS said...

Bruce: "Indeed, we are already faced with the problem of what to do when a Moslem family with multiple wives moves here, where the plural marriage was legal and sanctioned where they came from.

Well, we're also faced with the question of how to handle same sex marriages that are presently legal in other countries, and we have no problem refusing to recognize such marriages.

Icepick said...

Dave, you completely missed Pogo's point.

Pogo wrote: Many people, myself included, see marriage as the final result of tens of thousands of years of social evolution, which found that the most successful way to raise children was by a mother and father. [emphasis changed by me]

Pogo did not say there couldn't be other arrangements for raising or producing children, he was pointing out what he feels to be the best method for raising them, the best method for creating a society committed to raising children well.

And while Pogo did miss the point about the fecundity of European women, so did you, even after you pointed it out! Europe may face problems with bad governance, but so have almost all countries at any point in history. Europe (and Japan) are facing a demographic crisis brought on by decades of declining birthrates. It may be coupled to crippling economic regulation, but even if they adopted more 'American' rules for the conduct of business, they still face a rapidly aging population that will be increasingly starved for entry level workers. And Brussells can't do shit about that.

Finally, I must address by far the most fatuous comment so far in this thread: What matters is that kids are raised by people who love them....

Wrong, wrong, WRONG! Parents that love their children but are completely incompetent as parents or spouses are no damn good as parents. How many divorced couples love their children, but said children end up being something else to fight about? How many parents are out there that love their children but are substance abusers? How many parents are out there that love their children but have no damn clue what they're doing? Love may or may not be necessary to raising a child well, but it sure as hell isn't sufficient.

Bruce Hayden said...

MadisonMan

In a lot of marriages, there isn't equality. One runs the family, and the other takes orders. Traditionally, the man was king, though I think now that in many marriages, it is the woman who is now the boss.

There was a special on polygamy on TV last week, and one of the female proponents of it told of some of the advantages - for example, if she wanted to go out bowling one night, she didn't have to worry about the family or her husband. Rather, the other wives would cover for her, as she would for them.

I would suggest that the typical homosexual relationship is more evenly balanced than the typical heterosexual one simply because in the former, they don't have to deal with the traditional male/female role models, etc.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Hayden said...

AJS

Which is fine when both are illegal, but right now in the world, there are a lot more people in plural marriages than in homosexual ones, yet the suggestion here is essentially that homosexual marriages can be justified at the exclusion of plural marriages.

Remember, this isn't a discussion (yet) of whether or not there should be homosexual marriages, but rather how they can be justified at the expense of plural ones.

elliot said...

As you can see, my impeccable logic PROVES that "if you’re against polygamy, you should be in favor of gay marriage."

Balfegor said...

It's also about economics. And in that dimension, it's easy to distinguish polygamy.

I don't see how. I mean, superficially, yes, the polygamists are potentially going to be distributing health benefits to more people. But it's the same way if you work someplace that gives you health benefits, and you have ten children (generally covered under employer health plans, I understand, although this is apparently changing) vs. a single man or woman who has none and no wife or husband either.

On the bottom line, economically, requiring employers to extend new health coverage to partners in homosexual relationships imposes new burdens on them. And extending the benefits to polygamous couples does the same.

Am I missing something? I don't find this economic argument persuasive at all.

Particularly when it's not the ground homosexual activists have chosen to make their argument on. Krauthammer is extending their argument, not trying to come up with independent justifications. And his entire point is that under the argument they have propounded, there is no meaningful grounds (other than, I suppose, mere animus against polygamists, which we have in spades) for excluding polygamous relationships from legal recognition.

Henry said...

Family life is already about the economic interaction of more than two people.

I count four deductions on my tax form, including my wife and myself. My dependents happen to be my children, but under different circumstances they could easily be adult children or aged relatives.

Just check to see what the IRS defines as Head of Household to see that economic relationships have little to do with the definition of marriage.

I believe that some American polygamists get around the law by serially divorcing each wife to marry the next. Alimony and child support mean that the economic relationship goes on forever.

I support gay marriage, but I don't see how economics has anything at all to do with the argument.

Frankly, I think supporters of gay marriage have to swallow hard and either admit that extended marriage laws would allow polygamy and Oneida-community experiments, or swallow hard and say that there is a unique moral objection (!) against polygamy that doesn't apply to marriages of same sex couples.

JohnF said...

Some opponents of gay marriage have pointed to the economic effects of a new, potentially large class of benefit claimants if gay marriage were allowed. A general discussion of the economic issues in allowing gay marriages (without a position being taken pro or con) is at http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/archives/2005/07/the_law_and_eco.html.

Second, while there certainly might be economic repercussions to a change in marriage law to allow polygamy, I find it hard to believe that the general idea of two-person marriage, when it originated at least, had much to do with the economic dangers of polygamy--else it is hard to see why so many cultures evolved with polygamy.

Third, whatever large economic issues that might arise in allowing polygamous marriage are not that hard to deal with at the time such marriages are authorized. (This assumes authorization comes from legislative action; if from the courts, god help us.) For example, social security benefits could, as now, transfer to the survivor in the marriage, in the same amount regardless of number of survivors, to be shared by however many spouses there are (rationale: that's all the money that was coming in when the deceased spouse was alive; no need to increase it based on number of survivors when he dies). Etc.

Finally, there are of course differences between two-person marriages and multi-person marriages, economic and otherwise. No question. But Krauthammer's point is that the form of argument that supports gay marriage also supports multi-person marriage. I just don't think it's an answer to say that there are some differences between the two. These are not differences that go to the rationale of the argument, which is based on notions of fairness, equality of treatment, the dignity to be given to personal preferences, etc. These are the rationales for gay marriage, and they are applicable, for better or worse, to polygamy as well.

Ann Althouse said...

Gahrie: "First, the economic argument to support gay marriage was a red herring. Most of us who oppose gay marriage support a form of gay union to answer economic discrimination."

It's not a red herring in the context of my post! (And it's not a red herring in the context of the current, proposed constitutional amendment in Wisconsin which outlaws these alternatives.)

"Your insistence that marriage be restricted to two people is just as arbitrary as the distinction that it be between a man and a woman."

First, neither distinction is arbitrary. Both draw clear lines in obvious places. I'm just saying why you can move the line to one place without being logically bound to move the line to the second place. Please address the argument I am making. Don't wheel out stock material. I've made a specific and precise point about a specific and precise problem, and I would appreciate it if people would take care to understand exactly what I'm saying and not make this another generic discussion of gay marriage.

The subject is the use of polygamy to scare us away from accepting gay marriage.

Sloanasaurus said...

If marriage rights are to be decided by the people, then we should not concern ourselves with Polygamy vs Homosexual marraige. The legislature will pass what ever law society wants. Legislatures can freely decide that gay marriage is good and polygamy is bad..

However, if the Courts take it upon themselves to discover that gays have a right under the Constitution to marry under existing statute, then there is no rational reason to deny polygamists the right to marry as well.

Perhaps Justice Ginsberg will cite foriegn law and say that because polygamy is acceptable in foreign lands, it should be acceptable here.

Ann Althouse said...

AJ Lynch: "If it were only about equity for benefits, the gays and the libs would have been protesting for the single individual (gay or staraight) who really gets screwed if he dies before 62 and all his lifetime's social security "contributions" are left to no one but the government. "

He's dead! How much more screwed can he be?

The social security plan has always been based on the prediction that many would die without collecting benefits. Originally, the plan was that most would die. That's why it's underfunded. It's a provision for old age. If you don't enter the state of old age, you don't need the provision. You might just as well complain about paying for health insurance but then not needing any expensive medical care.

MadisonMan said...

In a lot of marriages, there isn't equality. One runs the family, and the other takes orders. Traditionally, the man was king, though I think now that in many marriages, it is the woman who is now the boss.

Well, in my own experiences I have seen very few instances of one person making the orders and the other following. Even in the few marriages I know in which the man is the sole breadwinner, no one is issuing orders. At least, not in public, I won't speculate on what happens away from the public eye. And I do think many people feel this way: if a marriage is working, then there is equality and no one is running roughshod. That's a comfortable thing to think. And I maintain it's harder to assume equality from multiple partners.

As far as the bowling polygamist -- when I leave the house for the night on some errand, I don't have to worry about my wife/kids/house collapsing into an unordered heap. Similarly, if my wife leaves, she doesn't have to worry. I suspect this is true in many many relationships. It amazes me that the wife thinks her husband is so inept. Are these people not adults? I suppose a story involving functioning adults wouldn't be quite so entertaining for a TV journalist.

Ann Althouse said...

Sippican seems to be channeling Zulema (of "Project Runway").

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that what Ann is trying to do is to argue against the slippery slope argument being made against homosexual marriage on economic grounds.

I, for one, though remain unconvinced that that argument has been made. So far, I see the economic arguments posited in favor of gay marriage as being easily expanded to include plural marriages.

Sloanasaurus said...

There is an economic argument to polygamy as well. If the head of household wants more children and his first wife is too old, the younger potential mother would be at an economic disadvantage because she would not have the contractual rights of marriage protecting her in her agreement to have a child with the head of household. At the same time the head of household is bound to the older wife. Thus, either the younger wife takes the risk of not having rights, or the head of household divorces the older wife...or the younger wife decides not to have children. Polygamy would solve this problem (which is why Polygamy exists in other societies).

I don't support polygamy, but you can make an economic argument for it.

Bruce Hayden said...

For most gay couples, Social Security is not an issue (whereas as it really may be for plural wives). That is because, in most cases, they would collect more on their own, from their own "account", than from their spouse's account.

I would suggest that if you are going to make this sort of economic argument, it would be better to concentrate on employee benefits, inheritance, and other legal next-of-kin issues, where gays do stand to benefit.

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce: "I think that what Ann is trying to do is to argue against the slippery slope argument being made against homosexual marriage on economic grounds"

I don't like the way you've put that. I'm saying that the economic distinction is a reason to reject the argument that if homosexual marriage is accepted, logic compels the acceptance of polygamous marriage. The point is that an appeal to economic fairness supports gay marriage in a way that it doesn't support polygamous marriage.

OhioAnne said...

To address the economic argument that you made, Ann ....

You are both wrong and right.

Obviously there are multiple partner arrangements where A has a relationship with B and a relationship with C AND B and C have a separate relationship with each other.

However, the majority (in my opinion) of polygamous relationships A has a relationship with B and a relationship with C and a relationship with D and a relationship with E. The marriage relationship doesn't exist between B, C, D & E. Each individually has a marriage relationship only with A.

Therefore, you would be correct to say that A would be unfair to demand the economic benefits for multiple partners. B, C, D & E, however, would only demanding those benefits for one partner - the same as heterosexual couples do.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do think that this is a valuable discussion. I, for one, am more strongly opposed to plural marriages than I am to homosexual ones. Why? Because plural marriages, as we see them now in our country, are not a pretty sight. In the polygamous culture on the UT/AZ border, we see an extreme patriarchal society where 14 year old girls are pushed into plural marriages with their uncles. At least to me, this is a lot scarier than having long term gay couples I know legally marry. While I don't agree with the later, it is a mild disagreement, as opposed to a real fear of the former.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Balfegor said...

The subject is the use of polygamy to scare us away from accepting gay marriage.

Oddly enough, contra Bruce Hayden, I feel rather more comfortable with extending recognition to concubines and polygamous marriage than with homosexual marriage. Polygamous marriage has a long and quite successful tradition behind it, and is a living, ongoing cultural practice, and one people are going to engage in no matter what silly laws tell them they can and cannot do. Polygamy also makes perfect sense in the context of my view of what marriage is about, while homosexual marriage looks like it misses the point entirely.

Now, as a practical matter, it's true that many people think polygamy is more repugnant than homosexuality. And as a slightly different practical matter, polygamy is a viable, self-sustaining rival social order, while gay marriage is not. So polygamy is rather more of a threat to current mores than gay marriage -- gay marriage is unlikely ever to be more than a marginal presence in peoples' lives partly because there are so few gay people, and partly because heteronormativity is reinforced in every generation when children go through sex-ed and learn (wonder of wonders!) that a child is formed when a sperm of the male and an ovum of the female join together in the female womb and develop into a baby. But I digress. Anyhow, it's clear that, as you suggest, people dislike polygamy more than homosexuality, and will be less eager to support homosexual marriage if they think they're getting tricked into supporting polygamous marriage at the same time. Whatever the reason.

But that's almost certainly a problem only if we're required to be "fair" about how we issue marriage licenses, under the Constitution or a state constitution. In general, once out of the scope of the equal protection clause and due process and whatnot, I'm pretty sure state legislatures can impose whatever restrictions they want on marriage, and continue the ban on bigamy if they want.

That is, if it's a legislative proposal, the way I think it ought to be, I don't think it entails anything at all with regard to polygamy -- polygamy is not a suspect classification, and the legislature is not obligated to be 100% logical and fair about how it treats polygamists. It's only if it's a constitutional argument (state or federal) that the slippery slope really applies, since there, we may find ourselves bound by whatever particular reasoning is used to justify judicial institution of gay marriage.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

I am probably not the first one to try to rephrase a debate to my advantage. And, I agree that the economic fairness argument may be stronger for homosexual than for plural marriages.

Nevertheless, when you open up the debate to economic arguuments, you can't ignore those for plural marriages. Of particular note, what is central to plural marriages are children, and, thus, where the welfare of children is often of lesser importance with gay couples, it is absolutely central to that of plural marriages - because that is why they exist.

So, if you argue that it would be more fair if gay partners were able to get health benefits from their partner's work, I would suggest that it is even more important, from a societal point of view, for the kids of all a man's wives get those benefits. After all, the vast majority of gays are gainfully employed. Most kids are not, for obvious reasons.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that SippicanCottage alludes to an important point. The reason that we are even debating this is because homosexual marriage is being implemented through the court system, instead of the legislature. While that has some short term benefit, it opens up the way for polygamists to piggyback into legitimacy through slightly expanding the case law developed in favor of gay marriage. To repeat, the apparent slippery slope is almost entirely a result of implementing gay marriage through the court system instead of the legislature.

David said...

Interesting that very little discussion is given to the high divorce rate in this country. Stability of marriage and the subsequent beneficial results to the child/children of a stable home life are the key.

Unfortunately for western cultures, the siren song of moral relativity trumps personal responsibility. Somewhere along the line, probably around the late 50's/early 60's, some people started a movement that involved the insane teachings of Timothy Leary and Betty Friedan, to name two. If it feels good do it! doesn't work as a philosophy unless you want young men getting fatherly advice from a prison warden in place of a father and unmarried women raising kids in poverty.

Western civilization is under attack from several fronts not the least of which is declining birth rates. Those groups having three or more children and their religious beliefs will ultimately prevail over our system and this discussion will be moot.

As for gays, do what you want but don't look for a government approval, recognition, or support for your lifestyle. You are confusing right to privacy with an invasion of that very privacy you demand.

Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: Zulema was a contestant who got to the shared apartment's closet first and lined up many pairs of shoes on the only shelf. When the other woman suggested that out of fairness she ought make a double row and thus take only half of the shelf, Zulema's response was "I don't believe in fairness." My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks.

Bruce Hayden said...

I may be overreacting to polygamy. I mentioned the cult on the UT/AZ border. But that wasn't the norm in Utah before it became illegal (and apostasy to the LDS Church there). And I don't think that it is the norm throughout the rest of the world where it is practiced. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as it appears.

Balfegor said...

More directly re: the professor's argument:

It affects taxes and employee benefits -- huge amounts of money.

Gay activists often complain -- why do people care whether gays get married or not? What's it going to do to their marriage? This seems as good an answer as any. Huge amounts of money are involved -- and the more people claiming benefits (e.g. from your employer) the less there's going to be for you. So I don't think this necessarily cuts in favour of gay marriage. And I've heard gay marriage opponents (elsewhere online) indicate that this is, in fact, a major element of why they care about gay marriage -- they'll have to pay for it, and they'd rather not.

A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return. That's not fair.

These are all true of other relationships too -- I cannot extend benefit to my good friend, say, even if she's dying of cancer. What makes it "not fair?" Ultimately, that determination of fair/not-fair must be relying on our understanding that two unrelated men or two unrelated women constitute a family, coequal with a marriage man and woman. That's not a place I think economic arguments can take you.

You need to rely on understandings of what "family" constitute, reduce family to the requisite love and affection (i.e. strip out childbearing and any penumbra of coverage it may happen to cast), and then analogise the loves involved, so that gay and lesbian love is equal to hetero love => it is unfair for hetero love commitment ceremonies to trigger benefits that homosexual love commitment ceremonies to not.

How would an economic argument get you to "not fair" without resting on deeper assumptions about affection and the substance of marriage?

A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple.

Is that really the problem? I mean, per-capita, they don't claim more benefits, any more than my 10-child family, above, would. It's not like they're going to get money and benefits and then enjoy a higher standard of living than heterosexual families.

That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness.

I think it really depends on what we consider "fair." I think polygamy has just as much claim on our sense of fairness. We can think of the children, for example.

-Peder said...

Ann, can you craft a legal argument that would allow gay marriage but not polygamy? I'm not really concerned with the differing economic natures as I think they can be hammered out. Social Security could be limited to a primary beneficiary for instance.
In fact the economic benefits for polygamy could be huge. Think of a situation with two husbands and four wives. Could create lots of children but probably only one parent would need stay home with the kids. That's five adult salaries coming into the home instead of two and childcare.
If you really want to draw a line between the two, you have to wrestle with the logic of pogo's post. Western Civ has had one man/one woman marriage as one of it's bedrock foundations for quite some time. We've drifted from that for the last fifty years or so and the results haven't been pretty. The divorce culture and the idea of free love have had a huge effect on children.
There is an argument that bringing gay couples into marriage will have a stablizing effect on society as a whole. That's a much stronger argument than any economic one.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...This overall debate on gay marriage is about freedoms to pursue your individual preferences..."

Mary, you are totally wrong. The gay marraige debate is about whether society should accept gay marriage. It has nothing to do with individual freedom. Gays have every right to co-haibtate and do everything married couples do. However gays do not have the social acceptance of their co-habitation. Gays want society to accept their marriage as equal to heterosexual marraige, with all the social benefits and taboos that accrued to marriage. If they did not care about social acceptance of this tradition, it would not be an issue.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think anyone here opposes fairness. After all, its pursuit freed our slaves and gave women the vote.

But one of the things that distinguishes children from adults is an awareness that life isn't fair. Some are brought into this world rich and healthy, and others, poor and disabled. We, as a society, can do something about this, but can't alleviate it all, because if we did, we would give up many other things, notably our financial success as a nation.

Besides, fairness isn't the only virtue that we should practice. Compassion, esp. to those unable to take care of themselves, such as the kids of polygamous marriages, is of no lesser (IMHO) value. Indeed, I think a better moral case can be made for covering all the kids of a polygamist with his employee health care benefits than for covering a homosexual partner who most often can take care of himself.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Re children: economic benefits toward one's children do not depend on marriage, do they? They certainly don't need to. What are people talking about here?!

Re polygamous marriages to underaged girls: prosecute people for statutory rape. You don't need to reject polygamous marriages to prevent this. In fact, people are currently committing this kind of abuse. Maybe by making polygamists outlaws, you encourage them to do other illegal things and to be thoroughly alienated from our social norms. If they were included more, we could keep track of the real wrongs -- things that hurt children.

Note that there is an important distinction between opening legal marriage to polygamous unions and making it a crime to have a polygamous arrangement. I'd favor decriminalizing polygamy but not giving it the official legal status of marriage. This would be like the gay marriages that many people currently have. They can be open about saying they are married, have a ceremony, etc. But they don't qualify for any of the legal benefits of marriage.

Marghlar said...

Ann: it seems like this problem could be easily worked around through contracts. Currently benefits are extended to spouses...wouldn't this problem, and its attendant unfairness, evaporate if the benefits were limited to one "designated" spouse, or extended to all spouses but reduced in proportion to the additional costs imposed, etc? And then, if enough polygamists sought insurance, you'd eventually see more expensive policies catering towards such families.

I say this as someone who supports both gay marriage and polygamous marriage. I'd also note that many of the fairness issues you note would disappear if we, like all other first world nations, had a national health system.

elliot said...

"If the amendment passes in Wisconsin, I have no doubt the second sentence will fall in a court of law as too overreaching."

Since when can any court overide a constitution?

This is where Roe v. Wade has gotten us.

People believe if a court doesn't like the way a constitution works they can just make it up as they go along.

peter hoh said...

Balfegor: I feel rather more comfortable with extending recognition to concubines and polygamous marriage than with homosexual marriage

We already extend the privileges of marriage to concubines, but first the current wife has to lose the privileges of marriage.

Pogo and others would have us forget that a fundamental change has already happened to the "final result of tens of thousands of years of social evolution." Namely widespread divorce. "Traditional" marriage may rest upon the idea of one man and one woman, but it also rested upon the idea that this was a lifelong arrangement.

While the economic benefits of marriage appeal to same-sex partners, there are other tangible benefits of marriage that I believe hold even greater importance. That is, the right of one spouse to speak for another, as may be needed in medical emergencies or at the end of life.

Currently, a dying partner's family (which may have been antagonistic to his/her partner) would have more standing to make end of life decisions than his/her life partner. This is wrong, and it needs a remedy. The second line in the Wisconsin amendment prohibits such a remedy.

Furthermore, this ability to make decisions for ones spouse is something that would be hard to transfer to poly marriages. When a person (in a poly marriage) is no longer able to make decisions about medical care, to which of his/her spouses should the doctors listen?

Additionally, marriage makes it simple to transfer property after the death of one partner, even without a will. This would be complicated in the case of poly marriages.

Balfegor said...

re: children,

just Googling children, divorce, and employer health coverage, I come up with this link. If I look down at Spousal continuation, where it lists the divorced spouse and children as eligible to continue receiving health coverage, it actually looks like polygamists who practice serial marriage and divorce can get all their wives and children covered already. At least in Illinois. On about 2 minutes of research. Someone more knowledgeable than I about this area of law -- please feel free to correct me if I'm misreading that. Or if that "com" address means it's just some scam site.

But if that's right -- and it doesn't seem implausible -- it may be the case that allowing polygamy doesn't even add significantly to the private bottom line. The huge amounts of money are already in motion. Polygamy may have ramifications for inheritance and the like. But health care and the like -- maybe not?

Re: fairness, it's not fairness or a sense of fairness that's really the problem. Few of us wish to twirl our moustaches and cackle at the unfairness of the world. It's that many of us -- me for example -- don't actually think it's unfair to exclude homosexual couples from marriage. The problem is what particular criteria for fairness end up getting read into the law, if gay marriage gets implemented by a court. If it comes in through the legislature, I'm sure there are neutral understandings of what is and is not fair that could be used to justify recognising gay marriages while ignoring polygamous marriage.

Tom C said...

The notions all through this thread that polygamy is "successful" are ludicrous. As soon as any society achieves a reasonable amount of class equality, it disappears immediately. Why? Not, as alluded to above, because it's harmful to women, or has some deviant practices associated with it while it's illegal. It's because THERE AREN'T ENOUGH WOMEN LEFT -- the men who are shut out make it disappear quickly.

Proof? I offer only this: as the ratio of Highest Incomes to lowest in the West have gone back towards ratios last seen during the Middle Ages, the notion of polygamy has taken root once again. Doesn't Donald Trump deserve 10 wives? Twenty? Isn't his gene pool better than the average dope fiend in the street?

Well, actually, no. We are clearly better off through maximizing genetic diversity, which monogamous marriage accomplishes. It's only when aristocrats and fuedal lords hold sway that this form of marriage is legal. (And don't get me started on eliminating the Inheritance Tax.)

Balfegor said...

Additionally, marriage makes it simple to transfer property after the death of one partner, even without a will. This would be complicated in the case of poly marriages.

Doesn't that depend on what kind of marital property regime it is? I mean, if it's a community property regime, then all marital property just remains community property. The dead person's private property can revert to the communal property in the proportion intestate law would have given it to the widow or the widower, and other distributions can proceed according to the usual byzantine machinations of the intestate code.

I don't think it would be much more complicated than it is now.

Bruce Hayden said...

There are several places where kids of polygamous marriages are disadvantaged. One is Social Security survivors' benefits. Minor children of deceased workers get benefits, as do their wives if they are raising the kids. It is not clear whether or not this applies to kids outside a typical two-person marriage, but I think that it is clear that second, etc. wives cannot collect.

Some employer supplied health care programs give you three (or four) choices: yourself, yourself plus a family, yourself plus children, and, more recently, you and your domestic partner. Yes, some do cover all your children, regardless of maternity, but some don't. Oh, and what happens if the person with the employer supplied health care benefits is one of the wives? She may be helping to raise the other wive's children, but they legally aren't hers, though they are her husband's.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann:
Agreed if you are dead, you are screwed. My argument re social security is that married folks gain some credit for deceased spouse's earnings. Singles don't have that option and gays could argue this is unfair to both gays and straights.

Your argument about "no one was supposed to collect was plan's original intent" bears some truthiness but the plan and its tax rate has increased significantly from a very small % to an onerous %... it's almost 13% including employer's portion.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sex with a 14 year old girl, when the guy is married to her, is not statutory rape in many states. This is a holdover from a time when kids routinely did get married at that age - but is still on the books in those states. This is one of the reasons that in the polygamouse culture on the UT/AZ border, the guys get legally divorced from their earlier wives before taking their younger brides. (Obviously, if they didn't get legally divorced, the subsequent marriages would be bigamous, and statutory rape would apply).

Henry said...

Re children: economic benefits toward one's children do not depend on marriage, do they? They certainly don't need to. What are people talking about here?!

As I understand it, you're arguming that marriage in the U.S. represents a specific economic standard. If extended to same-sex couples, this economic arrangement wouldn't need to be modified. If extended to polygamous unions, it would be.

But the economic arrangement is not static. It is in flux and always has been. Polygamous marriage may strain the economic status quo, but so do divorce, remarriage, adoption, dependant status, and many other societal factors. The economics of family relationships are much murkier than I think you suggest.

Tom C said...

Addressing the original post, there is an arrangement that would be furthered by legalization of gay marriage: a multi-spouse marriage with an equal number of each sex. All the "power", "unfairness", "too many benefits", etc., arguments go away, leaving many of the economic benefits cited above.

Not that I think it would work in the real world, but someone could easily use the rulings in Vermont (my home state) and Massachusetts to support the claim that not allowing this is some sort of government intrusion into their privacy.

All that said, would this stop me from supporting Gay Marriage? No way, I've always thought it was the right thing. Domino theories are usually wrong at the extreme but correct for some extensions. The answer, of course, is to act like an adult and draw a line for practices that harm society or the less powerful.

Bruce Hayden said...

Mary,

Sorry - I noticed that my spelling is even worse than usual today.

Bruce Hayden said...

Tom C

I think that the polygamous argument is better called a slippery slope argument than domino theory. There is an interesting law review article by Eugene Volokh titled "Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes" - where he discusses some of this in depth, but then comes to a conclusion that societally we are ready to accept gay marriage but not polygamous ones. I seem to remember some more ambiguous writings on the subject earlier by him, but can't find them on his web page.

Smilin' Jack said...

A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness.

It also puts that traditional heterosexual couple in a position to claim more economic benefits than I can as a single man. Why is that fair?

The number two has nothing to do with fairness or economics, it has to do with biology--there are two sexes. Traditional heterosexual couples contain one of each because that's how reproduction works. If the DNA molecule had three strands rather than two, you'd think three was "fair."

And in human history, polygamy is far more common (often for economic reasons, in fact) than socially recognized homosexual unions.

Julian Morrison said...

It's easy to distinguish. But is the distinction relevant?

Note that as a libertarian I don't give two hoots for tax nor benefits. Zero the both of them, and all married couples, triples and n-tuples will be equal, right?

Gahrie said...

All that said, would this stop me from supporting Gay Marriage? No way, I've always thought it was the right thing. ..... The answer, of course, is to act like an adult and draw a line for practices that harm society...

This is the exact answer many of us make when we oppose gay marriage. It doesn't seem to get us very far.

Beef Stooge said...

This is exactly why "legal marriage" should be eliminated completely. That would completely solve the argument of the legal definition of marriage.

Marriage is a religious institution--the joining of two people in the eyes of their god. Why/how the state ever became involved is beyond me. The only possibility I can come up with is that the state feels it is its responsibility to provide some form of social engineering which provides a more stable environment for children. If so, they are failing miserably.

branruadh said...

There is no provable harm to society by extending civil rights to an underprivileged group. By denying marriage rights to same-sex couples, countries are forcing second-class status onto undeserving adults. And while polygamy would cause rewrites of everything from divorce law (how to break an agreement where one partner wants to leave but the other three would rather continue as they were is just one example) to insurance policy forms, it's pretty hard to claim good economic reasons.

Frankly, nobody here or anywhere has ever managed to make an argument against either same-sex or polygamous marriage that doesn't boil down to, "I'm scared of that, so I don't want anyone else to do it, either." You're dogs in a manger, the lot of you.

Richard Dolan said...

"Groups of 2 are different from groups of more than two when we think about what is fair. That's my point. Address that."

OK, but beware where your point may lead. If you make fundamental legal and moral distinctions turn on economic analysis, then you may be sorely disappointed when the economic analysis of the differences between "groups of 2" and larger groups is actually done.

First and most obviously, economic analysis has nothing to do with measuring "fairness" and everything to do with measuring efficiencies (or lack thereof) in the allocation of resources. (That's why, for example, standard antitrust analysis never posits, as the object of antitrust policy, the achievement of a "fair price" in any market, and it's also why "fair pricing" laws are always anything but.)

I didn't see much, in terms of economic analysis, in your post, or in the many comments it's generated. You begin with the observation that 2 is different from numbers larger than 2 -- not much to disagree with there, but it also doesn't help much as observations go. What follows are various untested hypotheses about possible efficiencies or inefficiencies that may be associated with groups of 2 vs. larger groups. Some seem to think that "group size" may result in significant differences in terms of the efficient allocation of health care benefits/insurance, child rearing costs/benefits, other social welfare costs of various kinds, tax burdens, etc. But the fundamental problem is that you can spin out these untested hypotheses about possible efficiencies or inefficiencies literally forever. Until someone goes to the trouble of trying to measure the actual efficiencies in play, there's not much "there there" in the supposed economic analysis.

Assuming that there were any such inefficiencies, then it's still quite a leap to say that, ergo, one arrangement is "fair" and the other is "unfair." So, as Tim would say, make it work, Ann! Economics is all about measuring inputs vs. outputs, and all the economists I know just can never have too many equations -- they really are intimidated by mathematicians and physicists. So where are your equations, Ann? What are the measurable inefficiencies in allocation of social goods that justify using a "group of 2" to define marriage if, as you claim, a numerically defined definition of marriage should be distinguished from a gender-defined definition? Do you know of any serious economic work that's actually been done on the differences, if any, in terms of the allocation of social goods between marriage defined as a "group of 2" vs. a differently sized group? All I saw is the observation that there are potential economies of scale with larger groups, and potentials for the opposite effect as well. I don't think that gets you anywhere. If that's your answer to Krauthammer's powerfully argued albeit not very novel point, I think you've got a long way to go before your argument has any real punch.

Bruce Hayden said...

Richard Dolan

I find the point interesting that economists are afraid of mathematicians and physicists. My worst grade in graduate school (a C) was in an econometrics class where I had to repeatedly correct the prof's solving of derivatives. I should have kept quiet, but had a mathematics degree, and couldn't stand for him to make all those obvious mistakes.

John said...

The recurring argument that polyamory is more common throughout human history than gay marriage is completely irrelevant. Slavery was (and is) far more common than gay marriage, too, but that doesn't mean that slavery is right or good, or on any higher moral plane than two people who want to join together in marriage (and who happen to be the same sex).

Really, I think that many commentors are being deliberately obtuse in this thread. In any situation where two gay people want to get married, both of them are already eligible for marriage (thus, the oft-repeated and cruelly humorous argument that "gay people can already get married... they can marry any person of the opposite sex they want) as long as each one is 1) of marriageable age, and 2) not already married.

This would not have to change at all for gay people to be married under current laws, but it would need to be drastically changed for any legal recognition of polyamory.

To be honest, although I find polyamory repugnant in the extreme, I would have little problem with saying to polyamorists, "You can marry as many people as you want. However, you only get legal recognition and benefits for one of them, end of story."

I'm not particularly eloquent, and I know this argument won't sway many people (if anyone), but I saw far too many people playing devil's advocate for my comfort, and had to say something (however incoherently). There really are huge differences between two adults who get married to each other (of whatever sex), and any form of polyamory.

Bruce Hayden said...

Nevertheless, I am not arguing economics, per se, here, but rather that without changes, the present system in this country probably disadvantages polygamous families more today than gay couples. And, in particular, many of the problems attributed to the inability of homosexuals to marry each other can be alleviated through contract. I see this as less so for polygamous families.

HaloJonesFan said...

Heh. Here's an interesting thought: In the future, marriage benefits and marriage practice may combine in such a way that, for tax purposes, all employees will have to marry the CEO!

leesus said...

no
the economic argument falls for two obvious and distint reasons:

1) economics is a terrible way to justify morals. for example, it is much cheaper to execute HIV+ patients, but we would never consider such....

2) it is fallical. You mention employee benfits and taxes. How does this apply to the hetereosexual couple that squirts out 9 kids. The employer bears the burden of that cost. So unless you extend your position to "super-breeders" it remains exclusionary. as in this type of big family is ok, but that type of big family is not.

You cannot extend marriage to include new definitions. You can either get rid of marriage entirely, or leave it as is, but if you tamper with it in any way, you will end up excluding just ans may situations as you include.

-lee
+++

John B. Chilton said...

Hmm. Surely you don't mean to say that polygamy is distinguished from same-sex marriage because one is an economic arrangement and the other isn't. Both are both/and.

Marginal Revolution took on polygamy recently, as did the Undercover Economist.

Tyler: Marginal Revolution: The economics of polygamy

Alex: Marginal Revolution: In defense of polygamy

Economists are forever appearing to take the love out of marriage.

John said...

Sorry, I just realized how much I wrote to make a fairly simple point. Our marriage laws should reflect that any adult person who wants to get married and who is eligible for marriage (of age and not married), should be able to marry another adult person who is eligible for marriage. If person A is 25 and not married, and person B is 22 and not married, they can marry. If person C is 24 and not married, and person D is 24 and married, than they cannot be married. It's really very simple.

Nathan Hall said...

Of course much of this post becomes moot if we ever institute a reasonably fair and simple tax code.

Balfegor said...

John:

The recurring argument that polyamory is more common throughout human history than gay marriage is completely irrelevant. Slavery was (and is) far more common than gay marriage, too, but that doesn't mean that slavery is right or good, or on any higher moral plane than two people who want to join together in marriage (and who happen to be the same sex).

And? Unless polygamy is somehow a moral wrong, on par with slavery, I don't see how your comparison has much relevance. Polygamy's ancient and continuing history is relevant to establish a) that it is a viable organising principle for a society and b) that there are potentially millions who would be disadvantaged by our laws against polygamy.

Really, I think that many commentors are being deliberately obtuse in this thread.

The same could be said of you. I don't mean offense here, but I do think you're being just as "obtuse" as we are.

In any situation where two gay people want to get married, both of them are already eligible for marriage (thus, the oft-repeated and cruelly humorous argument that "gay people can already get married... they can marry any person of the opposite sex they want) as long as each one is 1) of marriageable age, and 2) not already married.

Do you see what you're doing? We actually have three requirements (excluding incest for the moment:

(1) opposite sex
(2) not already married
(3) legal age

Now, you've decided that (1) can be thrown out. Why not (2)? Why do you privilege the one over the other? You can't just assume that, because many of us (me, for example) don't actually agree that (1) is less important than (2).

We may think (1) and (3) are the key defining elements. Heck, we may think only (1) is. I don't go that far, though.

This would not have to change at all for gay people to be married under current laws, but it would need to be drastically changed for any legal recognition of polyamory.

I think people overestimate how drastic it would be. They point to things like inheritance law and divorce custody and end-of-life decisionmaking. These can be difficult questions, certainly, but they are not really fundamental -- more administrative than anything else. Coming up with a governing legal regime for them is not actually difficult. I expect that once the polygamy movement gets up some steam, they're draft up model statutes themselves. So this doesn't seem, to me, like a valid objection. Polygamy isn't going to shake the foundations of the civil law.

To be honest, although I find polyamory repugnant in the extreme, I would have little problem with saying to polyamorists, "You can marry as many people as you want. However, you only get legal recognition and benefits for one of them, end of story."

Exactly what many people say to gays and lesbians. (Well, I think most people would be a little leery of admitting the "repugnant" part.) And it sounds just as cruel and bigoted coming from you as you claim it is when people say it about homosexuals.

I'm not particularly eloquent,

Eloquence is not the problem.

and I know this argument won't sway many people (if anyone), but I saw far too many people playing devil's advocate for my comfort,

I'm not playing devil's advocate. I actually do think polygamy deserves equal recognition. Just to squick you all out even more, I think incest ought to be legalised too, despite its loathsomeness.

and had to say something (however incoherently). There really are huge differences between two adults who get married to each other (of whatever sex), and any form of polyamory.

And my position is that if you take a step back, outside of our immediate cultural reference frame -- if we try to strip away our prejudices, that is -- we find they're different, but not more different than traditional procreative marriage is from its modern children, or from gay marriage. It's a different path, to be sure, and an older one, but equally valid.

PatHajovsky said...

Ann said - "The point is that an appeal to economic fairness supports gay marriage in a way that it doesn't support polygamous marriage."

Ann - I feel compelled to disagree with your point. Economic fairness for gay marriage is indistinguishable from economic fairness for polygamy. Money is money. Compare the pension and health insurance issue you mentioned. If I'm leaving a pension to my gay spouse, what's the difference between leaving it to my gay and straight spouses? It still money, just split in different ways.

So your fairness argument rests solely on the fact of what is recognized now - heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman - rather than what will be "fair" once that "unfairness" is overcome. Fair(:)) enough. But if you are saying the polygamist doesn't have the same economic claim as the married gay person (especially after the hypothetical decriminalization of polygamy you also seem to advocate), when both the polygamist and the gay person are equal citizens, I think your point falls away.

So I don't think an appeal to economic fairness supports gay marriage anymore than it supports polygamy or any other thing. Economic fairness is a minor argument in this debate, overcome by the larger question of the purpose of government (enforcing an ordered and orderly society while recognizing natural human rights). Dershowitz may disagree with that goal of government, but there is where the debate lies.

BTW - love your blog.

tjl said...

Richard Dolan and John are right to dismiss economics as the means of distinguishing polygamy from gay marriage. In this thread we have seen a range of elaborate attempts to refute Krauthammer on economic grounds alone, and none have been particularly convincing. The reason is that our culture conditions us to see marriage as a life partnership based on mutual love. It's undeniable that this partnership has an economic component, but the economic component is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of "marriage."
To get us off the slippery slope, focus on the concept of "partnership" as implying the union of two parties with equal rights and responsibilities. This equal partnership could not exist in a polygamous arrangement.

Smilin' Jack said...

As a followup to my previous post on biological aspects of the gay/polygamous marriage debate, I predict that if gay marriage is normalized, gays will become the strongest advocates of polygamy. Why? Because two is considered the "normal" number for hetero marriages only because there two sexes. But in a gay marriage there is only one sex; hence nothing special about the number two...it's just an imitation of a hetero marriage. When gay marriages are accepted as such, there'll be no incentive to imitate heterosexuality, and hence no reason to limit the number of partners to two.

Chris said...

Ann,

Your two main points are "fairness" regarding employee benefits and tax benefits. Let's address this:

1. Tax benefits. Filing a joint return is generally NOT favorable. If 2 single people are both working & living together, their tax liability is LOWER than if they got married & file a joint return (I am a CPA and have done thousands of tax returns over the years). Surely you know this - you've heard all the noise about the "marriage penalty" haven't you? The only exception to this is when one spouse works and the other does not....an increasingly rare circumstance.

2. Employee benefits. I'd like to see the statistics on this. Many jobs make employees pay for spouses & dependents. And of course, many don't provide coverage at all. People are free to arrange their lives in such a way as to maximize their economic circumstances. If you insist of coverage for both members of a "partnership", there are many choices, including buying it. Many employers offer benefits to unmarried partners.

Insisting on creating a new definition and reformation of a successful social institution to satisfy a relatively niggling sense of "fairness" is silly. Society is already well on the way to working this out without such a drastic measure.

Charlie said...

We are a nation founded on the notion that the pursuit of happiness in an unalienable right of mankind. How do you deny someone a large measure of control over life's major milestones and claim their chance for happiness is unabridged?

Conservatives have a fundamental problem in this regard when it comes to gay marriage. As homosexuals became more visible and vocal pre-AIDS, conservatives loudly condemned their promiscuous lifestyle. AIDS more than morality or censure has limited casual gay sex, but, to the extent gay couples do wish to enter into stable relationships, those who have most condemned the alternative should, it seems, be in the forefront of offering a way to solemnize the unions. Or is the idea that gays should go back in the closet and pursue quiet desperation rather than happiness?

The gay couples photographed at their weddings certainly seem to radiate happiness the same as any other bride and groom. For me, that squares it with our founding document. It must also twang a chord within conservative hearts... why else trot out the Pandora's Box argument unless you feel there is some legitimacy to the request before you?

Conservatives and liberals alike see this as a matter for law and legislation. Libertarians see it (more appropriately) in the civil realm, which means what is called for is civility, ie, discussion and openness. There are valid concerns on both sides that deserve airing.

As long as conservatives continue to disdain the 9th Amendment and liberals the 10th, a reawakening of robust civil society in America will remain unlikely.

Charlie
Flower Mound, Texas

drdanfee said...

All the posting folks who are so up in arms - alarmed, perplexed, worried, anticipating polygamous doom of one sort or another - might wish to consider some of the points raised by John Corvino in his discussions of this alleged slippery slope, in which gay marriage/unions = polygamy.

Dr. Corvino teaches moral philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit. He earned his doctorate from University of Texas, Austin.

His discussion can be found at: http://www.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=17129.

elliot said...

Mary said, "So by this logic, if Wisconsin voters were to pass an amendment to their state constitution that prohibits say, interracial marriages, it must be accepted by the courts?

That's not the way the balancing between the branches works, eliot. I am confident of my earlier statement regarding the legal validity of second sentence of our amendment here. Time will tell..."

Yes, that IS how the balancing between the branches work.

Constitutions trump courts.

Where you're right is that the Federal courts could intervene as they did in Nebraska.

However, that's a Federal vs. States issue NOT a courts versus constitutional issue.

If the Federal Constitution was amended to prohibit interracial marriage it would have to be accepted by the courts.

There's no logical way a court could declare something to be unconstitutional when it's IN the Constitution.

Richard Dolan said...

tlj says: "To get us off the slippery slope, focus on the concept of 'partnership' as implying the union of two parties with equal rights and responsibilities. This equal partnership could not exist in a polygamous arrangement."

I don't understand your point. This seems to be just a fancy way of saying that 2 is different from all whole numbers other than 2. There is nothing about the concept of a partnership that makes the number 2 special -- but that is the point that Ann is trying to establish and you seem to think your observation supports. How? Consider other common forms of partherships. For example, I suspect that I'm not the only lawyer reading Ann's blog who has had more than 2 "equal partners" in his firm.

So how does the "partnership" concept get you anywhere, let alone off some slippery slope, when the issue is whether a numerical criterion can be justified in the definition of marriage if one posits that a gender-based criterion is not? Krauthammer says no, and Ann says yes (based on economic arguments that she never really makes). I don't see how the parthership idea helps one way or the other on that issue.

Richard said...

AJS said;
"If that [children]were the currently understood purpose of marriage, we would need to either (or both): 1) require fertility tests prior to marriage, 2) institute policies that punish single parenting. In other words, many married people do not beget, or raise, children. In addition, many non-married people do reproduce. "

As to #1, there is the question of essential differences between a hetero vs a homosexual marriage:
the straight couple has to either have bad medialc luck (an exceptional occurrence) or take extraordinary measures in order to *not* become pregnant. The G/L couple OTOH will never have children unless they resort to extraordinary measures. The true stakes (paternity, inheritance, child support, etc) are not at all the same between the two. Straight marriage is serious business (barring the occasional particular exception) whereas g/l marriage smacks of kids playing house by comparison.
Provide some form of streamlined benefits sharing, aka unions, but don't redefine by fiat a concept that is millennia old.

As to your number #2, people having children outside of marriages... you think increasingly [socially] de-stigmatized illegitimacy as the greatest correllate of child poverty, and millions of young rogue males created by the related issue of of govt entitlements destroying their constructive social role... are *not* huge problems?
tYou really think that is a favorable data point for your argument?

Hepzi said...

I defy anyone to name a polygamous society that treats women equally. Women are inherently disadvantaged by polygamy.

Further, after living in a country with polygamy, I can attest it is NOT a formula for domestic happiness. Maybe the man gets multiple partners, but the wives are constantly bickering, and the husband usually winds up beating the wives periodically to keep the peace. Yep. How would you feel if your husband showed up one day with another wife? You would be miserable and would not take it lying down--and trust me the women DO NOT. Plus the wives are fighting for the priority of their children within the pecking order. Polygamous households are BOILING BICKERING CESSPOOLS, and the wives behave like a gang of fishwives.

And yes folks, thats how it actually works. Its not some nice, sweet Norman Rockwell lifestyle. Polygamy sucks!!

Marriage between one man and one woman DOES afford greater economic advantage. Its documented. Not sure of the cause vs. effect. In the societies allowing polygamy, the poorer/less desirable males have a hard time attracting mates and are thus denied this advantage.

Steve said...

"A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return. That's not fair. A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness."

Actually, this refutes your own argument in a way. A person in a polygamous marriage would want the same right to pass on pension funds (in the same total amount but spread across more people), file a joint return with all of their spouses instead of with just one, provide the same legal protections against court testimony, provide for all of the spouses to be able to make medical decisions if needed, allow all spouses to legally have the same rights as the current "main spouse" does now. You do realize that if one of the wives who had a child after the first "legal" one decides on a "divorce" and has been the homemaker that no states will allow them alimony? They would have to go for palimony where it is available. There is no automatic presumption of domestic rights for the later spouses.

michael a litscher said...

Ann Althouse: My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks.

Let's see, you're attempting to legitimize an act, considered so abhorrent to God that he destroyed an entire city over it, by Mocking God through redefining His sacrament of Marriage.

As a rationalization, you suggest that it's more fair for two (but not three) to raid the pockets of one of their employers for unearned benefits.

As such, I'll take your lecture on "fairness" under advisement, counselor.

Richard said...

Regarding polygamy, the problem is that it is usually practiced in a form in which the women are basically property.

As far as the women are concerned, this might be a workable form: marrying an additional spouse requires the consent of all current spouses of the same sex.
And withholding that consent is not grounds for an at-fault divorce, barring some pre-nup.

But that does not in any way address the resulting problem of excess unwed, and unmarriagable males causing problems.

A careful thing to consider is to consider the relative dearth of examples of polyandry vs polygyny.
There are powerful elements of human nature, as shaped by evolution, at work.
In those terms, monogamy was more the norm as few if any men were productive enough to support the offspring of two or more wives.
In historical times polygamy (or concubines) has only been able to exist where great disparity in status and resources between men has come to exist ... and the unwed males are still a problem wherever it has become widesread within a society. It was a real problem for the Inca.
I highly recommend The Red Queen by Matt Ridley for understanding some for the biological basis for many human cultural practices as well as psychology.

doctorfixit said...

So Althouse's distinction between gay marriage and polygamy revolves around fairness - as in: it is unfair to disallow gay joint tax returns, therefore they should have them, and it is unfair for polygamists to game the system, therefore they should not.

Says who? The fuzzy concept of fairness should not affect the discussion. Life is unfair. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Let's make decisions based on the law as it is written, not on some arbitrary definition of what is "fair". Polygamists certainly feel they are being unfairly treated. Why is it any of our business? Why should some judge have the power to decide who gets the government goodies?

If you really want to be "fair", then get the government out of the marriage business entirely. Stop handing out government goodies
to favored groups and denying the goodies to others. It's really none of the government's business who wants to marry whom, and at the same time it's none of the government's business to levey taxes differently or provide services differently depending on these arrangements.

Gahrie said...

Hepzi:

We are not endorsing polygamy as a lifestyle. Those of us "defending" polygamy in this argument are mostly opposed to it. What we are doing is pointing out that there is no basis in law, or equity to allow gay marriage, and ban polygamy. The exact same arguments that support one, support the other.

One thing that Ann and others keep harping on puzzles me, this constant appeals to "fairness". The law is not based on fairness, it is based on equity.

doctorfixit said...

So Althouse's distinction between gay marriage and polygamy revolves around fairness - as in: it is unfair to disallow gay joint tax returns, therefore they should have them, and it is unfair for polygamists to game the system, therefore they should not.

Says who? The fuzzy concept of fairness should not affect the discussion. Life is unfair. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Let's make decisions based on the law as it is written, not on some arbitrary definition of what is "fair". Polygamists certainly feel they are being unfairly treated. Why is it any of our business? Why should some judge have the power to decide who gets the government goodies?

If you really want to be "fair", then get the government out of the marriage business entirely. Stop handing out government goodies
to favored groups and denying the goodies to others. It's really none of the government's business who wants to marry whom, and at the same time it's none of the government's business to levey taxes differently or provide services differently depending on these arrangements.

doctorfixit said...

So Althouse's distinction between gay marriage and polygamy revolves around fairness - as in: it is unfair to disallow gay joint tax returns, therefore they should have them, and it is unfair for polygamists to game the system, therefore they should not.

Says who? The fuzzy concept of fairness should not affect the discussion. Life is unfair. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Let's make decisions based on the law as it is written, not on some arbitrary definition of what is "fair". Polygamists certainly feel they are being unfairly treated. Why is it any of our business? Why should some judge have the power to decide who gets the government goodies?

If you really want to be "fair", then get the government out of the marriage business entirely. Stop handing out government goodies
to favored groups and denying the goodies to others. It's really none of the government's business who wants to marry whom, and at the same time it's none of the government's business to levey taxes differently or provide services differently depending on these arrangements.

Icepick said...

I'm forced to skip ~40 comments, so I apologize if someone else has made these points.

I work in the exciting world of employee benefits. From that standpoint, gay marriage is not really an issue. Many employers (and probably most large ones) already grant domestic partner rights, which covers both homosexual and non-homosexual relationships. So gay marriage would not have much impact on the benefits world. And even for those employers that were impacted, it would more or less be the same as dealing with any hetero-marriage in this country.

Polyamorous marriages are another thing altogether. Frankly, they scare the hell out of me from a professional standpoint. Everyone keeps talking about traditional Old Testament type polygamy, but there are many other possible arrangements.

I imagine that most of you who went to college, and some of you who didn't, have known Robert Heinlein fans who would have loved to get involved in a group marriage. So imagine a marriage that has eveolved to the point where there are three husbands, four wives, and n children, with the children having a wide mix of possible parents. (In fact, assume that the children run the full range from being full siblings to half-siblings to non-siblings. The teen years will be a bitch.)

Further, assume that other than the first two people, everyone has come into the marriage at different points in time.

And finally, just to really add a kicker, imagine that one of the wives is strictly a lesbian. She only has sexual relations with some of the other wives.

Now you get some real fun. Let's say one of the husbands 'gets religion' and decides he want out. So divorce proceedings ensue. How are you going to split the property? What about parental rights? Child visitation? Does he have any rights with the children that bear none of his genes? Do other partners have any parental rights to children of this wayward husband even if they have no genetic connection? Is the lesbian entitled to less than a normal 'fair' share because she never slept with the departing husband?

This would be a nightmare in the courts, but it would also be a nightmare in the benefits world. If the husband is entitled to pension benefits from his employer(s), the remaining spouses can claim a share of that benefit through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Anyone in retirement benefits that has had to deal with QDROs can tell you what a huge pain in the ass these things are when just two people are involved. The situation I layed out above? That would be a nightmare.

And yes, there would be few marriages like the one I laid out. But just a few would cause aenough nightmarish legal problems to cost a LOT of money. (Plus make my life hellish.)

So when we talk about the economics of these polyamorous marriages, remember to include the econimc cost of the divorces as well.

tjl said...

Richard Dolan:

You are missing the principal point I was trying to make, which is that marriage cannot be analyzed in purely economic terms. A relationship encompassing love, sex, and possible childrearing presupposes an intimacy which is not feasible for numbers greater than 2. It is clearly not comparable to a business partnership, in which any number can be equal participants.

Steven said...

We already handle "household" benefits that vary from one person to over a dozen without too much difficulty. Nobody spent much time complaining it was unfair that my Dad had a household of five people for benefits and tax deductions while a co-worker of his had a household of one. Sure, you can say the co-worker had the equal legal option of having a wife and kids -- but then, if polygamy was legal, houses with two-spouse marriages would have the legal option of adding a third spouse equal to that of those households that did have three-spouse marriages. Polygamy available to all isn't any more unfair than the current setup.

On a macroeconomic scale, having some percentatge of those multi-party households be three or four or ten adults isn't going to be noticable when we already have households of wildly varying numbers already. Polygamous-marriage households aren't obviously more economically distinguishable from monogamous-marriage households than monogamous heterosexual households are from monogamous homosexual ones.

There isn't, ultimately, a good reason not to extend marriage to polygamous relationships in principle unless for some reason it undermines the purpose of the institution of marriage. Which means you have to figure out what that purpose is, and then see if it does. As long as that question is avoided, there's no debate over whether and how far marriage should be expanded, there's merely a squabble.

Doug said...

Forget about the econmic arguments, what about individual liberty ? If two, three, or four people wish to enter into a private relationship, why should the state tell them they can't ?

My own post on this issue is here:

http://belowbeltway.blogspot.com/2006/03/gay-marriage-polygamy-and-individual.html

Icepick said...

Ann Althouse: My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks.

Here I will put on my annoying mathematician hat and ask, Can anyone give a good definition of 'fairness'?

Bruce Hayden said...

I ditto the recomendation for the "Red Queen". Good book. I noticed it in my bookcase just yesterday.

Also, while Joseph Smith may not have lived in a society in which there were a lot of extra females, that was the case in Utah in the 50 years before statehood. Polygamy there came into widespread use as a means to support widows. Typically, the second wife was a "duty wife", typically a widow with kids. Many times, there wasn't that much sex involved, just the civic duty of supporting them. It was only after marrying and supporting the Duty Wife, that Mormon men could typically go on and become true polygamists.

As I understand this, they found themselves in this situation for two reasons. First, more women joined than men. Secondly, it was a harsh environment, and a lot of the men died trying to tame it. By the time the state joined the Union, most of these reasons had disappeared, and, thus, there was much less need for polygamy.

Icepick said...

Doug asks, "If two, three, or four people wish to enter into a private relationship, why should the state tell them they can't?"

They can enter into such relationships. But when they start demanding legal sanction and legal arbitration, it becomes my business because now I have to foot the bill for all the legal wrangling that will ensue when some of these relationships break apart. As long as I don't have to think about it, pay for it, or sanction it, everyone is free to do what they want.

Balfegor said...

Further, after living in a country with polygamy, I can attest it is NOT a formula for domestic happiness. Maybe the man gets multiple partners, but the wives are constantly bickering, and the husband usually winds up beating the wives periodically to keep the peace. Yep. How would you feel if your husband showed up one day with another wife? You would be miserable and would not take it lying down--and trust me the women DO NOT. Plus the wives are fighting for the priority of their children within the pecking order. Polygamous households are BOILING BICKERING CESSPOOLS, and the wives behave like a gang of fishwives.

Er, so? We could have guessed as much from a brief perusal of Chinese literature. The Jin Ping Mei, if I recall correctly, depicts exactly that. But we're assuming consensual marriages here. If they want to try, who are we to tell them not to?

AJ Lynch said...

Mary- glad you agree with me. So can I count on your vote when I run for Emperor? Heck if you lived in Philly, you could vote more than once.

Michael Babin said...

tjl said...
To get us off the slippery slope, focus on the concept of "partnership" as implying the union of two parties with equal rights and responsibilities. This equal partnership could not exist in a polygamous arrangement.


Why not? In the business world, there are partnerships of all varieties and number of partners (> 1). I currently work as a partner in a company which started with three partners, and has added a fourth. We are all equal in our ownership shares and rights. Important decisions require the consent of a majority of the partners. We delegate responsibilities as we see fit to those with the interest, aptitude, and time to handle those responsibilities. On the other hand, some partnerships can involve two partners where the rights and responsibilities are not equally shared between the partners. Depends on how the partnership is structured when it is created, with subsequent opportunities for changes as the partnership sees fit.

I am not necessarily making an argument in favor of polygamy (or polyandry). But the argument that two partners means equal rights and responsibilities while more than two partners doesn't is a flawed argument.

Alex said...

Doug et al,

The state is not telling anybody they can't enter into a particular kind of relationship (at least not in its official capacity - some of its members are, sadly, very vocal on this matter). This is, as Ann initially said, entirely about economic benefits. However, I have yet to see it compellingly explained why it's the government's business to bless and sponsor a particular kind of committed interpersonal relationship by reducing its harrassment of the individuals involved if certain conditions are met and certifications obtained. It's not a proper function of government to "encourage" marriage - latter-day governments especially have a terrible record in positively encouraging/forcing people to do things that are good for them (rather than, as is the government's proper function, to prevent people from harming each other in predefined ways, or being harmed by predefined external forces). The government should not be giving special tax breaks to gay couples, straight couples, polyamorous couples, childless couples, families or any other domestic arrangement of people. (And though I hate to dignify spurious ad-hominem arguments by proactively responding to them, I speak as a hetero husband with a child here.) The only truly fair solution is for the government to give everybody the same tax relief, and as much of it as possible please!

Hepzi said...

Hi Gahrie. I was trying, but not very well, to point out some compelling social issues. Icepick does it better than I did.

1. Polyamory ought to be opposed based on the rights of the spouse. How can one spouse have the ex cathedra right to dilute household marriage without the consent of the existing spouses? That's what we're talking here...

2. There is clearly a social cost here. Most of the polygamous muslim families in Britain (wherein it is not uncommon to use serial civil divorce coupled with sharia marriage to accomplish polygamy) are on welfare.

I hypothesize that polyamory does not exist in a society except when one sex has clear legal power over the other.

Robert said...

I'm puzzled, Ann. So the economic benefit is better for a group than for a couple. What does that have to do with fairness?

Fairness says that adult people who want to be together ought to be allowed to be together. That this fairness modulates in accordance with whether there are two or nineteen of them does not seem to follow organically from the argument's internal information.

It seems to me that the state either does or does not have the legitimate right to limit participation in the marriage contract for cultural, economic, or practical reasons. If we rule that the state may not regulate these things, then the state may not regulate them. This may well lead to the legalization of polygamy; I cannot understand the fairness or the internal coherence of a legal doctrine that would make gay marriage OK but bar polygamists or polyamorists from satisfying their particular desire about their marital arrangement.

josh said...

I hate to address facts on a legal blog, but could someone point out some to support the contention that "the most successful way to raise children was by a mother and father." (from Pogo)

My wife represents children in abuse and neglect case in Chicago, IL. She has about 250 clients. That juvenile system sees hundreds of thousands of cases of abuse and neglect stream thru it every year. The vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of them (can't quote the stat but it's a lot) are cases involving "traditional" couples (husbands beating children, wives beating children, grandfathers molesting children, grandmothers starving children, aunts and uncles placing children in cages -- all very happy stuff)

Conservatives whine about psychology being taken over by the Left, yet can only point to mixed psychological results in support of their ex ante decision that straight couples somehow are better parents than gays.

that's offensive and doesn't square with the facts about how much abuse there is in the system, mostly committed by married, straight couples.

Kirk Hays said...

What works, works. We have very few or no examples of successful matriarchal societies (Navaho is one that I know), polyandrous societies, or societies that prefer gay marriage.

I may not be smart enough to argue why that is, but I can certainly recognize a pattern.

Conventional man/woman, one-of-each marriage may not serve the individual participants well, but it seems to be a winner in terms of societal survival.

Polygamy seems a distant second, and other arrangements trail badly.

My utopian solution:

Marriage should be a two-tier arrangement. One tier is private, not subject to governmental definitions or laws, the understanding between the participants of roles and relationships. This can be religious or secular, but constitutes what most of us think of as the relationship implied by "loving" someone. There can and will be other motivations, but the point is that the government doesn't get to define the form of tier one.

The other tier can be handled quite nicely by a corporation, an entity owned by all the relationship participants, that owns the pooled resources, and is responsible for children and other obligations.

Once you introduce the state into the definition of roles (tier one), you've created the pseudo-problem of "fairness", and the relationship becomes distorted by the law.

Corporate law (tier two) OTOH, is quite clear on ownership and obligations, unlike our current laws around marriage.

As in math, the imaginary entity creates a clean solution.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me try to bring things back into context. One problem facing gay marriage proponents is the worry about the precedent they set being used to ultimately legimitize plural marriages. Eugene Volokh calls this the Slippery Slope problem. And, I think that it is a real problem because gay marriage is entering our society through the court systems, and not legislatively. That means that much of the case law that was used to support gay marriage can be hijacked for plural marriages. The Slippery Slope would be much less worrisome if legislatures were involved, as they discriminate every day for one reason or another.

The problem is not that most of us approve of plural marriage - quite the contrary. Indeed, at least for me, my opposition to plural marriages is significantly stronger than my opposition to homosexual marriage. Rather, it is the worry that proponents of plural marriage will leverage the gay marriage case law to allow plural marriages.

Ann, I think, is trying to find a way out of this, and, as a byproduct, refute the Krauthammer piece, through "fairness". I remain unconvinced.

Kirk Hays said...

Ann Althouse: My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks.

Hmm, since "fairness" is in the eye of the beholder, I think it is unfair of you to apply the broad-brush of jerk-ism to those who think that there is no such thing.

[/sarcasm]
You're not being fair!
[/sarcasm off]

IOW, ad hominium attacks don't carry the day. Instead, prove the existance of fairness.

Those who complain of a lack of "fairness" seem to think that is a win-the-argument-free card. I don't buy it, and have found that people who don't think "fairness" is a principle at all, much less an important one, tend to be better off in dealing with life's vagaries.

Try it, you might like it. Next time you feel your indignation rising, ask yourself why. If your response is that "xyz isn't fair", then be objective - there is no such thing as "fair".

Mohammed said...

I think that these proposed reforms don't go far enough. Many religions sanction polygamy. Who are we to interfere?

But we should go further than simply polygamy. Mohammed married his favorite wife when she was only 6. Surely we discriminate against muslims if we don't allow marriage with children. And many others enjoy beastiality - why do we discriminate against them? Why can't they marry their pet?

MadisonMan said...

there is no such thing as "fair".

That may be true. But I think that most of the American public, when seeing something blatantly unfair, will take umbrage and will take steps to level things.

Andrew Sullivan talks about this article today as well.

CatoRenasci said...

Josh: see The Meaning of Marriage (Dallas 2006) edited by Robert P. George adn Jean Bethke Elshtain for recent scholarship on these points.

I find Ann's economic argument for differences between homosexual marriage and polyamorous marriage unpersuasive. Certainly, as a lawyer she must realize that other than the possiblity of deadlock in equal partnerships of two partners, there is no fundamental distinction to be made between partnership with two partners or those with a substantially larger number.

So, any locus of difference would have to be located elsewhere. I suspect the locii of difference are not in any way logical, but rather reflect personal (moral) taste (at best) or a disingenuous attempt to assuage those legitimately concerned with slippery slope arguments (at worst).

It seems to me that most of the discussion of homosexual marriage and its possible logical extensions founders because the parties discussing the matter do not sufficiently agree on the premises of the debate that communication is possible.

I suppose my view is hoplessly trogdylitic, but I look at the possiblities with a Burkean and Pascalean sensibility (well, I did start out as an Englightenment scholar): we should be especially reluctant to tinker with fundamental aspects of society when (1) harm is possible (or arguble), (2) benefit is uncertain (or arguable), and (3) returning to the status quo ante is not possible once the change is undertaken.

In this case, I think all those conditions obtain. Those who oppose gay marriage (and polyamory and the other logical extensions) argue irremediable harm to society as a whole. Even if the probability of harm is uncertain, their view is that the harm would be catastrophic. The proponents, if being honest, would argue that they don't think great harm will ensue, and that enacting the prosposed change would eliminate an existing real harm. While there are certainly problems with any sort of utilitarian felicific calculus of rights, it seems to me that the class of people harmed and the severity of the harm if we don't recognize gay marriage is substantially less than harm to society as a whole if the opponents are correct.

It's sort of like Pascal's bet: if you believe in God and He exists, you win big. If you believe and He doesn't exist, you lose, but you've lost nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe and He does exist, you lose really big. And, if you don't believe and He doesn't exist, you're perhaps a little better off than if you believed and he doesn't exist, but not substantially so. The rational man in this circumstance, Pascal argued, should incline to belief, since the upside of being correct was greater than the downside of being wrong, whereas if one did not believe, the downside of being wrong was enormous.

By analogy, if the proponents of gay marriage (and its extensions) are correct that little harm will ensue, and the opponents are wrong, then we're all a bit better off, but not so very much so. However, the reverse is not true, like Pascal's nonbeliever in the face of a God who does exist, the consequences of being wrong would be enormous, even castastrophic. I would think that a rational person would thus be inclined not to support changes in marriage definitions.

As an historian, I would point out that virtually all of the modern (from the French Revolution on) experiments in radical change of the family and marriage have been abject failures and societies have returned to more traditional relations. The former Marxist societies, which experimented with changes in the 20th century, seem among the most hostile non-Musilim societies towards homosexual rights generally.

Richard Dolan said...

tjl: "You are missing the principal point I was trying to make, which is that marriage cannot be analyzed in purely economic terms. A relationship encompassing love, sex, and possible childrearing presupposes an intimacy which is not feasible for numbers greater than 2. It is clearly not comparable to a business partnership, in which any number can be equal participants."

I agree with you that Ann is on very think ice in trying to craft a persuasive legal or constitutional distinction between gay marriage as "good" and polygamy as "bad" using economic concepts or analysis. But I don't think your effort to craft a persuasive distinction between marriage as an institution limited to two individuals rather than some number greater than two fares much better. Your comment, quoted above, only shows that you'd make an extremely poor polygamist (so would I, but that hardly matters).

There is nothing to show that, for people of a different disposition, a "relationship encompassing love, sex, and possible childrearing [and] presuppos[ing] an intimacy" is not possible among groups of adults larger than 2. For people of that disposition, rather than yours (and mine), what is the justification for refusing them the benefits (however defined) of a "marriage?" Indeed, many (both in the comments to Ann's post and elsewhere) insist that the same factors you cite are the reasons why marriage can only be between a man and a woman, thus ruling out gay marriage.

The reality driving this entire discussion is that, at least for now, polygamy is even more of a political loser in the US than gay marriage -- and that's really saying something, since gay marriage isn't such a great political issue for its proponents on its own terms. So Ann (and Sullivan and just about every other proponent) wants to justify gay marriage without being trapped into supporting polygamy too. The trouble is that marriage, even understood as a civil law concept and not a religious one, is an institution taht draws all of its content from our particular Western heritage as the union between a man and a woman -- i.e, both gender-defined and numerically-defined. There is nothing immutable about that concept of the institution of marriage, and many other societies and traditions have taken a very different view -- interestingly, though, only as it relates to the numerical factor not the gender factor. As others have noted, in Biblical accounts of ancient Judaism, in Mormon societies, and in Islamic societies today, to take only three examples, polygamy was an accepted form of marriage.

For many reasons, I think appeals like yours, or Ann's, seeking to justify marriage as an institution limited to 2 individuals are unpersuasive, once you reject (as Ann does but you may not) the authority of the traditional notions that have heretofore defined this fundamental institution of our society as the union of one man and one woman. Efforts to keep the "ones" but to get rid of the "man/woman" end us as pretty lame. On gay marriage, I find myself pretty much where Krauthammer ends up. And I'm fairly sure (but open to persuasion by Ann) that, if there is no principled reason to rule out gay marriage, then there's not likely to be any principled reason to rule out polygamy either. I suspect that, if others reach the same conclusion, then proponents of gay marriage will be in even deeper political hot water than they imagine.

saj said...

As I read through this thread, I am even more convinced that we should leave marriage ALONE!

We are opening up a pandora's box if we tamper with the definition of marriage. It is evident just from reading this thread.

Gahrie said...

The reality driving this entire discussion is that, at least for now, polygamy is even more of a political loser in the US than gay marriage

But this is rapidly changing since the partial successes of the gay marriage movement. Polygamy is beginning to enter pop culture here in the US.

In Canada and Scandanavia, polygamy is already in the court system and legislation.

The sad fact also is that given the tactics of the gay marriage movement, and the complicity of liberal judges, political considerations in this matter are moot.

Mack said...

I agree entirely, but I think there are many more distinctions as well.

1. As you say, the economics just don't work. One employee can't get benefits for 4 or 20 husbands or wives. This would completely goof up the entire system, in a way that simply allowing individuals to choose their spouse's sex would not.

2. Being gay for most is not a choice. Thus, there is a stronger argument for extending the availability to them than there is for extending the right for polygamists to marry additional people. It is the difference between a law in baseball that prohibits spit-balls, or a law that requires everybody to throw right-handed.

3. There are many benefits to gays from being able to marry. A partnership brings stability, monogamy, and other benefits over being single. The marginal increase in utility of adding third or fourth husband or wife simply does not compare. Being able to marry a fourth person is not as imporant as being able to marry one person. The argument, thus is very different.

These observations and others on my blog, here.

submandave said...

"Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement."

If this were truly the main issue in gay marriage, does it not hold equally true for a marriage that today would be prohibited as incestuous? If it were truly just a matter of economics, then why must the issue be limited to "gay" couples? By your own logic, I see no reason why the law should discriminate on the basis of assumed carnal comsumation. In fact, I fully support legal unions that allow any two consenting adults to easily enter into and mutually terminate co-support contracts for the purpose of simplifying Social Security and pension survivorship benefits, medical information and advice, etc.

The real truth behind the legal recognition of marriage and any attendent economic effects is best seen in pogo's first post: the implicit understanding by the law that a couple entering into marriage will, in all likelihood, have children and society's interest in the welfare of these children. As I have said before, the single most defining difference between a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple is that absent specific efforts to the contrary the former will most probably result in progeny while without specific efforts to the contrary the latter will never. Contrary to the assertions of some, this is not a minor difference.

Greg said...

One of the assumptions that I find to be missing is that polygamy will be one man and multiple wives. What about one woman and multiple men? How do we stop from having overlapping marriages (i.e., you could have a husband marreid to multiple wives and a wife married to multiple husbands one arrangement of which is they are married to each other)? This could create a nightmare from an STD standpoint. One of the issues I hear raised with regards to gay marriage is the monogamy issue. I don't know if the facts that are thrown out are true, but I have heard that 50% of gay men don't want to be in a monogamous relationship, yet want to be "married". To me, marriage is a commitment to be faithful. I can't support polygamy, and am still on the fence for gay marriage.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think Kirk has the best idea so far. Abolish government marriage, and let people form corporations (or something similar) to handle that end. As for private marriage, leave it up to the individuals and their own voluntary institutions (churches, temples, community groups, etc.), but don't let it carry legal significance.

What should the government have to do with marriage anyway?

Doug said...

A few people have made the point that nothing prevents people from entering into any relationship they want to, but that state sanction of that relationship is a different point

Well, the problem with many of the anti-gay marriage amendments that have been passed and proposed is that they not only purport to ban gay marriage, they also ban any contractual relationship designed to emulate marriage. This, for example, is what will be in the Constitutional Amendment that voters here in Virginia will be considering in November. When you start restricting the right of people to enter into private contracts, then it becomes more than just an issue of "protecting marriage"

And the state sanction issue is a problem too. Government provides many benefits to married couples that are not available to unmarried couples. Restrictions on who can and cannot be married that have the effect of denying those benefits to an entire class of people raise significant Equal Proection problems

Balfegor said...

The Slippery Slope would be much less worrisome if legislatures were involved, as they discriminate every day for one reason or another.

I don't think you can stress this too much. This is the biggest reason the "slippery slope" argument has traction.

Courts tend to proceed by following the reasoning of other courts. Legislatures get to make up their own reasons anew every day. The only slippery slope to worry about, with the legislature, is the slippery slope of public opinion, and that's not nearly so slippery as are the courts. Not on this issue.

Balfegor said...

This could create a nightmare from an STD standpoint. One of the issues I hear raised with regards to gay marriage is the monogamy issue. I don't know if the facts that are thrown out are true, but I have heard that 50% of gay men don't want to be in a monogamous relationship, yet want to be "married". To me, marriage is a commitment to be faithful.

You are certainly entitled to your view of marriage. But does this reflect the character of the law? Does the state intervene heavily in favour of the commitment to be faithful? I don't think so.

Some states, I understand, still have anti-adultery laws, and the tort of alienation of affection. Perhaps they have not yet adopted no-fault divorce, or consider spousal wrongdoing when dividing the marital property in divorce. But the trend in the US over the past generation has been, clearly, to strip out the "faithfulness" component of the marriage compact. That's no longer a major part of what marriage has become.

gj said...

pogo said, "Many people, myself included, see marriage as the final result of tens of thousands of years of social evolution, which found that the most successful way to raise children was by a mother and father."

Pogo, you should get out around a little bit more and maybe do some reading. The nuclear family is a relatively recent and culturally localized phenomenon. Extended family structures are much more common across histories and culture. The benefits to children from extended families are obvious.

Just because something is the American way, doesn't mean its the culmination of human history.

hygate said...

My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks.

Then there are a lot of jerks. Anyway, who gets to define what is fair? What about fairness to polygamists who are being unjustly denied the same rights as two person couples simply because the majority of society finds their marital arrangements abhorrent? It's true that as practiced in this country by sects that have broken away from the Mormon church its seems pretty horrible, but then it's been forced underground, making policing abuses much more difficult than it might otherwise be. Of course legalizing polygamous marriages is so 1840's Utah. Why no discussion of polymourous (group) marriages. Why are we being so unfair to them?

DWPittelli said...

1) If there were a referendum on gay marriage, I would vote for it. I live in Massachusetts.

2) There was no referendum on gay marriage in Massachusetts, because the state's representatives, at the behest of gay groups who believed they would lose, ignored their legal duty (given the number of signatures collected for the referendum) to vote on whether to hold said referendum.

3) The state's Supreme court found some "penumbras and emanations," to use a Griswoldian term, to impose gay marriage. Unusually, they delayed their decision, most likely to thwart its repeal by constitutional referendum.

4) I would see gay marriage, properly arrived at by political bodies or referendum, as helpful to gays, their children, and maybe even marriage itself. But I do not see attaining it worth ignoring our laws and making things up about our constitution, especially because it is such vague legal arguments which are most subject to slippery slope problems. (Ironically, Massachusett's SJC proved Scalia right about that, as he predicted in the Texas sodomy case.)

5) Polyamorists can just as reasonably claim to be entitled to "equal protection" for their orientation as can gays and lesbians. The fact that polygamy has more economic implications than gay marriage may be one reason polygamy will not come to this country before gay marriage, but it does not mean that polygamy will not likely be arrived at by the same judicial logic. If marriage is merely a contract between consenting adults, and if gay people have a “right” to marriage (meaning that judges will, in the name of the constitution, overturn laws regulating marriage as between a man and a woman) then so do those with other preferences, such as polyamory, as long as they make similar claims (i.e., that it is an “orientation” and they have a “right” to its fulfillment).

6) So the Judiciary seeing marriage as a "right" will lead to polygamy, which I see as the road to the death of marriage, among polygamy's other faults. (For example, when 10 mob members can all marry each other, we will all lose the right not to have to testify against our spouses; when 10 people can marry one person with a state job and health insurance, all of our spousal health insurance will be at risk.)

7) The reason judicial forcing of gay marriage is not the same as judicial forcing of inter-racial marriage is not because race is a less real concept than gender (although that is true). It is because the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" guarantee, while vaguely written, was universally understood to be about race or ethnicity, and not sex, let alone LGBT status.

Eli Blake said...

Ann, you need to revisit your calculations.

First, if people choose to get married in twos, threes or tens, in the long run there is still a limiting economic cost to society, which would be the cost of providing such benefits (whether government of private benefits) to 100% of adults. Right now, we already provide it to about 65% of adults (including survivors benefits for widow(er)s), and frankly conservatives bemoan the decline of marriage, as evidenced by the growing numbers of single people.

Think of it this way in terms of economic benefits: If there are 100 people in the room, and only people who find partners can get a piece of pie, then whether I have fifty groups of two (who each get 1/50) of the pie or 25 groups of 4 (who each get 1/25 of the pie) or five groups of twenty (who each get 1/5 of the pie), there is not any more pie to go around. Ann's argument is only focused on the increasing share per group (1/50 to 1/25 to 1/5) while ignoring the declining number of groups (50 to 25 to 5) or the constancy of the whole.

Second, right now, we who are straight and married effectively subsidize gay people who can't marry because of the lower deduction for a married couple than there is for two single people. This means that their tax rates are actually effectively lower. Now, if polygamy were legalized, then it is hard to suggest that Congress would do other than extend their current policy, which reduces the average deduction per individual when people are married. And heck, if it were legalized, it would take an act of Congress to even adjust the joint filing deduction at ALL; as such, if they didn't, then a family with ten adults, while certainly qualifying for numerous other deductions, could not deduct anymore than a couple could under current federal law if they filed jointly. Right now, they file singly and deduct MORE money as ten single filers (or as one couple and eight single filers).

$CAV3NG3R said...

A whole lot has been said about the evils of polygamy and understandably since most of the folks on here are from western nations. However I want to point out a few things most you are missing.

Polygamy usually involves a man married to women who are almost always younger than himself (I would say significantly because my dating experiences in the U.S. shows the y'all think a 7yr difference is too much).

In addition to that, the reality is that more young men die as a result of various types of misadventure than young women, in essence there is usually a slightly higher percentage of females than males. This in addition to the preceding paragraph takes care of the poor men without wives scenario.

Three y'all are assuming that the family has to live together in one house hence the bickering comment. I grew up in western africa and as a couple of folks have rightly mentioned, only well to do people get into polygamous arrangements with very few exceptions. Women are not that stupid, they would rather be single than be a poor mans first wife. In essence there are all sorts of polygamous arrangements. There are situations where each wife apart from the one married first lives in seperate dwellings. There are situations where the woman became the nth wife because she was getting old and wanted to have kids (yes i realize we have a cultural thing about knowing the father of a child rather than sperm donor 402). there are situations (culturally brought about) where a woman becomes a wife because it's customary for the younger brother to take the older brothers dead wife in order to take care of the kids and to give the kids an opportunity to grow up in their dads extended family.

To give an example, even though now women are educated (my mom is a physics graduate and she's 67 in april) some still opt for being a second wife simply because most of them would rather have kids whose fathers they know (rather than a sperm donor)even if they have to take care of those kids (a la some kind of of single parenthood) mostly by themselves.

If as previous commenters seem to think that one man one woman is the ultimate arrangement how come y'all have such a stupendous amount of divorce taking place (last I heard it's at 57%). What your one man one woman scenario has created is a lot of unhappy folks some divorced, some single and hoping to find love like maureen dowd. Again one man one woman is a fairly recent phenonmenon. Extended families built around polygamy has been the norm for far longer than any of us can remember/research into.

Lastly after embracing your one man and one woman theory now there are (and I can count at least 5 family members or friends of family off the top of my head) now a growing number of single african women who are not married and don't have children because they won't be nth wives (not that anything is wrong with being single unless you don't wish to be), simply because men in that part of the world won't marry you after you're beyond a certain age (that's another reason I wonder about all this young men without wives to marry scenario y'all keep harping about) because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that there must be a reason you're still unmarried at that age. So make of it what you will but don't go yapping on about stuff you know nothing about.

N/B: My parents are monogamous and have been together for more than 40yrs but then again divorce has a stigma in our society and they each came from polygamous families.

deano said...

"Fair."

What is "fair?"

Who is John Galt?

"Fair" seems to me to be a term that is used when logic and reason won't carry the day. Marriage, and all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come along with it are not necessarily "fair." Instead, it is something of a social contract designed to produce a certain result.

If because it isn't "fair" we want to redefine marriage as something other than what it has been historically understood to be, then we need to completely redefine it. There is no good reason to make it fair for gays and not for everyone else, whether for polygamists, or whomever. In the interest of fairness, there simply isn't any logic to limiting the benefit to monogamous couples. That isn't "fair." Of course, at that point marriage also ceases to have any meaning or value, and it could simply be done away with entirely.

"Fair" is in the eye of the beholder, depending on what he or she seeks to accomplish. To some, fair is giving a trophy to every child who enters the race, whether or not they win. To others, fair means that the winner gets a trophy. In either case, the proponent of the argument has his reasons. But "fair" is where one goes when those reasons cannot stand scrutiny.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, you guys are talking up a storm in here, and I passed the point where I can make sure no one is distorting my position, so I'll just say I hope you're not!

Anyway.... a couple things:

Elliot: "Mary said, 'So by this logic, if Wisconsin voters were to pass an amendment to their state constitution that prohibits say, interracial marriages, it must be accepted by the courts?" That's not the way the balancing between the branches works, eliot. I am confident of my earlier statement regarding the legal validity of second sentence of our amendment here. Time will tell...' Yes, that IS how the balancing between the branches work. Constitutions trump courts. Where you're right is that the Federal courts could intervene as they did in Nebraska. However, that's a Federal vs. States issue NOT a courts versus constitutional issue.If the Federal Constitution was amended to prohibit interracial marriage it would have to be accepted by the courts. There's no logical way a court could declare something to be unconstitutional when it's IN the Constitution."

First of all, state courts as well as federal courts apply federal law, and the state constitutional provision could be striken down if it conflicts with federal law. Second, this isn't a matter of "balancing between the branches," but of federalism, as Elliot said, but as Mary implied, the state judges will say what state law means, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court knows how to be pretty creative. I think they could beat that second sentence into submission. Nevertheless, the whole point of amending the state constitution is supposed to be that you don't trust the courts not to find gay marriage in state constitutional law, so there's some serious hypocrisy here.

michael a litscher quotes part of something I wrote: "My point: the real adults of this world think fairness is an important principle. Those who scoff at it are jerks." And then he lectures me: "Let's see, you're attempting to legitimize an act, considered so abhorrent to God that he destroyed an entire city over it, by Mocking God through redefining His sacrament of Marriage. As a rationalization, you suggest that it's more fair for two (but not three) to raid the pockets of one of their employers for unearned benefits. As such, I'll take your lecture on "fairness" under advisement, counselor."

First of all, I take umbrage at being quoted out of context like that. "Jerks" only referred to people who don't think fairness is an important value. Sippican scoffed at fairness, in the abstract, and I compared him to Zulema, etc. etc. I did not say that everyone who fails to approve of gay marriage is a jerk and I don't like the way this comment made it look as though I did. My point about fairness was all about the sense of drawing a line that includes gay marriage but excludes polygamy. You should be able to see that this point does NOT mean that fairness requires you to approve of gay marriage. I only said that supporters of gay marriage can appeal to a sense of fairness with respect to some economic matters that supporters of polygamy cannot. This also does NOT mean that economic analysis should determine your opinion on these questions. You're welcome to base your view on your analysis of morality. I never said you shouldn't. You can even base your political thinking on what you think God wants, but I will say I don't find your image of a city-destroying, sodomy-hating God very convincing. I hope the proponents of the Wisconsin amendment lean heavily on that one, since I'd like to see the amendment fail.

Pogo said...

Re:"Groups of 2 are different from groups of more than two when we think about what is fair. That's my point. Address that."

I based my comment on the assumption you'd made buttressing that argument, which stated

"Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement." I feel that definition is itself arguable, so your main point doesn't necessarily follow. That is, whether two or more-than-two is a matter of fairness is a misunderstanding of marriage, as many people see it. You disagree, and I suggest that, once traditional norms are rejected, others will disagree with you that 2 is fundamentally different than >2.

But to your point, corporations are examples of legal entities of more than two people that confer economic benefits, an arrangement widely accepted as fair. Polygamy could be viewed quite similarly.



Re:"First, the rearing of children can be accomplished without marriage, and often is."

Of course it is; but you've missed the point. No method is equal or superior to the method of raising children in a heterosexual two-parent married household. That is the verdict of thousands of years of societal arrangements. You are free to theorize otherwise, but the traditional arrangement exists for a reason. It wasn't random chance.

Re:"changing the definition of marriage somehow affects the raising of children is rather a straw man: one thing has nothing to do with the other."

You make my previous point: your definition of marriage supposes no connection between marriage and child-rearing. My definition is shared by many people, and it posits that the primary purpose of marriage is child-rearing. That does not mean that children must be raised in every marriage, but rather that for society to successfully endure, heterosexual marriage is a necessary component, and children must be produced in the vast majority of them.

Re:"If European women were having sufficient amounts of children out of wedlock to grow its population (the so-called "replacement number") instead of caviling about fecundity you would be complaining about immorality."

I would, because shaming unwed mothers is part of the social process by which people are kept in marriages, for the good of society. It has worked well in the past, even though you dislike it.

Re:"What matters is that kids are raised by people who love them, not the sexuality of the parents doing the raising, or the marital status of the kids being raised."

Would that it were true. But it is quite false, every word, including "or" and "the".

Re: "If that were the currently understood purpose of marriage, we would need to either (or both): 1) require fertility tests prior to marriage, 2) institute policies that punish single parenting." False. It is sufficient that most marriages result in children. Societies do die out for lack of reproduction. It's happening in the EU, as the European population is replaced by the far more fertile Muslim immigrant population. In addition, shaming infertile people was common. This was intended to favor fecundity, whether you are in favor of it or not is immaterial. Societies that fail to reproduce themselves whither away.

Re: " Pogo and others would have us forget ....widespread divorce."

Hardly. Widespread divorce is part and parcel of the dissolution of marriage itself, of which gay and polygamous marriage will play no small role. They will lead to reduced fertility and less successful child-rearing, and then the death or takeover of society by another social group that rediscovers how high fecundity in the context of heterosexual marriage leads to demographic control.

Smilin' Jack said...

I only said that supporters of gay marriage can appeal to a sense of fairness with respect to some economic matters that supporters of polygamy cannot.

But you haven't supported that statement--saying it doesn't make it so. For many of the commenters here as well as for Krauthammer, a "sense of fairness" includes polygamy just as much as gay marriage.

Groups of 2 are different from groups of more than two when we think about what is fair. That's my point. Address that."

What matters economically is the family, not the marriage, and most families already comprise more than two individuals, so you don't have a point.

Glaivester said...

"[When asked why polygamy isn't as much a civil right as gay marriage is] Gay activists typically answer by saying that marriage by definition is between two people... The real response, however, has been, in effect, that only crazy right wing fundamentalist heterosexual rural Mormon white people want to practice polygamy, and we all know that civil rights don't apply to them." -Steve Sailer

Dan said...

Gay marriage is a grass roots movement involving millions of people. Immediatley, where ever gay marriage has been recognized, the local municipal offices are deluged with hundreds of applications for gay marriage, until some politcal authority pulls the plug. Does anyone think that would happen if polygamous marriage were suddenly legalized? Does anyone think that polygamous trios would be lining up around the block in any city in America to get married if they were suddenly allowed to do so? This is not a rhetorical question. It has an answer. The answer is "no."

Gay people exist abundantly. Everybody knows one; everybody is related to one. Fairlure to recognize and accomodate their existence is a striking dysfunction in American society. This dysfunction needs to be addressed. If a constitutional amendment is passed to ban gay marriage, that will not be the end of it. It will create even more turmoil and distress untill the amendment is repealed, like the fool-hearty eighteenth amendment.

There are millions of gay people in America. In the past they have been mute. Now, more and more of them are finding a voice. Now, when a gay person is slighted for any reason, there is a good chance that he will speak up. Merely speaking up for oneself is the "problem." And it is a "problem" that will not go away.

Mike said...

Ann, you say, "A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple."

I don't think that has to be true at all. Perhaps with the current marriage contract this would be a viable argument, but if we were to legalize polygamy, we'd need to make a corresponding adjustment in the law so that the the SAME benefits get distributed, just among a larger set of people.

Let this be a legal and economic contract, and model it so that any number of consenting adults can partake in it. If I want to share my meager life insurance with 1000 other people, why not?

Pogo said...

Re: "There are millions of gay people in America. In the past they have been mute. "

Mute? Mute??
Good lord, the cacaphony of gay demands over the past 25 years has led me to think, "Don't they ever just shut up?

Mute? Feh.

Bob said...

The slippery slope argument is very strong here. Polygamy is not as easily separated from gay marriage as you believe. I have a hypothetical I use to humorously discuss this issue. I call it the Five Lesbian Witches marriage.

Your argument dismissing a link between gay marriage and polygamy fails because is assumes a polygamus marriage contains at least a man and a woman.

If you start from only this traditional core and add members to the marriage it is easier to follow your argument. It looks like a traditional marriage only with more people. Hence, you dismiss all the trappings and go straight to economics as the only issue.

If you start from a nontraditional core - two lesbian witches - it is less easy to dismiss the slippery slope argument.

You might argue that you don't care that the two lesbians are witches, you find the witch part irrelevant to the argument. However, the two lesbians may consider the witch part integral to their - now legal - marriage.

The slippery slope starts when they decide that they need to expand there marriage to five witches to practice their holy pentagram services. After all, it is integral to their definition of their family. They might not even be interested in the economics of the arrangement.

Redefining marriage will lead to these types of issues, social, religious as well as economic. You can't redefine lightly.

Bob said...

Whoo-hoo, I'm the 140th comment. No one is sure to read this.

chuck b. said...

"Slippery slopes" have jumped the shark.

amba said...

Amazing! 139 comments. I find it amazing that so many heterosexual people feel so strongly about condemning and restricting homosexual people. (I'm assuming, perhaps wrongly, before reading the comments, that a lot of the zeal of this discussion is driven by that.) I understand the objection to public lewdness, or exploitative or promiscuous behavior on the part of anyone, regardless of orientation. I really do not understand the objection to the orientation. That "the Bible says so" just leaves me flabbergasted -- because, of course, not being a Biblical inerrantist, I think what's divinely inspired in there is all mixed up with a lot of sheer anthropology. This is the elevation of a primitive prejudice -- or maybe a specific spiritual response to a pagan surround -- to an eternal principle. IYAM, it's nuts!

Now I'll go read everybody else's comments . . .

Joan said...

dan said: Gay people exist abundantly. Everybody knows one; everybody is related to one.

I know several gay people, but I'm not related to any. Considering the astounding size of my extended family, it's surprising to me, but I've quizzed cousins of two or three generations and not one of us can think of a cousin, aunt, or uncle who is gay.

Pogo has more than adequately expressed my own opinions on the issues discussed here, so I won't reiterate.

Patrick said...

This is silly. All the millions of Americans who voted to outlaw gay marriages did not sit down and do any serious thinking on the subject. Not because it was a "no-brainer" but because they don't really care about the issue. They just said "Eww! Icky! Homosexuals!" and they punched the card.

If straight people were in fact so almighty and righteously concerned the the "threat" to marriage, then they simply would stop getting divorced. Thats really all it would take.

But why do that when you can get puffed up on a false sense of self-importance and claim that the downfall of Civilization As We Know It is somebody else's fault?

Marriage was not defended on election day. It was cheapened. But not by those wanting gay marriage, but by those who just don't really give damn about it in the first place until someone comes along and shames them into noticing what they had throw away.

Regarding marriage straight people have behaved like a dog that is careless about where it leaves its favorite bone. Until a littler dog comes along and sees the treasure that was discarded. Then the big dog comes running back huffing in an indignant rage and chases the little dog away.

Yip. Yip.

amba said...

Pogo,

How does changing the definition of marriage to include gay couples undermine heterosexual marriage? Heterosexuals can go on marrying and raising children the old-fashioned way. Homosexuals are quite a small percentage of the population. If you really care about seeing children raised in two-parent families, it would be easy divorce and encouraging single parenthood that you'd want to to after, not gay marriage.

Brendan said...

Ann, one of my fave professors responds to you here. Not sure if you've seen it or not:

http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/2006/03/ann-althouse-and-gay-marriage.html

Regan said...

WOW!
What a long thread, and so many fundamental portions of it were missing.
Several points kept getting repeated over and over again as if they're sense would grow each time.

The most important fact that was stated by Ann, but perhaps not thoroughly.

1. Gay men and women transcend cultures, languages, family structure and religions.
We're talking an indigenous and universal aspect of humanity.
They are so far, the ONLY group excluded from the ability to marry fully as heterosexuals are of ANY personal and unique characteristic.

2. Polygamists, have a precedent in history and other societies. They didn't require gay marriage to make their stand. And the argument for polygamy is coming from Mormons based mostly on religious freedom.
They had their chance and their time is up. Polygamy does make primacy and custody difficult in times of family crisis.
If a woman needs some support for herself and child in a situation-it's called sisters, brothers and best friends and neighbors...NONE of whom have to also sleep with her husband.
Polygamy IS biased against females and has left younger males unable to compete. Males who have been abandoned by or excommunicated from the very families considered to important to their support.

3. Let's get REAL.
Marriage arrangements HAVE been economic, or mercenary in the past.
Intimate, romantic love and sex in marriage is a concept that's in the minority. So are traditional, nuclear families.
Eligibility for marriage doesn't require intent of children or fecundity.
Sterile adults, the elderly-the INCARCERATED FOR LIFE can marry!
So tell me why Scott Peterson can marry, but Ellen DeGeneres and her beautiful girlfriend Portia di Rossi can't?
If we presume that marriage is GOOD for everyone, than only those who cannot have the option do it should be given priority.
And there is enough evidence that gay parents do no more harm to the children they are caring for than anyone else.
Heterosexuality isn't an automatic virtue and shouldn't be promoted as such.
I can say that mixed marriages between say, black and white couples came under particular fire from a standpoint that blacks were considered inferior to all others.

That black inclusion into any 'white created' institutions would ruin them, or somehow make it a less important tradition.
I see the same conceit towards gay men and women.

As if completely inferior to straight people and less capable of competence and quality in this NOW ever so precious institution.
But there are also cases of immeasurable cruelty brought to gay couples and their children not seen SINCE slavery when blacks couldn't marry or keep their own children.
To create a Constitutional ban against a unique, but distinct and equally competent segment of the ENTIRE human population, is beyond cruel.
We have no laws that keep a person from committing to their obligations, EXCEPT gay people.
Who, despite such restrictions STILL maintain enduring relationships and commendable parenting.
Gays and lesbians, now more than ever, deserve to marry because they are the ONLY ONES LEFT WHO CAN'T at ALL.
And for reasons that are mean and impractical.
It already leaves gay adults and their children too vulnerable in ways they shouldn't be for us to call ourselves and country whose very mission statement is equality.
Polygamy's cousin, serial divorce and remarriage IS legal...and it's proven to be difficult for extended families.
I hate it that other groups continually do everything at the EXPENSE of gay people, when it certainly isn't the other way around.

Any of you who, no matter what someone says about the merit and difference between gay people marrying and REDUNDANT marriage, say you are unpersuaded, will never be persuaded, no matter what clear arguments are before you.
The two consenting, non related adult standard will still stand as gay couples are included in marriage.

The change to include gay couples isn't the worst that could happen to marriage and we should stop acting like it is.

amba said...

Most of us who oppose gay marriage support a form of gay union to answer economic discrimination.

Gahrie: "Most of us"? Really? Aren't most of the state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage also banning civil unions? (Which seems really gratuitous.)

dick said...

One of my problems with gay marriage is that it would initially be recognized only in certain states.

Assume that you and your gay partner get married in a state where it is legal. You or your partner gets transferred to a state where it is not legal. Once you have transferred you realize that your marriage is not working and you want to dissolve it. Precisely how do you go about doing that. You are married in State 1 and not married in State 2. You are living in State 2. Does State 2 have to accept your marriage because State 1 does or can it say that gay marriage is not legal because their state does not recognize it.

Then assume you find some state, either State 1 or State 3, that accepts you are married and you or your partner move there to get the divorce. How does the divorce get applied? What affect does this have on State 2 which never accepted the marriage at all? Assume that State 1 is community property and State 3 is not. What are you going to do about the property in that case? If one will accept equal sharesies and the other will not you then have another debacle of a case.

Then apply the same stuff to polygamy. The mind boggles at that one. The whole thing is a complete disaster.

Seems to me that there needs to be a resolution on a national basis. Anything else will just be a cash cow for ambulance chasing lawyers, not that any of you are of that ilk.

amba said...

Balfegor: Oxymoron alert.

And extending the benefits to polygamous couples does the same.

Polygamous couples?

vw: zxmuryd

you can't have zx unless you're muryd!

amba said...

Balf: I take it back. "Couples" has come to mean two, but more than two can "couple." Like railroad cars. It doesn't really mean "two" except by association.

amba said...

The social security plan has always been based on the prediction that many would die without collecting benefits. Originally, the plan was that most would die. That's why it's underfunded. It's a provision for old age. If you don't enter the state of old age, you don't need the provision.

Solution to the Social Security crisis! Lift all those annoying smoking restrictions!

Kill All Turtles said...

I think the diversity of arguments here is the proof of Krauthammer's error--he assumes gay rights activists are one monolithic bloc with only one logical argument for supporting gay marriage, when in reality there are nearly as many reasons for supporting gay marriage as there are people.

If one argues that gay marriage should be legal because anyone should be able to enter into any relationship with any other consenting adult they choose, then Krauthammer's slippery slope argument holds.

But there are numerous other reasons why people would support gay marriage. They could view it as gender discrimination-- unconsitutional in the same way that anti-miscegnation laws were. (Although I don't support a judicial fiat approach at marriage reform, all should be aware that such a legal argument exists that applies to gay marriage but does not apply to polygamy.)

Or they could believe, as Krauthammer quoted from his friend Andrew Sullivan, 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.'" It is disappointing that Krauthammer fails to see that one doesn't have to agree with straw-man version of gay rights activism that he sets up in order to support gay marriage. There are an awful lot of people--even straights like me--who would think that gay marriages are moral and polygamy is not. Just because I think someone is a bigot for opposing gay marriage doesn't mean I think they're a bigot for opposing incest. We're not arguing for the abolition of standards--we're simply arguing that you've got the wrong one.

Moreover, there's the sociological argument. And there's even three of these--either citing the apparent disfunction of polygamous families among Mormon fundies (seriously, how could gay adoptions be anywhere near this bad), the inequality of such relationships, or the effects of polygamy on liberal democracies which assume equality among their members.

Now, by my count that's five completely independent reasons why someone would favor gay marriage but oppose polygamy. Add in Ann's economic argument and get six. Many people who pro-polygamy (including some gay activists, I imagine) or anti-gay marriage would disagree with all six of these reasons. Even many people who agree with the conclusion would disagree with one or more of the six arguments--or perhaps all of them, if they have their own seventh argument.

But Krauthammer's criticism is utterly inapplicable to any of these six arguments. His slippery slope argument depends on a straw man that I'm not actually convinced the majority of people supporting gay marriage would agree with.

Regan said...

The solution would be Dick, that marriage should be legal for gay folks, with the same requirement in respective states as for straight people. Period.

It's makes no sense, everyone's lack of consistency for those opposed to marriage for gay folks.

Which sounds like "we can't support gay monogamy because then we'll have to support polygamy."
See what I mean?

Marriage is presumed monogamous by law.
How does ANY argument for polygamy follow that at ALL?

Ann Althouse said...

Brendan said..."Ann, one of my fave professors responds to you here. Not sure if you've seen it or not:

http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/2006/03/ann-althouse-and-gay-marriage.html"

Brendan, one of your favorite professors is not a very accurate reader of the posts he imagines he's shredding. F!

amba said...

where the welfare of children is often of lesser importance with gay couples, it is absolutely central to that of plural marriages - because that is why they exist.

Bruce Hayden,

Is it why they exist? Or are children a byproduct of the middle-aged uncles' right to enjoy the dewy-fresh 14-year-olds when the bloom is off their wives? Which is a desirable (from the uncle's point of view) byproduct of the other? In the UT/AZ cult case, polygamy may be about male power and sexual prerogative. In the "polyamory" case, it's about "liberated" and "truthful," bonobo-style sexuality. In neither case is it exclusively or perhaps even primarily about children.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: "you can't have zx unless you're muryd!"

LOL.

Regan said...

A person who doesn't want to acknowledge the obligations and needs that gay men and women have, will disagree with any and all arguments for marriage for gay folks.

But those opposed do use the theoretical and the abstract, where gays and lesbians who want to marry are REAL.

Their children are real. Their needs are real. Their obligations to their spouses is real. The responsibility of citizenship is real.
But those opposed keep bringing up OTHER scenarios as if they exist.

This isn't right. We either acknowlege the reality of gay lives among us as parents, siblings, friends and colleagues or we can go on doing damage.

Our society hasn't recovered from the disgrace of what slavery and Jim Crow did to the black family.
Can we go on excluding gay men and women based on the exact same myths and demonization that's destroyed other families?


Gay folks keep trying to work within reasonable guidelines set for everyone.
But keep getting impossible standards and requisites set before them not demanded from any other groups.

amba said...

In other words: society might have some interest in expecting and rewarding a commitment to one partner. In principle if not in practice, in a society where the sexes are at least approaching equality (so that women don't have to be married to survive), a marriage of two has a better chance of stability than a marriage of 3 or more. Doesn't it? I suppose you could argue that having the 3rd partner there is some kind of safety valve for the need for variety which would otherwise break up the 2, but . . . I don't think so. It's almost chemical that 2 has a better chance of being a stable bond, so society and parenthood won't entirely be like a game of musical chairs.

For some reason this reminds me of a really terrible joke my sister in Canada sent us all:

Q: Why do Canadians do it doggie-style?

A: So they can both watch the hockey game.

ninya said...

This discussion of polygamy ignores the growing pressure to allow it among Muslim populations in the West, including Europe and Canada. Following from this is the pressure to allow multiple wives to be imported under family reconciliation immigration laws and the insistence that these families be governed by Sharia rather than civil family law. The problems with this seem obvious to me.

There's also the claim that there is no way to evaluate the economic consequences of polygamy. But there is much evidence that the polygamous family structure within Muslim and African societies is a large contributing factor to their economic stagnation.

While some may not see a logical connection between changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples and changing it in the West to include polygamy, it's clear that many do see it as a way to infiltrate the West with non-Western forms. The problems with this seem obvious to me.This discussion of polygamy ignores the growing pressure to allow it among Muslim populations in the West, including Europe and Canada. Following from this is the pressure to allow multiple wives to be imported under family reconciliation immigration laws and the insistence that these families be governed by Sharia rather than civil family law. The problems with this seem obvious to me.

There's also the claim that there is no way to eveluate the economic consequences of polygamy. But there is much evidence that the polygamous family structure within Muslim and African societies is a large contributing factor to their economic stagnation.

While some may not see a logical connection between changing the definition of marriage to include same sex couples and changing it in the West to include polygamy, it's clear that many do see it as a way to infiltrate the West with non-Western forms. The problems with this seem obvious to me.

amba said...

Those groups having three or more children and their religious beliefs will ultimately prevail over our system and this discussion will be moot.

Unless those children rebel . . .

Edward said...

Richard was absolutely correct to bring up the issue of biology. Ann's economic argument is abolutely correct, but it is not the strongest way to defend gay marriage. Biology is. Marriage and its legal recognition derive from the effort to channel the sex drive into a socially productive, healthy, and personally fulfilling expression. The growing scientific evidence of the biological basis of sexual orientation fully supports the movement to grant legal recognition to gay marriage. No equivalent biological evidence has been or ever will be found for polygamy. No one is born a polygamist, but millions of people most definitely are born gay, just as many more millions are born heterosexual.
Most of the slippery slope polygamy arguments used against gay marriage are made in bad faith, anyway. Polygamy is so conspicuously at odds with modern civilization and modern notions of equality and civil rights, that people who worry about its widespread adoption are simply putting on display their own homophobia. The only cultures where polygamy is still widely practiced today are extremely repressive cultures that have closed themselves off to modernity for centuries. That is destined to change in this increasingly interconnected world, just as gay marriage is destined to become a reality -- and the sooner the better.

amba said...

Think of a situation with two husbands and four wives. Could create lots of children but probably only one parent would need stay home with the kids. That's five adult salaries coming into the home instead of two and childcare.

-peder, that's interesting. It suggests that polygamy could recreate the extended family that in many ways was a better environment for children to grow up in than the nuclear two parents! If people aren't going to live with their blood clan, maybe they'd be motivated to live with their main and subsidiary squeezes . . . thus providing more adults for children to interact with. (Just goofing, or am I?)

lindsey said...

"No one is born a polygamist, but millions of people most definitely are born gay, just as many more millions are born heterosexual."

This is still up for debate since there's not much evidence one way or another. I mean. I've seen studies that show identical twins have a less than 20% chance of both being gay. If it was genetic, wouldn't they both be gay? They have the same genetic code. When they're raised together, the number increases to 25% meaning that a shared environment or parenting does influence whether they're gay.

lindsey said...

"The growing scientific evidence of the biological basis of sexual orientation fully supports the movement to grant legal recognition to gay marriage. No equivalent biological evidence has been or ever will be found for polygamy."

Given the male tendency to search out many women to have sex with, the biological basis for polygamy seems more obvious than the one for gay marriage.

Edward said...

When I said in my earlier post that polygamy is "destined to change in this increasingly interconnected world," I meant that polygamy is destined to diminish and eventually disappear in those few backward countries where it is still widely practiced. The political, social and economic forces of modernity work inexorably to eliminate polygamy, just as they simultaneoulsy work to bring about gay marriage.

amba said...

In the societies allowing polygamy, the poorer/less desirable males have a hard time attracting mates and are thus denied this advantage.

"That's not fair!" That's the sense in which life is not fair.

Actually monogamy gives the guys lower in the pecking order a much fairer crack at mating and reproducing. And, as someone pointed out, the result is more genetic diversity. (Did you hear about the genetic testing that showed that some 3 million men in the world's population are all probably descended from one Irish king? Niall of the Nine Hostages. There's polygamy at work for ya!

Edward said...

Lindsey only proves my point about biology. The sex drive is powerful and clearly based in human biology. Marriage is all about placing reasonable and socially beneficial limits on this powerful biological urge, which it would be cruel and inhuman to inhibit completely. Thus, modern monogamous marriage allows the maximum number of people to satisfy their sex drive within limits that benefit everyone and does the least amount of harm to anyone. Excluding gay people from this system is cruel and inhuman, because it provides no socially accepted framework for the very real and very biological sex drive of a distinct minority.

Bruce Hayden said...

Glaivester

Mormons, if defined as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints, abhore polygamy and polygamists, despite many of them having such in their family trees. Those who practice it in their name are considered apostate.

The problem is that a bit over 100 years ago, their prophet had a divine revelation that polygamy was no longer acceptable by their church. Those who couldn't accept this split off, declared him a false prophet, and selected one of their own who had a contrary revelation.

The problem is that, at one level, the Mormon Church is run by revelation. So, the legitimacy of the Church, and its teachings, is dependant upon the legitimacy of its prophets. Those who split off and continue to practice polygamy thus deny the legitimacy of the mainline Mormon Church by denying the legitimacy of their prophets - which is why I termed them apostates, which makes them worse than gentiles, or even heretics.

And, because of this, I expect that Utah, Idaho, and maybe Wyoming, would be the last states in the country to accept polygamy. For most of us, it is just something that we disagree with. For them, it is a fundamental attack on their religion.

Edward said...

Lindsey: sexual orientation can be completely biological without being completely genetic. Hormones and the complex biological interaction between the unborn child and the pregnant mother also likely play a role. In fact, biological events in the womb can explain the rare cases where identical twins have different sexual orientations. Even identical twins occupy different spaces in the womb. Anyway, the really important fact is that identical twins almost always do have the same sexual orientation, which strongly supports the idea that sexual orientation is based in biology.

Bruce Hayden said...

lindsey

There is a logical difference between being born homosexual and homosexuality being of genetic origin. One theory I have seen about one source of male homosexuality is that male fetuses require shots of testosterone at (three?) specific times in utero for their brains to develop as fully masculine. This can supposedly be interferred with through, for example, maternal stress. Remember, the default for mammals, without shots of testosterone, is female. This apparently applies to our bodies in general, and, in this case, our brains. At one point, apparently, we are developing our sexual orientation, and at another, our sexual approach (agressive versus passive / receptive). Statistically, a larger percentage of homosexual males (w/female sexual orientation) have a female sexual approach than do heterosexual males (though there are some of them too who have such).

My point there is that there are theories that suggest that at least some male homosexuality is determined by the time of birth, but doesn't depend on genetics.

Raven said...

Just one point, that I don't see being made in the comments (though I may have missed it.)

To the best of my knowledge, the US treats marriage as a partnership of equals, that is the wife has no more or less rights in the marriage than the husband. That is, after the marriage the gender of the person has no effect on the marriage contract, economic benefits, or civil rights.

This means that the gender of the two people getting married is *only* relevent at the issuing of the marriage contract. As such this requirement could easily be dropped without any need to address the legal/economic problems involved in polygamy.

amba said...

Believe it or not, I'm watching Bill Maher and he just asked a very anti-war Michael Stipe, who said R.E.M. had just celebrated its 26th anniversary, "That's nice to hear, there's usually all this drama with bands. What's THAT all about?" And Stipe says, "Oh, sure, there's always drama. It's just like being married to several people. Of course in the case of R.E.M. we all happen to be of the same sex . . . not that that bothers me . . . "

Didn't say anything about benefits for bandmates, tho. :)

amba said...

the primary purpose of marriage is child-rearing. That does not mean that children must be raised in every marriage, but rather that for society to successfully endure, heterosexual marriage is a necessary component, and children must be produced in the vast majority of them.

Let's grant, Pogo, that heterosexual marriage is "a necessary component" -- why would the other component, hypothetical gay marriage, invalidate that? Maybe gay marriage could be seen as "a necessary component" with a different purpose -- to integrate the gay people who are always going to exist into a stable society that values monogamy as an ideal (even if, for that thousand years you claim and more, the monogamous part of it has often been honored in the breach)?

John said...

For all those who respond to "it isn't fair" by saying "Life isn't fair." Well, it's true, the circumstances of life are very often not fair. Does that mean we can just throw the idea of fairness out the window, because "life isn't fair"? I gave one of my kids a 2006 Mustang and the other one a popsicle. The one with the popsicle said, "Hey, that's not fair!" I, of course, rightly respond, "Life's not fair." A voter on election day gets to cast his vote with no opposition, while the voter behind him is beaten with a club and turned away. "Life's not fair," sneers the man beating him.

Do you see how ridiculous this is? Just because random events in life affect some people more than others, it doesn't absolve us of the responsibility to be as fair as we can possibly be.

John said...

I, for one, would love to adopt children and raise them, but I'm not going to do that unless I can actually marry my partner.

By the way, another argument for legal gay marriage: my partner is from another country (although here on a legal visa), and even though we would love to be together for the rest of our lives, we can't be sure that will happen, since he's not a citizen. If I could marry him and he could become a permanent resident and then a citizen, it would be another story. However, it is so incredibly difficult to legally emigrate to the US that we don't know how we can manage it. (And before some of you assume I favor illegal immigration, I absolutely do not. I think that the sheer volume of illegal immigration is one reason it's so hard to do it legally.)

John said...

Balfegor:

I would be perfectly willing to posit that polygamy, like slavery, is objectively wrong. However, my opinion has no force for anybody else, so that's moot.

Also, when I said I find polyamory repugnant, I didn't say that I found the people to be repugnant. I hardly think that's cruel and bigoted. And I think my "everybody gets one" idea is very much a part of our culture. It applies when distributing cookies to kids, for example, if you're not sure you'll have enough if some people take more than one. Polyamory is people wanting more than is their fair share. Gay marriage is just about people getting their fair share to begin with.

DC Metro Contract Attorneys Weblog said...

Ann:

With respect - you're missing Krauthammer's basic point.

The point is that - if we fudge the longstanding criteria of what constitutes "a marriage" - i.e., one man and one woman - with regard to the gender part of the equation ... there's no logical (or legal) reason we should object to changing the numerical part of the equation, i.e. polygamy (or polyamory for that matter).

it's called a slippery slope.

Krauthammer is right.

people who are for "gay marriage" but who are against legal polygamous marriage are literally hyopcrites. they're only for the politically correct change to traditional marriage ... but refuse to see the logical consequence of their position.

-DCMetroContractAttorneys

Pogo said...

Re: "Let's grant, Pogo, that heterosexual marriage is "a necessary component" -- why would the other component, hypothetical gay marriage, invalidate that?"

Heterosexual marriage is the tradition, the culmination of ages of societal experimentation, precisely because it demonstrates that the union of a man and a woman -over against any other grouping- is the most likely unit by which to advance and continue the community. The success of that unique combination is not replicated in any other set of "parents", not gay, not government.

The problem afflicting all of leftism is the arrogance to insist that the eons of cultural learning, passed on as tradition, can be reinvented at your whim. Despite the repeated warnings that your hubris will inherit the wind, you persist, convinced that each age can ignore man's essential nature, and invent its own future unencumbered by the past.

The 20th century saw repeated disasters from this illiberal concept. But the hope does not die. Now you want to put asunder the very pillar of civilization, marriage, that begets Burke's "little platoons". And because you can twist a Gordian knot of logic around it, you think you can invent a new reality that will have no deleterious downstream effects.

While you may succeed in gaining gay marriage, you will lose the only present civilization that permits open homosexuality, that of the West. The EU is soon to be under sharia law for the reason of simple failure to reproduce. It will not treat gays so kindly, more given to crushing with stones than granting marriage licenses.

Pogo said...

I argue that expanding "marriage" beyond a heterosexual union invalidates the concept of marriage for the very reason gays wish to convert the definition to one more of their liking: it is a special class, one they wish to adopt for themselves.

But once that class has been redifined, it is no longer "special", but something else, something lesser. And soon enough, something meaningless. A mere legal contract. That you cannot see this fact is immaterial; it exists.

I fail to comprehend the liberal unwillingness to admit this argument has any validity at all, but insist instead on some moral failure, economic calculus, plea to fairness, or Randian freedom to do as one pleases.

chuck b. said...

Pogo said, "The EU is soon to be under sharia law for the reason of simple failure to reproduce."

How soon? You're on record.

scotwllm said...

The 'slippery slope' argument that gay marriage will lead to polygamous or polyandrous or polly-want-a-cracker marriage fails to recognize that the drive for same-sex marriage is being undertaken by an identifiable minority group -- gay men and lesbian women -- that experiences real discrimination from our government in regards to having a family and all that comes with it -- marrying the person you love, property rights, child-rearing, etc.

One is born gay. One is not born a polygamist/andrist.

There is no significant group of would-be plural marriagers lobbying their politicians to win the right to marry more than one person.

What's my point?

There is a very real group of people working to solve government-inflicted problems that impact their lives every day. They have no choice but to continue fighting for their rights.

The issue of plural marriage is pure smoke and mirrors, designed to confuse the electorate.

Mike/ said...

Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement.

Historically, that was the sole basis for marriage. Love and marriage is a 20th century convention.

In ancient Rome marriage was a contract. The woman had all of her possessions in her name and it went with her if there was divorce.

In medieval times, again marriage was a contract. It was used to stave of political and social problems and increase stature and power that could occur by the union of two houses.

This economic contractual approach continued well into the Renassaince and Victorian eras. Women were observed as goods or commodities that enhanced the power and prestige of not only the man but his entire pater familias.

At no time was there more than one wive in these arrangements. [Sorry for assuming that the monogamy was only on the female part, but, in fact, it was.] Having more than one spouse would have really comlicated the economic and power balances.

Now, and here's the kicker, if you go back to ancient Old Testament Hebrews, polygamy runs rampant. The irony of the argument against polygamy being next after gay marriage cannot hold water because the very foundation of the christianist point of view undermines it. Polygamy would not come next.

It came first!

Gahrie said...

There is no significant group of would-be plural marriagers lobbying their politicians to win the right to marry more than one person.

But there is a man in court being tried for polygamy that is using the exact same arguments to defend himself that the proponents of gay marriage are using in the courts. Courts are about equity, and there is no equitable reason to allow gay marriage without allowing polygamy.

Polygamy is already entering our popular culture (a TV show and numerous articles in trendy news magazines), is being legislated in Canada, and is becoming more and more prevalent in Scandanavia.

I think you are seriously underestimating the impact polygamy is going to have on our culture in the very near future.

Stephen M. St. Onge said...

        Ann Althouse has mistaken herself for all of humanity, past, present and future.  This is a common problem with liberals, most notoriously in theories of the "general will."  Specifically, she fails to recognize that her sense of fairness isn't shared by everyone.

        Althouse's argument, such as it is, goes like this:

        Legal marriage isn't just about love, it's an economic arrangement. . . . A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner  He (or she) can't file a joint tax return.  That's not fair  A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple  That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness. . . .

        But it's not all about love and who respects what  It's also about economics  And in that dimension, it's easy to distinguish polygamy.


        What Althouse is missing is the question "Why did 'society' grant married couples these benefits in the first place?" Marriage is, as Althouse says, an economic arrangement, but it's about the economics of the survival of the species, in other words, it's about children.  Without children, the species dies.  Without enough children, the economy crumbles, and the retired die.

        Since gays will eventually retire, and be supported in part by the labor of the next generation, to which they are mostly not contributing, I find it somewhat fair that they pay more in taxes now to subsidize those who are raising the children that will be paying for their support.  I also find it somewhat fair that their pensions can't be passed on to another person, or that they can't extend insurance benefits to their partners.

        Of course, we don't have perfect fairness, as the law recognizes marriage among the sterile, as well as those deliberately remaining childless.  And one could argue that homosexual couples can adopt, and even have children if the couple is lesbian.  But then, polygamous familes also can give birth, and do.  There's also evidence that growing up in a "non-traditional family frequently doesn't work out very well for the children.  So we really have to consider what living arrangements we wish to encourage.  Perhaps we should trim the tax and insurance benefits for the married, but vastly increase the deduction for children?

        But as long as we wish to encourage the next generation to be raised by mixed-sex married couples, we have an argument based solely on fairness for not recognizing homosexual couples as legally married.

Matthew said...

1) Genetically speaking most evolutionary biologists would have to admit that men are made to be polygamous. So it is natural, every man is in fact born that way. It is civilization (patriarchy) that restricts this behavior.

2) Currently the most expensive lifestyle is single motherhood, which is responsible for most child poverty in America. Much of single motherhood is the result of polygamous behavior (one man fathering many children- and this results in matriarchal socities). If we're going the libertine route, legalizing polygamy can solve the problem because instead of needing many households, all the mothers and children could live under in one home, so there are economies of scale. Also problems like unemployment are mitigated.

3) The slippery slope from gay marriage to polygamy is this: if we say that traditional marriage is arbitrary, just a definition, AND that society can choose to change this to allow for gay marriage, THEN if society can choose what marriage arrangements it wants, why can't it choose to discriminate against homosexuals in the first place? One you change the marriage laws, you can't stop anyone from kicking the sand and making a new line. So this argument has 2 benefits for the traditionalist: a) polygamy does not directly follow but the conditions are created whereby at anytime in the future it could become legal and b) if society can choose what marriage is, it can choose to exclude gay unions.

4) On fairness: traditionalists see things this way: how can it be fair for gays to get married but polygamists cannot? The thing for traditionalists is, they don't want polygamy, but they can't see how if they are being unfair by not allowing gays to get married, that they will then be fair to deny polygamists this right. The point, and this is important, is that for traditionalists the slippery slope exists- i.e. if they can't see how you can ban polygamy in that legal environment, they themselves may be forced to legalize it, because of their sense of fairness.

5) The only reason gay marriage is discussed is because the modern defintion of marriage has divorced itself from it's traditional roots. (If you want an iron clad contract to get your partner's benefits, I suggest homosexuals not choose marriage. No fault divorce can wreak havoc.) It is true that adding gay marriage is another attack on traditional marriage, just as no-fault divorce (the other major cause of single motherhood) was. Attacking the very foundation of traditional marriage, that is it between a man and woman, does not help traditional marriage.

amba said...

I can't get over all this solemn sentimental idealization of "tradition" when clearly, "tradition" has made many things of marriage. Probably the most "traditional" form, measured by sheer temporal preponderance, was a property transaction, an exchange of women as chattel/goods between male groups interested in forming alliances. Read your Lévi-Strauss.

"Tradition" in many countries also is: the husband has one or more mistresses (or male lovers, if that's his thing) and does as he pleases, the wife goes to church for consolation. "Tradition" in many places also is wife-beating. Lovely stuff. Let's bring back tradition!

The Greeks thought marriage was inferior, spiritually and emotionally, to homosexuality. Marriage was for having children and maintaining a household, but not for the higher reaches of love.

The nuclear family is NOT the ideal way of raising children. The extended family/clan is. Children probably grow up less neurotic when not trapped in the hothouse of interaction between just 2 adults, but have a variety of adults to turn to and to observe.

John said...

The thing is, Matthew, polygamists CAN get married. They just have to pick (from several) who they most want to get married to. Gay people can't marry ANYBODY of their choice.

Straight people and polygamists can at least marry someone that they love. Gay people can't marry anybody that they love.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward said...

A significant number of gay couples are already parents in one way or another and are successfully raising families despite all the unnecessary obstacles and hardships thrown in their way. Many more gay couples would become parents, raise children, and "contribute to the growth of the next generation," if only society would provide the legal structure and protection for their relationship that marriage provides.

Pogo said...

Re: The nuclear family is NOT the ideal way of raising children. The extended family/clan is.
Although that makes a nice thought process, it fails on numerous grounds. But foremost it lacks evidence of superiority by not existing in numbers greater than that of nuclear families.

The thing indeed speaks for itself.

Re: The Greeks thought marriage was inferior, spiritually and emotionally, to homosexuality.
Quite correct. And for their utopian beliefs, and ultimate preference for idle hedonism over the work of creating families, the Greek society declined and fell, and was integrated into the Roman Republic in 146 BC.

Societies do, in fact, whither away, and are replaced by something stronger. Most often, it is succeeded by the people that reproduce, those being among a culture that has rediscovered how to civilize its men. In marriage.

History has conclusively favored the raising of children by their biological parents. It's the only grouping that has resulted in a civilized man.

That two men want to raise a child, or that it would turnout "okay" (whatever that menas) doesn't matter a whit. It's about making a nation and era that endures, marriage is not about you, it's about making the best next generation.

Your wishes and desires are subordinate, and matter very little. Destroy that connection between marriage and children, and destroy the society. It is, in fact, occurring across the EU. Gay marriage will hasten its death, and Eurabia -or something else- will succeed it.

Surely you cannot be unaware that 1970s radical feminism, and its Marxist forebears saw the death of the family as essential to the eventual leftist revolution, and destroying marriage was the key. Where they failed in nation-building (and 100 million dead for the effort), they were correct in guessing how to destroy the West: undermine marriage.

Edward said...

Pogo, who started this entire discussion thread, has finally revealed how absurd and inconsistent opposition to gay marriage is. He says Islamic sharia law will be established throughout Europe as a backlash to gay marriage. First, this shows that opponents of gay marriage are motivated mostly by fear, not by rational argument. The chances of sharia law becoming dominant in the West are zero. Yes, ultraconservative Muslim minorities are beginning to assert themselves in Europe as never before, but their most radical efforts, such as the attempt to impose sharia law on the West, are doomed to failure. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an alarmist who reveals their own lack of faith in the fundamental strength and resiliency of Western civilization.

That brings me to my second point, Pogo’s fatal inconsistency. Opponents of gay marriage claim to be champions of (Western) civilization, which they say has evolved patiently and deliberately over eons to allow only heterosexual marriage, to the complete exclusion of the homosexual minority. Well, Pogo can’t champion and defend Western civilization if he believes it to be so fragile that it will disappear in mere decades under the threat of Islamist extremism. Supporters of gay marriage not only apply the principles of civilization (individual liberty and human dignity) much more consistently, they also have greater faith in the fundamental strength of civilization. That is why gay marriage will ultimately be legalized throughout the West.

Pogo said...

Re: He says Islamic sharia law will be established throughout Europe as a backlash to gay marriage.
No, I said that the dissolution of marriage, already extant across Europe, will be hastened by the expansion of the the definition of marriage to include gays and then polygamists. Child-rearing will then disappear at a faster rate than before.

Islamists are out-reproducing the native Europeans, and will replace them. The Islamists have not demosntrated much tolerance for gays in the past, so once their majority is reached, gay marriage will be gone again.


Re: The chances of sharia law becoming dominant in the West are zero.
England and much of europe are now living under de facto sharia law in its first iteration: obediance to the dictat that criticism of islam is forbidden. Alarmist!

Re: Pogo can’t champion and defend Western civilization if he believes it to be so fragile that it will disappear in mere decades under the threat of Islamist extremism.
Your hubris is astounding. Your belief that "faith in the fundamental strength of civilization" will eventuate the survival of the west is a curious and shallow reading of history.

The entire 20th century exemplifies how very fragile is Western civilization. It was nearly undone by leftism on a repeated basis, countered only by spilled blood and endless effort. Faith? Necessary, but not sufficient.

Civilization is a fragile thing. Each child is born a barbarian (ask any parent), and must be civilized. This process is best achieved in a heterosexual monogamous household (and the dominance of this form in the past 1000 years is its own proof). The fate of black men in the past 100 years is solid proof that, absent marriage, a culture can quickly devolve into barbarism. No one can argue that having one in four black men experiencing prison is an example of the success of faith in the West. It is instead an example of the failure to encourage marriage.

You misread my point, and I think deliberately so. Marriage is already in decline, and its demise will be hastened by gay marriage. "Faith" in the West (whatever that means) will have nothing to do with it. Those selfsame forces that led to its decline in the first place now ask to increase the speed at which it falls away by fundamentally changing the definition of marriage away from child-rearing (its only true role) to one of an economic contract between adults.

Re: "...gay marriage will ultimately be legalized throughout the West"

I agree that it will. And then the west will be replaced by something else. What exactly, I do not know. But a society that does not successfully reproduce itself will die. (BTW, this rhetoric was once common knowledge in the US, if you care to research it) "Faith" in the triumph of the west -absent marriage to pass the belief on- will be as successful as the asexual utopian communities of the 1800s. I hear many of their old communites have been turned into little shops or something. Cute places with funky art.

Edward said...

Pogo: Free-market capitalism and scientific progress, two pillars of Western civilization, are fundamentally at odds with Islamist extremism. They are also far stronger and more robust than you give them credit for.

In fact, it is laughable that you think for an instant that free-market capitalism and scientific progress will just roll over and die and allow medieval Islamic caliphates to be established over Western Europe. And please understand: capitalism and science both would have to collapse suddenly for your absurdly nightmarish scenario to happen. My answer: it simply won't happen.

Oh, by the way, something else that won't happen: people all of a sudden deciding to stop procreating. This fear is so ridiculous, it hardly deserves a reply. Yes, the populations of Western Europe may fall over the next decades, but they certainly won't disappear. Demographic fluctuation is normal, anyway, and do you really want a planet with 20 billion inhabitants?

As for the current reluctance to criticize Islam in Europe, that's not proof that sharia law is on the verge of being established. It's just a practical strategy to prevent further inflaming Muslim passions while laws are quietly changed to reduce Muslim immigration to Europe and to require Muslims already there to integrate into the wider culture, a culture that is very accepting of gay people and their full legal equality.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that gay marriage and the rise of Islam in Europe are interrelated, in that both are symptoms of somewhat the same thing there. Western Europe lacks vigor, and is thus losing out to the much more vigorous Moslems who immigrate there. The Moslems are having large families, and the western Europeans very small ones - well below their replacement level.

Why is this? My guess is self-indulgence. It takes a lot of sacrifice to have and raise kids. To do it right, it takes a lot of time, energy, and money. It means not going out on the weekends to a nice restaraunt, driving as nice a car, going on exciting vacations, etc.

So, I see the analogy with ancient Greece to be somewhat appropriate. They lost their vigor and were swallowed up by the much more vigorous Romans of their era, who were in turn overtaken by the much more vigorous Germans of six hundred or so years later. And now it is the turn of the Germans and Celts who conquered Rome to give way. (As a note, the Romans outbred the Greeks, the Germans and Celts outbred the Romans, and the Moslems are outbreeding the descendants of those Germans and Celts).

The reason that we are not in as dire straights is that we have a bunch of fundamentalists (including those accursed polygamists) plus a lot of Catholic immigrants providing that vigor. But part of the political shift we are seeing in this country is demographic - conservatives outbreeding liberals.

What I think has to be recognized is that gay marriage, just as single motherhood, easy divorce, etc., are all symptoms of putting the individual before the nuclear family, defined at a minimum as a breeding pair plus offspring. The argument for gay marriage is not that it will do a good job at creating and raising the next generation, but rather that the people who pursue it are somehow owed it because others have it. Because it is "fair".

But I don't think that fairness is necessarily the most important principle here. Rather, the question I think should be what is best for society? What is going to let us survive as a people best?

As a note, as should be obvious, I am not just pointing my finger at gay marriage, but also at other aspects of our society that detract from the nuclear heterosexual breeding and child rearing family, including single parenthood and divorce before the kids reach maturity.

Pogo said...

The majority of your post, about the "laughability" of the demise of the West, belongs on another thread, and I won't debate the point here except to say I disagree. I am glad for your optimism, but modernism (high tech and science) and trade can exist in many forms; the West is just one of them.


"...something else that won't happen: people all of a sudden deciding to stop procreating. This fear is so ridiculous, it hardly deserves a reply. "
What I said was that Western people in the EU have already diminished (not ceased) procreating sufficiently to replace, much less expand, their population. This has already happened.
Immigrants lacking the European tradition are quickly overtaking them (the 50% point to be reached in just a few years). And then Europe will become something else. My bet is Eurabia, but an amlgam of sorts is possible.

Anyway, while the EU is currently run by "a culture that is very accepting of gay people and their full legal equality", there is little to suggest that its replacement, the one that burns cars in France, kills filmmakers in Denmark, and riots over cartoons, will be similarly accomodating. Polygamy they'll like, though.

But I enjoy your faith in the West, and hope you are right.

Edward said...

History shows that population size stabilizes as a culture becomes more modern and as individual freedoms are better respected. This is not, however, a sign of cultural weakness or a sign that a culture is losing its vigor. Individual liberty, even if it results in a temporary cessation of population growth, is a sign of a civilization's vigor.

I'm amazed at how these so-called conservatives so quickly abandon the principle of individual freedom at the merest threat from some outside force like Islamism. Once again, this shows that opposition to gay marriage is based on little more than irrational fear.

The biggest change that will happen in the coming decades is that backward Islamic cultures will become more modern and democratic, not that Western civilization will collapse and be overrun. When Islamic cultures modernize, the size of their populations will stabilize, as has the West's.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that brings to another point - why polygamous marriage arguably has a better justification than does gay marriage, and, thus, why the slippery slope is still an issue.

The traditional purpose of marriage has been to foster the optimal environment for creating and raising the next generation.

The argument, most morally and legally, for gay marriage seems to be mostly that it is fair - others have it, and it is unfair to deprive gays of it too. Plus, that raising kids in a gay marriage is better than in a single parent household.

Nevertheless, it is an argument primarily aimed at reaping the benefits of marriage, without paying the costs (of having and raising kids). Yes, the argument is made that plenty of heterosexual couples don't have kids either, but it still comes down to personal rights and ignores obligations.

Contrast this with polygamous marriages. There, the primary purpose is child rearing. If a woman is infertile, then the guy marries another woman, and the first one helps raise the kids. More kids? More wives. It apparently is not uncommon for the polygamous husbands to have a dozen or more children.

Thus, a polygamous family is much more closely related to the traditional role of marriage than is a gay marriage.

So, when it comes down to the question of what is more important in identifying what should be the determinant of a marriage, I think that having a set of breeders breeding and raising kids is more important and closer to the core basis of marriage than the number two.

And, thus, the slippery slope argument: gays get marriage because it is fair, but the traditional purpose of marriage is having and raising kids, gays cannot do the former by themselves, and often don't bother with the later, while plural marriages do this in abundance. Thus, why should gays get the marriage they want, but not polygamists?

Pogo said...

As my doctor friend says (in an ironic tone), "...and I say the autopsy will prove me right!"

Regan said...

Pogo, EDWARD really has it right.
We've heard all the other arguments that sound like YOURS that were also against mixed marriages.
Convicted murderers with no hope of parole can marry.
It's a given that they can only marginally contribute to the support of spouse and children.
Our faith in matrimony as a stabilizing institution even for people in that status, just shows how little you understand gay men and women.
I'll say it again.
Only a person convinced of the inferiority of gay people as spouses and parents would speak of the destruction of marriage or it's tradition in that way.

I'm calling you out on that conceit, so at least be honest that's exactly what it is.
Gay people are as symbiotic to the human race as the thumbs are to the fingers of our hands.
Thumbs are opposite to and less than, but they are no less important. Because without them, the hand is less skilled and strong.

Gay men and women are not and untalented part of the human race, and considerably compassionate and patient, all things considered.
We would be better to include them for what marriage provides.

Bruce Hayden said...

Edward,

I do agree that the Moslems, esp. in Europe, will ultimately slow down their population growth. But that population growth must be contrasted with the negative (i.e. below replacement level) population growth of the "White" Christian European population. History is replete with examples of one group out producing another in terms of population growth, and then swallowing the later. You seem to be banking on Moslem population growth slowing fast enough that they don't swallow the non-growing (and ultimately shrinking) Christian population there. Maybe, but maybe not - esp. when they see population growth as the key to their success.

I don't see European civilization as all that vigorous. Rather, I see it turned inward, and, yes, concentrating on individual liberties, when they are being swallowed by those who laugh at them and their concentration on these liberties, while breeding them into oblivion.

For better than 2,000 years, we have looked at the ancient Greeks as an example of how to live and how define the optimal society. And, yet, they were easily swallowed by the (much faster breeding) Romans, and, then later, by the (much faster breeding) Turks. And, indeed, it is only because of the benevolence of those Turks in the administration of their conquered territories that anyone speaks Greek today as a first language.

Pogo said...

Regan said: "Only a person convinced of the inferiority of gay people as spouses and parents would speak of the destruction of marriage or it's tradition in that way.
I'm calling you out on that conceit, so at least be honest that's exactly what it is."


Quite the opposite is true, and your choice to insult me is an unpersuasive tactic to convince me otherwise. It is rather juvenile to suggest that all those who disagree with your line of reasoning are bigots per se.

You know nothing about me, so I forgive your childish attempt to call the question by an ad hominem attack. Whether I like or dislike gays, am or am not gay myself, am or am not married myself is not the issue. I say marriage is one thing, and you wish to redefine it. The only "proof" that it will be harmless or (unilkely) a marginal improvement over the current system is time. The downside, you must admit, is that you are wrong. And the predicted downside is disastrous.

So, your insults aside, why should I favor your argument?

CatoRenasci said...

Edward said: The sex drive is powerful and clearly based in human biology. Marriage is all about placing reasonable and socially beneficial limits on this powerful biological urge, which it would be cruel and inhuman to inhibit completely. Thus, modern monogamous marriage allows the maximum number of people to satisfy their sex drive within limits that benefit everyone and does the least amount of harm to anyone. Excluding gay people from this system is cruel and inhuman, because it provides no socially accepted framework for the very real and very biological sex drive of a distinct minority.

You make a fundamental error in thinking about what you call the "sex drive" in isolation from its biological purpose, which is reproduction and the preservation of the species. The sex drive is, after all, only the mechanism by which the biological need to reproduce, is furthered. That sex is possible without reproduction, or that in some cases there exist individuals (whether as a result of sterility or homosexuality) for whom sex (in the form desired in the case of homosexuals) cannot result in reproduction, does not in any way imply that the reproductive need is not the primary biological imperative which society desires (or ought to desire) to further. Like many things in the world involving humans, the sex drive imperfectly correlates with the biological reproductive urge.

Your argument concerning traditional marriage's channeling sex drive could be (correctly, I think) recast as allowing the maximum number of people to satisfy their reproductive drive (a biological imperative) with the least amount of harm. Such an argument focusing on the biological reproductive urge rather than the mechanism of sex drive would be perectly consistent with the prohibition of homosexual marriage. Further, I think the way you cast the argument (maximum good for greatest number) is an explicitly utilitarian felicific calculus that should not be admitted, especially in a postmodern world that denies the existence of absolute truth: the greatest good for the greatest number is ultimately what the greatest number say it is (a variant on William James' famous truth is on the side of the biggest battalions comment). That undermines the notion of rights altogether and leaves you vulnerable to any majoritarian determination that, contra your policy preference, you have no rights whatsoever and can be supressed at will.

Edward also said: That brings me to my second point, Pogo’s fatal inconsistency. Opponents of gay marriage claim to be champions of (Western) civilization, which they say has evolved patiently and deliberately over eons to allow only heterosexual marriage, to the complete exclusion of the homosexual minority. Well, Pogo can’t champion and defend Western civilization if he believes it to be so fragile that it will disappear in mere decades under the threat of Islamist extremism. Supporters of gay marriage not only apply the principles of civilization (individual liberty and human dignity) much more consistently, they also have greater faith in the fundamental strength of civilization. That is why gay marriage will ultimately be legalized throughout the West.

Now, I must say, your faith in Progress is touching. Somehow, we are moving towards a millenium in which there will be a utopian paradise. The march of civilization is inexorable, and its direction is sure. All hail the great god Dia(lectical)Histo(rical)Mat(erialism)? Haven't seen much of this since 1989, but it is coming back into fashion. The idea of Progress is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied aspects of Enlightenment thought, especially as translated through Hegel and Marx's misreadings of Hegel. But, I digress.

As pogo points out, the historical record of the past two hundred years demonstrates rather clearly, I think, that civilization is rather fragile and that liberty exists only where those who have it are prepared to fight to keep it. Certainly, we have had progress in many material things, but it's not at all clear that human nature has changed at all. There is no necessity or even logic that requires that we reorder our fundamental institutions such as marriage (which has been largely successful) to accomodate those for whom its fundamental purpose is alien. Just because our society has weakened the institution in some respects, e.g. no fault divorce, does not in any way logically imply that further weakening is required.

For all the talk of rights from the advocates of homosexual marriage, I have not seen anyone address the question: if the advocates are wrong and the opponents right, that the results will be catastrophic, what then? Advocates say only, well there won't be bad consequences.

I remember in law school working on an appellate court brief that the attorney for whom I wrote and I thought was irrefutable based on a rights analysis. The court rejected it without addressing it seriously, say, in effect, "if we accept this argument, the result would be unacceptable."

Regan said...

Well, Pogo...now you know how it feels.

It's an insult and an affront to gay men and women, for starters that a man married and divorced three times wrote the DOMA and an adulterer signed it!
Gay men and women, many if not most with children, no matter how exemplary as spouses and parents, no matter WHAT they or their supporters for marriage say, the opposition is always 'unpersuaded'.

It's tiresome to have to justify the basics to those continually 'unpersuaded'.
The predicted downside has never happened. Not for mixed marriages, not for anyone how can marry. Not even for those gay couples who can legally and equally marry in other countries.

Maybe we're going about the argument all wrong.
Why don't YOU persuade me as to why they shouldn't.
Because so far, all the opposition has is 'it's not tradition', and that's weak and perhaps you know that.
Gay men and women, when taking their marriage issues to court,
those accusing gay men and women of destroying marriage or the tradition of it do not have the burden of proof, the gay couples do.
That right there twists the outcome.
As a minority, the tyranny of the majority already betrays that protection in the Constitution for gay people.
So legislation wouldn't and shouldn't be part of this process.
And I already gave many reasons, as did several others, all legitimate as to why gay men and women should marry each other.
In the evolution of marriage. No tradition is so fixed and inflexible and so exclusionary, and out of all the others this is a group whose time has come. It's only right, that's why.

If I insulted you, pardon me.
But let's not act as if the inference of inferiority isn't a part of it in the entire national or internation debate.

Pogo said...

If 'tradition' is a weak argument in support of leaving marriage as is, then why would gays or polyamorists act in pursuit of an institution that has meaning only because it is a tradition that excludes all other unions?

That is, you reject those components of the tradition of marriage that do not conform with your goals, in order to gain the benefits of a tradition whose historical basis you reject.

That's just playing dress-up, nothing more.

Antime said...

Conservatives claim that gays are all rich.

Data reveal that Utah has the highest personal bankruptcy claims in the nation and that correspondingly polygamists are economically disadvantages.

Which of the two groups would therefore provide a better environment to raise a child?

More importantly, this gay marriage, polygamy debate is just another and most absurd "Intellectual" minority fad to hit the nation based totally on unproven assumptions.

The Conservatives' interests in the sexual activities of "others" would certainly be a more interesting subject!

Edward said...

I never said European civilization is perfect. U.S. and European cultures both have a lot to learn from each other, and one thing we need to learn from them is that now is the time to grant full legal equality to our gay citizens.

I’m not a utopian, but I definitely believe in progress. Indeed, the technological mechanism that enables this discussion we’re having, namely the internet, is a marvelous sign of that progress. And such progress is only going to accelerate. Anyone who doesn’t foresee rapid growth in the areas of information technology and biotechnology in the coming decades has got to be blind.

Civil rights and morality make progress, too, and the imminent extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians is a clear sign of that kind of progress.

By its very nature, Western liberty produces evolution, change, and progress. Massively beneficial changes that were unheard of or considered impossible have repeatedly come true in the past two centuries. Because of civilization’s bias in favor of progress, I believe the burden of proof should be on those who oppose gay marriage, rather than on those who support it.

The gay rights movement fits comfortably within a long Western tradition of civil rights progress. Yet every forward step in that tradition has been opposed by a fearful few who yell that catastrophe is nigh if things aren’t kept exactly as they have been since the beginning of time. The abolition of slavery? Catastrophe will ensue! Giving women the vote? Catastrophe! Interracial marriage? Catastrophe! And so on and so on…

One last thing: it strikes me as totalitarian and maybe even fascistic to say that marriage rights should be denied to gay people because of some fear that the population size will diminish otherwise. There is no tradition in liberal Western civilization of oppressive, government-imposed population management. Nazi Germany and Communist China have tried to micromanage their demographics. Such concerns are unworthy of and antithetical to the principles of Western civilization. Anyway, who can say precisely what the “ideal” size of the population is? Also, what other group has its fundamental rights curtailed due to some myth of an ideal population size? Demographics on the macro level has a way of taking care of itself. The expansion of liberty should not held hostage to it.

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