The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

March 17, 2006

Following the Logic

Doug, over at Below the Beltway, is talking about gay marriage and polygamy. It seems that there’s been a dustup between some prominent bloggers and some prominent op-ed columnists over whether the government sanctioning gay marriages will eventually lead to polygamy. It appears that Doug, like I do, doesn’t see a way to accept the validity of the former and not of the latter. And it also appears (although I may be reading into this) that Doug, like I, doesn’t see a problem with that. See his entry for the various links (debates between Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Sullivan, and Ann Althouse), but here’s one of the specific things that Doug wrote:

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

The way I look at this, it’s coming, and it’s going to happen in the relatively near future. You can make peace with it, you can fight it, or you can try to play at the margins a little to allow both camps to accept it. Although, for some people, they’ll never accept that others are living lives a little differently than they are, but that’s too bad for them. That’s freedom.

I think the answer is simple. Make marriage what it’s supposed to be, a religious covenant. Leave the state to doing one thing, and one thing only: sanctioning civil unions between consenting adults, whether it be two adults or several. Yes, it’s going to be messy, as the laws for next of kin, for inheritance, etc, are not yet developed. But they will be.

Here was my response on Doug’s blog (although the comment doesn’t seem to be going through, as Blogger has just crashed again):

We’ll probably have gay marriage in the US within 5 years (in some states), and pretty well within 20 years nationwide. 20-25 years after that, we’ll have legally sanctioned polygamous marriages. Whether or not they’ll be officially called marriages by the governments providing the license, remains to be seen. But this is coming, whether people like it or not.

We can either fight the battle as one of morality between christians and “those heathens”, which is bound to eventually be lost by the christians, as they’re creating a system by which their religion confers upon them benefits that are being denied to others wrongfully. Alternatively, we can understand and trumpet the idea that marriage is a religious concept, and that the state shouldn’t be involved. If the religious folks really want to protect the sanctity of marriage, they’ll divorce it from the State (pun intended :-) )…

Personally, I don’t really care if two gays or 8 polys want to “marry” each other. It doesn’t affect me either way. Although, I can imagine what the introduction of QINKs (quad-income-no-kids) will do to real estate values!

The simple fact is that the line of reasoning that says if you accept gay marriage, it will lead to people demanding the government recognize polygamous marriage, is right on. All the common arguments in support of gay marriage apply just as strongly to polygamous marriage, and all the arguments against polygamous marriage apply to gay marriage. They’re a package deal (although they won’t be accepted at the same time, one will lead to the other). You can’t rest in the middle on this one, you either support both or you support neither. And since I can’t really see any logical issues with allowing two or more consenting adults to contractually agree to what I would call a civil union, I’ll have to count myself in the camp of supporting both. If the religious folks really want to “save” marriage, they’ll put it back in the church’s hands, not in the government’s.

A Stitch in Haste linked with On Krauthammer on Polygamy
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 3:34 pm || Permalink || Comments (12) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Libertarianism, Religion


  1. Brad,

    You and I basically agree on this one I can see. Thanks for the write-up.

    I’m not sure why you’re comments haven’t posted though but it would probably be a Haloscan problem rather than something with Blogger — although Blogger has been acting flaky lately too.

    Comment by Doug — March 17, 2006 @ 3:52 pm
  2. Hmm… It’s accepted my trackback, but not my comment. Maybe it’s time for you to get your own host and switch to Wordpress? :-)

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 17, 2006 @ 3:55 pm
  3. On Krauthammer on Polygamy

    I have previously explained why the “gay marriage demands polygamy” thesis is invalid. But let’s use Charles Krauthammer as an excuse to revisit the issue…

    Trackback by A Stitch in Haste — March 17, 2006 @ 8:54 pm
  4. Brad, I’m curious, were you and your “wife” ma rried in a religious ceremony or were you married by a justice of the peace? Is she your wife or what? I recently read an article about what is happening in Canada now that they have legalized gay marriages. It seems that the gays don’t want men to call their women wives. They are going the “politically correct” route and outlawing the words husband and wife. I wish I had copied the article to share with you. It’s kind of like what is happening with religion now here in the US.

    I’m have to disagree with you on this one, Brad.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — March 17, 2006 @ 11:21 pm
  5. The last commentor is an idiot. I got married in Canada recently and the terms “husband” and “wife” are not “outlawed”. What a ridiculous, American thing to say.

    Comment by Francois Tremblay — March 18, 2006 @ 3:40 pm
  6. What’s alla the brouhaha about gay marriages? And how does that relate to polygamy? My marriage is often gay (my wife’s the primary reason for that. She’s got the quirkiest sense of humor; keeps me smiling, if not laughing outright), thiough sometimes it’s nt (we all have difficulties in our lives: her miscarriages weren’t gay times at all, for example, nor was the time she “died” three times in one day… )

    But I am often a gay man, though I can be broody and even curmudgeonly at times as well. She’s more often the gay partner, with her cheery disposition and bright outlook on life.

    I don’t see how polygamy could make for a happy, carefree marriage. That seems rather more likely to be stressful, to me.

    (Yeh, I actively deplore the tendency of people who ought to know better ceding a perfectly good word—”gay”—to a perverse use in application to a class of people who are no more—and given the behavior of the most vocal elements, arguably much less—gay than the population at large.)

    Comment by David — March 19, 2006 @ 11:43 am
  7. David – may I call you Sisyphus? Why would you want to stifle the natural evolution of language and make communication more difficult? There comes a time (and that time was about 30 years ago) when you have to recognize that the meaning of the word “gay” has changed, and your attempt to deny it will not make it go back to what it used to be. Refusing to believe in reality just makes conversation more difficult.

    Or was that the real point?

    Comment by Wulf — March 19, 2006 @ 1:02 pm
  8. Brad, if you haven’t read Kip’s piece, please do. I agree with you that there is no great leap of logic between gay marriage and polygamy – they both have to do with removing the government restrictions on the personal freedom to say “I love you and I commit myself to you forever”. But as Kip points out, there is a much greater legal change needed for polygamy than for gay marriage.

    Some spousal benefits simply are not divisible amoung multiple spouses – that’s the key, and it is a point I hadn’t given much thought to.

    Under our legal system, polygamy would require a new type of spouse to be defined. For example, if you had two wives, one would have to be given a legal status superior to the other in order for our legal definition of marriage to work at all. That isn’t impossible, but gay marriage does not provide a legal precedent for it. One does not necessarily lead to the other.

    Comment by Wulf — March 19, 2006 @ 1:22 pm
  9. David,
    Have you ever seen the photos from one of their “pride” parades? Everyone there appeared pretty darn gay, by either definition of the word!

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 19, 2006 @ 4:20 pm
  10. Lucy,
    The recognition of my marriage goes all the way to Vatican City, with a stopover in Sacramento. I consider the it to be far more than just a legal contract, but I don’t expect the government see it that way.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 19, 2006 @ 4:25 pm
  11. Wulf,
    I read Kip’s piece, and I see his point. It will require some significant legal changes, that I agree with. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a reason to argue that it’s “metaphysically” different. I don’t see the difference between elevating one person’s claim on you above that of society, and elevating two people’s claim upon you. I can see there being difficulties arising (as in one member of the marriage being in a vegetative state, and a dispute arising between the other spouses as to whether to pull the plug), but that’s playing at the margins. Consider the case of divorce. In a community property state, where one member of the marriage wishes to separate, you still make on cut, you just make it at the 33% mark instead of the 50% mark. Or the case of children? They go wherever is in the best interest of the child. It may be that the two remaining parents retain primary custody, and the leaving parent has visitation rights.

    It obviously will change the legal system. But believe me, it will happen pretty quickly. You start seeing divorces between 3 people instead of two, and the lawyers and courts will start working it some precedent…

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 19, 2006 @ 4:44 pm
  12. Thanks Brad, That’s all I need to hear. Looks like you drew in come comments on this one.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — March 20, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

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