Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Same sex marriage and polygamy

The following are excerpts from a much longer article by Stanley Kurtz entitled "Polygamy Verses Democracy; you can’t have both" published in June 5th 2006 edition of he Weekly Standard. When you have time, the article is well worth reading. In the mean time, some excerpts appear below:

"The growing legal literature advocating the decriminalization of traditional polygamy was encapsulated by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley in a widely noticed October 2004 op-ed for USA Today. Turley argued that, as a simple matter of equal treatment under law, polygamy ought to be legal."

"Of course, liberal law professors…goal is to establish the principle that individuals have the right to create and define their families as they see fit. Ultimately, that would put same-sex marriage, polyamory, nonsexual group partnerships, and even singlehood on a par with traditional marriage, resulting in the effective abolition of marriage itself as a legal status."

"So there is increasing recognition among legal professionals that, along the way to achieving the full-fledged deconstruction of marriage promised by free-form polyamory, it is necessary to make a case for "patriarchal" polygamy as well. Big Love is a product of this line of thinking. As long as traditional polygamy is illegal, the way is also barred to postmodern polyamory."

"Post-World War II France was not about to imitate nineteenth-century America's outrage at polygamy. Intentionally turning a blind eye to the practice, the French assumed that any social implications would be trivial. Yet France's most respected leaders now find it difficult even to speak openly about what has obviously become a serious social problem…With a critical mass of practitioners on French soil and able to vote (or riot), and with the left seizing on polygamy as a civil rights issue, enforcement of the ban is in doubt, no matter how it's strengthened on paper."

"Far from offering a democratic solution to the problem of multipartner unions, egalitarian polyamory simply reveals another face of the polygamy dilemma. It is inherently difficult to keep multipartner unions together…"

"Polyamory is a cover-all term for a bewildering variety of relationship forms--everything from open marriage, to bisexual triads, to a man with multiple women, to a woman with multiple men, to large sexual groups, and many more. The "rules" governing these arrangements are entirely flexible. There might be three "primary" partners who actually live together, and several additional "secondary" partners (collectively shared or not) to whom the three "primaries" are less committed. The levels of commitment, and the range of partnership and mutual involvement, are subject to continual change and renegotiation….Polyamorists emphasize that multipartner unions take intense and constant work. Yet this need for a higher level of monitoring and negotiation only highlights the forces pushing against stability."

"The free love experiments nearly all collapsed after a few short months or years, although new experiments were generated continually for decades. That record of instability was repeated when the hippie communes of the 1960s and 70s fell apart."

"This might not matter were it not for the problem of children. Family stability is highly desirable for children. Not only would legally recognized polyamory be unstable, but the legitimization of polyamory would also be incompatible with one of our core reasons for giving marriage the backing of law at all: to reinforce monogamy as a cultural value."

"The new wave of Big Love-inspired talk about polygamy is directly attributable to the campaign for same-sex marriage. Big Love was created by a pair of gay-marriage advocates, who use the show to highlight the analogy between same-sex unions and polygamy. And Big Love is merely a hint of things to come. Radicals have long seen same-sex marriage as a lever with which to break the grip of monogamy. Should gay marriage be safely legalized, the radicals will emerge in force. Mainstream liberals like Sanford Levinson (who has a soft spot for experiments in multipartner marriage) openly advise the gay marriage movement to distance itself from marriage radicalism until after gay marriage is legalized. Big Love notwithstanding, that advice is largely heeded."

"More important, by training us to see marriage as a civil rights issue, gay marriage advocates have largely defanged all of these structural arguments. Redefining the family is increasingly seen as a fundamental right. And the courts are beginning to agree."

"The solution is to treat marriage as a social institution whose fundamental purpose is to encourage mothers and fathers to build stable families for the children they create. Same-sex marriage breaks this understanding, thus encouraging the sort of unstable parental cohabitation we see in Europe, where cohabiting parents break up at two to three times the rate of married parents."

"A few same-sex marriage advocates pretend that by simply offering rational reasons to oppose polygamy, they can neutralize the dangers of the slippery-slope."

"Jonathan Turley's latest opinion piece for USA Today signals an all-too-plausible scenario for the final slide down the slippery slope. In 2004, Turley defended the right to polygamy. Now, in 2006, Turley is calling for the abolition of marriage as a legal status and its replacement by a system of infinitely flexible "civil union" contracts. This general disestablishment of marriage may be the most likely route from here to polygamy."

"Marriage, as its ultramodern critics would like to say, is indeed about choosing one's partner, and about freedom in a society that values freedom. But that's not the only thing it is about. As the Supreme Court justices who unanimously decided Reynolds in 1878 understood, marriage is also about sustaining the conditions in which freedom can thrive."