Posted by Curt on 13 September, 2014 at 6:41 pm. 1 comment.


Ed Morrissey:

That question applies in the US — and possibly in some surprising places elsewhere. Let’s start in the US, where the march of court opinion has moved steadily over the last decade from the inherent right to sexual privacy and choice in Lawrence v Texas to the mandate for government recognition of partnership choices in the emergence of same-sex marriage as an equal-treatment issue. During the latter period of that arc, opponents of SSM warned that the same arguments deployed in that effort could be made to force recognition of polygamist relationships as marriages too, which SSM advocates hotly denied. Now that the courts have made a near-sweep on same-sex marriage, Sally Kohn wonders why polygamy should be any different:

Back in the early days of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement’s push for marriage equality, this slippery slope to polygamy was pragmatically taboo. After all, arguments about gay marriage leading to polygamy were lobbed almost entirely with the purpose of derailing the gay rights agenda. And there was also something inherently offensive about making the connection, along the same lines of suggesting that gay marriage would lead to people marrying goats. …

[P]olygamy, as it generally is practiced in the United States, is a predominantly heterosexual enterprise—like heterosexuality (or the male ideal of heterosexuality) on steroids. After all, while the percentage of married women who have affairs has risen in recent decades, married men still do most of the cheating. Conservatives concerned about the high rate of divorce in America should stop blaming gay marriage but instead heterosexual infidelity—a prime culprit in 55 percent of divorces.

If couples want to bring cheating out of the deceitful shadows and instead incorporate it openly into their relationship—plus have more hands on deck for kids and more earners in the household in a tough economy—who are we to judge?

Kohn argues that the push toward polygamy doesn’t come directly from same-sex marriage, but “a general opening up of options,” which is true on one level, but somewhat dishonest. The “opening up of options” springs from disconnecting marriage from its traditional definition of one man, one woman relationships. That was what “open[ed] up the options,” from which springs any number of definitions — which has the effect of making marriage essentially meaningless, except as a revenue source for local governments. That is, in fact, what opponents of SSM argued all along, as Kohn concedes.

Furthermore, it’s not really a question of judgment but of government approval. Kohn mixes this up with getting “support” from government:

There are interesting arguments to be made for legalizing polygamy, from protecting children from secretive non-consensual multiple-marriage situations to how being “feminist” actually means not protecting women from these marriages but letting them choose for themselves. …

But I do have a soft spot for allowing consenting adults to make their own decisions, and to be supported by their government in doing so, not constrained.

Over the last few decades, and certainly since Lawrence, there were no laws preventing consenting adults to cohabitate in any particular fashion they chose, except for consanguinity issues (incest). Those adults had options for formalizing their relationships in private contracts, which the government could then enforce when necessary. That was actual choice, rather than a demand for government recognition and societal approval. Kohn wants the latter, based on the fact that we’ve already disconnected the definition of marriage from its basis in protecting the core model of family life and ensuring parental responsibility for offspring, especially for fathers of children. Again, this is the slippery slope that those opposed to redefining marriage have warned was approaching all along. (It’s also the reason that some of us argued that the proper response was to get government out of the marriage business altogether.)

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