Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I've Got Nothing Against Gays, But...

To treat same-sex relationships in every respect as if they were marriages will open a Pandora's Box of mischievous consequences. For example, in jurisdictions where same-sex unions are treated as marriages, aggressive efforts have begun to repeal laws against polygamous or polyamorous marriages.
— Robert G. Kennedy, Star Tribune

The anti-gay drumbeat is quickening in Minnesota, and we should not let their claims pass unchallenged. For ongoing coverage, see minvolved.

In the quote above, Mr. Kennedy is deliberately indistinct on the actual whereabouts of these plural jurisdictions where "aggressive efforts" are under way. It's true Canada recently approved same-sex unions, and then Prime Minister Paul Martin commissioned a study to show the polygamy argument was nonsense. Instead, the panel recommended that Canada repeal its anti-polygamy law since the country wasn't enforcing it. And then the Conservatives spanked the Liberals in the election.

As for other aggressive efforts in the Canadian jurisdiction, there's a small enclave of radical polygamists already established well before same-sex marriage was approved — fundamentalists up in Bountiful, British Columbia, who left their forebears in the Mormon badlands along the Utah/Arizona border.

According to Minnesota State Senator Michelle Bachmann, "group marriage is now legal" in the Netherlands. In actuality, the country legalized same-sex marriage in 2001 after approving civil unions in 1998, but marriages involving more than two people are still illegal. Last September, a man and two women signed a cohabitation contract, a civil union registered before a notary. Friends of traditional marriage are flipping, of course, but this is apparently the first such test of Dutch registered partnerships in the seven-plus years since they were permitted.

That's it. That's the extent of the big polygamy campaign.

Law Professor Marci Hamilton took a look at some prosecutions of polygamists in Utah, and concluded that constitutional appeals weren't likely to prevail. The state does have a legitimate interest in banning polygamy, she writes:

History shows that polygamous marriage — at least as it has been practiced in the United States by multiple religious sects —raises a significant danger that underage girls will be married to much older men. In other words, it has fostered and condoned statutory rape. There is also disturbing evidence that underage girls are being trafficked across state and international lines for purposes of polygamy, a practice that violates the federal Mann Act. ...

History shows that polygamy raises a danger of incest as well. Polygamous husbands have married their own daughters or nieces.

In other words, the state has clear grounds for continuing to ban it.

This doesn't convince traditional marriage advocates like Bachmann, who argues: If the law defines marriage or its legal equivalent as something other than man-woman, then the basis for marriage becomes adult consent, which means marriage means anything — which means marriage means "essentially nothing."

This is "Christmas just isn't Christmas if the Target clerk tells me Happy Holidays" all over again. I understand Bachmann's feelings. It's just not a legal argument.

Then there's the complementary biology rationale, which goes like this. Marriage recognizes the unique relationship between male and female, yin/yang, the old in and out. It's not about romantic love; it's about science. As uniter-not-a-divider Bachmann says, "Biology teaches us that marriage is between a man and a woman because of the way our bodies are designed, the way a man and a woman complement each other."

Read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, and it's not hard to conclude the trip from dominant male/submissive female to polygamy is a lot shorter and straighter than from two men or two women. The rich, powerful and/or crazy men rule the roost. Same-sex unions confound that order every which way. Who gets to be the man in the relationship when there are two men — or none? And if the man isn't the one on top, then... chaos!

When they aren't appealing to biology or slippery slope toward the Rubicon legal arguments, supporters of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions couch their opposition in love, god and family. They profess to have nothing against gays, might even let them live next door.

So let's call them on it. Let's stand side-by-side with them to oppose polygamy, bigamy, sex slavery, pedophilia, and unholy group matrimony involving any possible combinations of men, women, children, dogs, horses, rabbits and vibrators. We'll support appointment of anti-polygamy judges. But somehow, I think they're still going to want their marriage amendment.

2 Comments:

Blogger lloydletta said...

Not to mention the amendment they are proposing does nothing to ban interspecies heterosexual marriages. If they are really concerned about a man marrying a female dog, they should be concerned about closing that loophole.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Charlie Quimby said...

In case you're just tuning in, this isn't the first time I've taken on this topic.

7:19 PM  

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