Slog - The Stranger's Blog

Line Out

The Music Blog

« A Heartfelt Plea From A Reader | Seattle Times' minority owner,... »

Saturday, March 11, 2006

…but Gay Marriage Will Lead to Polygamy. And your point is?

Posted by on March 11 at 22:45 PM

Times Select prevents me from linking today’s long overdue pro-polygamy NYT op/ed. So, go get Saturday’s NYT (3/11) and read it.

I’ve always thought the polygamy argument against gay marriage (slippery slope etc…) was a red herring. Not because it’s an unfair analogy or a misleading premise (it’s a perfectly legit analogy given that gay activists are arguing for revamping marriage laws), but because I have the same reaction to legalizing marriage for gays as I do for polygamists. What’s the big deal? Legalize it. It’s kind of like arguing against giving women the vote because then women will want to enter the work force. (Horrors!)

Bottom line: Grown ups should be allowed to marry whoever (whomever?) they want.

I tried to make sure this issue came up at the Sims/Hutcherson debate. I think it did and Sims dismissed the question as being off-point. Wrong move. Sure, it fuels the fears of Hutcherson and people who support him. But really, the onus should be on Hutcherson to explain what’s wrong with polygamy. Is he for religious freedom or not? Doesn’t outlawing polygamy zap the rights of some Mormons? I thought Hutcherson’s whole thing was that the secular state shouldn’t be able to impinge upon people’s religious beliefs?

In today’s op/ed (“Who’s Afraid of Polygamy?) John Tierney writes, “If a few consenting adults still want to practice polygamy, there’s no reason to stop them. If the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.”

CommentsRSS icon

The big deal is that we're telling people we want to take them down the slippery slope of rationalism. We're saying gay marriage is OK because we respect objective facts, and not dogma. That does indeed imply that you have to look at polyamy rationally and you have to accept it if the facts show that it has merit.

It's why so many people who pay no attention at all to science care so much about whether or not evolution is taught in science classes. Without their dogma they don't know how to make sense of the world.

Instead of having to claw our way through every single disputed fact about gay marriage, polygamy, abortion, evolution, or phantom WMD's in Iraq, couldn't we just cut to the chase? The issue is whether or not we want to live in a rational society or a dogmatic one. Settle that question and the rest is easy.

Polygamy is not good, whether the marriage is between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. The point of marriage is committment - period. It's a tough thing to do, certainly. That is why marriage should be taken seriously, not merely an excuse to fornicate like frenzied weasels.
Please, let's not give the so-called reverend anymore reason to go off the deep end.

why does marriage have to be about sexual commitment? can't it just be about emotional commitment? or maybe just a commitment to hanging out together. lots of marriages result it no or very little sex. are those people not respecting marriage completely? it seems to me that as long as the relationship is between consenting adults, they should be able to do whatever the hell they want.

Josh ----

Jump ahead a bit , quit reacting to the last press release from the right wing.

As you are aware, the poly relationship horror is ther latest ploy to claim gays marrying will pervert the institution of marriage.

Accusations about eating feces, public health horrors ie.-AIDS carriers, and so forth are old hat.

In the long term the gay marrige issue in America will be on the table for two generations.

Josh - do a good essay aboout why marriage at all?

Isn't the old form of marriage dead already --- if not, why all the out of wedlock kids? Haven't most western countried devalued mariage almost completely.

It is a silly chase for a piece of paper.

Communal sex is hardly new. The refain - these are my wives - and I have 27 children under sixteen - as in the old Mormon mold is macho pig shit at its worst.

Modern arrangements among more than two people for sex,- it is called swinging, and as Oprah reported last year --- very well and alive.

I agree with your premise that we should consider the possibility and implications of polygamy in a fair, rational, thoughtful way and that same sex marriage proponents must address the relevance of legalization of same sex marriage to the expansion of marriage to include polygamy. However, I dispute your suggestion that same sex marriage and polygamy are two equally legitimate ways of expanding marriage and that accepting one and not the other is somehow logically incoherent.

Allowing gays to marry doesn't require changing anything in the institution of marriage other than the sex of the partners involved. All the benefits and obligations related to marriage stay the same. There is also no obvious way that the marriage laws, which were designed for couples, would apply to polygamous relationships. If one member dies, which of the other members would get custody of kids, inherit property, get Social Security? Would you be able marry three people, ten people, a whole village? On the other hand, all of the current marriage laws can be automatically applied to same sex couples without needing to clear up any of these questions. Polygamy is a totally different institution and marriage cannot be expanded to include in the same automatic way that it can be expanded to include gay couples.

The other argument for allowing gay marriage is that people don't choose to be gay or straight so its unfair to create marriage laws that only apply to straight people. On the other hand, polygamy is not a trait that a person is born with, like race, sex or sexual orientation. If there were a significant cross-cultural minority of people who throughout history claimed that living outside a polygamist relationship was against their nature, then they, as a group, might be entitled to equal protection under the law as well. But there is no such minority.

So, we can and should debate whether polygamy is an institution that we should create to accommodate the way some people may like to live, but we should not confuse the arguments in favor of allowing same sex couples to marry with the arguments for creating a truly new familial institution.

Polygamy as practiced by renegade Mormons today is a social disaster. It's got nothing to do with "respecting the rights of consenting adults". The women in these relationships are not "consenting" in the modern legal definition of the word. They're brainwashed slaves.

As a result of the polygamous communities in Arizona and Utah, thousands of boys are abandoned by their families when they reach marrying age, driven out of their homes and to the streets of Salt Lake City, never having been to a proper school or any other civilized social institution.

Marriage is a contract, and like all contracts, the participants must be fully emancipated. That's why children can't "consent" to marriage. The women in polygamous societies today are by all standards of civilization like children; they have no rights, are unequipped to understand their rights if they were given them, and thus can't legitimately enter into that kind of a contract.

The connection with gay marriage is nil. Marriage, viewed from the perspective of the state, which is what we're talking about here, is about the legal rights and responsibilities of two people entering into a contract together. A polygamous contract would be a much more radical departure, for reasons of numbers, than gay marriage could ever be.

HBO's new series "Big Love", with Bill Paxton as a polygamist, is premiering tonight at 7:00 p.m.

If a guy who lives in a trailer in Utah wants to have the misfortune of two (or three, or four) wives, I am not diminished. As long as nobody is ripping off Medicaid, I'm happy.

Remember that the real debate over same sex marriage is a LEGAL debate: should gay couples have access to the legal institution of marriage? The question of whether people can have same sex relationships or polygamous relationships is different. Its clear that anyone should be able to enter into any kind of sexual/ romantic/ familial relationship so long as it is consensual and non-commercial. This has only recently been codified in law by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, but the law is clear now. So, opening the legal institution of marriage to gay couples without creating a legal institution of polygamy does not mean people cannot enter into polygamous relationships. It just means there isn't a legal framework available to support polygamous relationships. And creating such a legal institution is a lot more complicated than merely saying, yeah, I'm cool with letting people get it on with as many people as they want. It means figuring out what each member of a polygamous relationship's rights would be in every area of the law. So, let's not be irrationally afraid of polygamy, but let's also not oversimplify the issue either.

Belltowner - Surely a non gay male.You would not be dimminshed by a system of serfdom for women - under the guise of marriage - is that flip and hip all of sudden?

Or have you done so little reseach you are just palin ignorant?

There is a lot of polyamy sites in America. And it is not a pretty sight.

Belltowner- I am sure- never thought about this bizarre practice of driving the young mating age males away so the old dogs - oh, such noble motives - can scoop up all the young pussy.

Very jungle, but, yes, that is the way it works.

A few years back I did lot of reading- the systems the call themselves polygamy are really small feudal systems run by a male alpha figure, and exploited for his wealth, comfort, and sexual / social dominace over many lives. The children included.

And as in the outgrownt of sects of Mormon style- the voice of GOD, of course, add to the power of the male leader.

Here is an idea to chew on - Was he Fight to outlaw polygamy realls THE FIRST stirrins of the femminst / suffragette movement in America?

Little mentioned, but a very big deal in its time. Brigham Young took his wives and tens of thousands of followers to Utah for refuge over the issue. A giant migration we forget. Mormons were anti-slave, which also added to their problems in border states of the day.

I've been to Colorado City. The polygamists do not live in trailers, they live in gigantic compounds of interconnected huge houses, all of which are only partly completed outside. This is because the property tax law there stupidly doesn't kick in until a house is finished, so if you never "finish" it, you never pay property tax even though you live in it for years.

Tax avoidance is only part of their financial strategy. They also set up their households in such a way as to maximize their eligibility for government benefits, receiving thousands of dollars in charity even though they can afford to live well.

Rape, child brides, physical abuse, slave labor and other horrors are endemic.
It's good to be the king. It's not so great to be a wife.

I'm not convinced that polygamy and same-sex marriage are equally defensible.

The taboo of homosexuality is rooted in perceived gender differences. The crux of the taboo is that couples cannot have a matching set of genitalia. This explains, partly, why straight women are generally more sympathetic to gay rights than straight men and why anti-gay wingnuts are almost always fixated on male homosexuality, not the lesbian variety. Women, it seems, are more attuned to gender inequality and more willing to accept that gender-based discrimination is wrong. Even without mentioning sexual orientation, one can argue that discriminating along gender lines is as discriminatory as prohibiting women the right to vote.

But the taboo of polygamy is based on a number issue (or a religious issue), not a gender issue in the strictest sense. Discriminating by numbers or religion may be just as arbitrary as discriminating by gender, but they are fundamentally two different things. The “slippery slope” of same-sex marriage is that it will lead to more challenges of gender-based classifications; it won't necessarily challenge other classification schemes such as the ones (numbers and religion) which define polygamy.

Oops! I meant "a set of matching genitalia," not "a matching set of genitalia."

rriage from a religious perspective ie unions that are bestowed by religious orders? I think the real root of this 'issue' of gay marriage lies there. I thought there was to be a seperation of church and state in the United States but apparently there is not as this religious ceremony has legal standing....I suppose I feel that any type of civil union between consenting adults should be recognized by the state.....

The marriage ceremony performed in a church is not recognized by the state per se. What is recognized is that the minister is an authorized marriage performer, and in addition to the big ceremony, he signs a document that is registered with the state. This can be done by someone who's NOT a minister (a judge, for instance), and the church part of the ceremony doesn't need to take place.

All fair and good. Where the problem comes in is, who is allowed to be entered into marriage, and on what grounds? Marriage is the only kind of contract that two men, or two women, are prohibited from entering.

"Gay" isn't quite enough of a distinction, as gay men are allowed to be married, just not to each other, and it would be against the law for two straight men to marry each other.

Certainly we are all diminished by abusive relationships in marriage, be they between man and women or man and woman.

Let's try not to big city-ize the issue. America is a big place with lots of people living in lots of ways. The pink triangles on Capitol Hill ought not be so rightous by ridiculing men married to womens.

Belltowner -

It really isn't gay vs. straight - it is understanding oppression and explotationm historical and currently, - and the lives of all women.

Gay men who have studied and heard their lesbain feminist sisters are very lucky.

You straight guys who have a harem fantasy and think that is what polyamy offers - get a clue.

Josh - talk to the lesbian feminist in your circle. The older dykes, not new to Seattle and well versed on feminist politics.

You too Belltowner - your politics are an inch deep. Chance for growth.

By the way - the territiorial challenge of your post is disturbing. What is wrong with a lot of pinkies on C. Hill? It has been one of the signature gay and lesbian neighborhoods in America for decades ----and slightly changed today, still very queer. Thanks to the Goddess.

Bell Town had the baths and Sleeze bars and peep shows.

The word "polygamy" tends to bring Mormonism into the debate, but many of the problems with Mormon polygamy have more to do with the specific group of Mormons in question than with the general idea of polygamy/polyandry. There are many (non-Mormon) polyamorous communities in which various numbers of women and men live together in matrimonyish contexts. Surely some are oppressive to women, and probably some are to men, but I'd guess that others are perfectly grand.

How many?

I'll bet that the vast majority of long term polyamorous groups are down there along the Arizona/Utah border.

But ultimately none of this matters; polygamy is not going to be legalized anytime soon, and the only reason anybody is even bringing the subject up is because of the stupid TV show. Sheesh. Guerrilla marketing at its finest.

What percentage of non-Mormon-renegade polygamists have publicly called for the right to marry that way?

It's not an issue. Gay marriage is an issue.

Asking the gay marriage proponents to endorse polygamy as part of some sexual liberation politics isn't a totally bad idea, if you're a radical trying to overthrow heterosexism in all its forms. But such a move would doom any hope that governments in the US will protect gays and lesbians from discrimination now or in the forseeable future.

The obsession over gay marriage, to the exclusion of all other queer issues, generally forces gays and lesbians to justify their identities and lifestyles in entirely heteronormative terms. By pushing a limited form of acceptance/ assimilation, gay marriage advocates, though well intentioned, frequently ally themselves with people who openly attack other kinds of sexual practices as deviant. It's a practical politics sacrifice that abandons a direct attack on heterosexism for a more limited attempt at assimilation and acceptance for monogamous gays and lesbians. And to a degree, it seems to be slowly working.

So there's little chance that gay marriage advocates can openly support polygamy without losing their mainstream political partners and electoral base. Such a move would probably also take anti-discrimination law down with gay marriage. Though in the case of WA state, as with much of the country, stopping or rolling back anti-discrimination law will probably happen anyway. We live in a country controlled by bigots, where a "viable" presidential candidate must be a married Christian, preferably a white hetero male. What to do?

True, Fnarf. I just wanted to make the point that one can't make a moral judgment about polygamy in general based on Mormon polygamy.


What to do - call it free love. Call it swinging. Call it open relationships.

Don't call if polygamy. A male dominated system of lining up many wives for sexual variations, the slave labor, and virle pride in producing many children---- that is not liberation from heterosexism.

You are getting too warm and feely.

There are many example in the long history of polyamy - Muslim, and African cultures going back eons. Old Testament called them conubines, not wives. Many Moslem countries have laws that allow multiple wives. Are those the true enlightened societies for women? Did I miss something?

The Mormon mode is the historic model. They did not invent something new and innovative in 19th century America.

It is a form of slavery and oppression for women.

By the way, WF - what makes you think gay men who want to marry are monogamous? I don't know any. The open relationship, very common in most long term gay male relationships - is a great model.

And, the Queens I know, could not be heterosexist if they tried.

It is interesting that you call radical an ancient form for oppressing women - radical. Rediscovered in 2006 does not change the values - even among middle class white people seeking new ways for variety in their lives.

Not radical at all. Repressive to the max.

My politics are an inch deep? WTF? Just because I don't think women are caught in an ethno-centric abuse-spiral syndrome (or whatever it is) doesn't mean I think abuse is cool.

Having gays and lesbians on the Hill is fine with me. Also, back when, it was "The Regrade", not "Bell Town".

A straight guy like me doesn't want a harem- that's ridiculous. Just because us straights want to get laid by a lot of women doesn't mean marrying them is good. Polygamists are different, as it is religious, not about "getting laid", even if you think their religion is false or harmful.

You know, as far as public policy goes, "marriage" is just a way of simply describing the way most people organize their personal life.

There's a crucial difference between same-sex marriage and polygamy. With same-sex marriage, the only difference is the gender of one partner - and gender neutrality is very commonly accepted in the developed world nowadays. It's a simple change.

Polygamy is less accepted in the developed world, because historically it involved one man controlling multiple women. Also, with polygamy, you change the number of partners, and all the consequences, such as social security benefits, immigration visas, inheritence, etc. would have to be rethought.

I don't care how many people you shack up with, but choosing to commit to multiple people simultaneously is so rare in our society, that I doubt the extra complexity would be worth it.

so marriage can be open, non-monogamous, and incorporate diverse gender/ sexual identities despite its long history of being a patriarchial and respressive institution, but polygamy cannot?

if marriage law can be non-coercive, and can ensure individuals the freedom to enter and leave relationships, the same could be done for polygamy.

anyway, i was saying that gay marriage as an issue can play into the hands of heterosexist liberals, not that gay men and women who marry are heterosexist.

this is a depressing issue. employers and the government actively discriminate when they create a social safety net that is limited to heterosexual families. expanding the definition of family is still likely to reinforce gender norms by dividing people into deserving and undeserving in part based on their sexual practices. if our social safety net were available to everyone, as it should be, there would be no political need for a debate over who/ what is sexually deviant.

Denny Regrade and Belltown are different places.

Listen, I don't think the term 'polygamy' as used in this discussion is being very helpful. None of us can possibly want to support a system where women are treated as subhuman, with diminished rights, and where pack dynamics lead to abandoned adolescent males in droves. But because of the prominence of this extreme activity being linked apparantly inextricably with the word 'polygamy', well,witness the widespread assumptions made above.

The issue at stake is not swinging, either, since swinging as most widely practiced involves a content married couple engaging in sexual activities with other married couples or occasionally singles.

What SHOULD be at issue is the question of whether three or more consenting, mature adults can enter into a partnership - emotional, sexual, financial, certainly for the purpose of cohabitation and possibly for the purpose of reproduction - and have it recognized by government or society as a legitimate arrangement.

Perhaps a better term might be polyamory?

Marriage is coercive by it's nature, I think. If it weren't, why would people be getting divorced so often?

Polywhat --Did I just read a call to renew all the free love communes of my youth.....well that would be grand.

For the males. SEX galore, on demand.

That was the problem. After ten good years the women finally figured out the young male drive for sex is almost endless, and the real dynamic was sex on demand - for a lot of guys. Not much in this for the women, they have always operated with different responses.

But, I bet a lot of newly minted male polys will be happy indeed. If history repeats - It was great. Plus the woman shop, cook and clean, and pool their wages better than men.

Polywhat - pease introduce perfect safer sex ideas into these groups. Post AIDS is a very diffent era than the communes of yesteryear .....

I vote we leave Marriage between 1 man and 1 woman, and maybe consider the children in this whole discussion. Children need a mom and a dad, not 2 moms and no dad, or two dads and no mom, or 1 dad and four moms, or whatever else the fringes of society can think of at some future date, maybe one man and 1 horse, ie Enumclaw.


Uh.. JFW, I just love your arguement!!

So we're deciding to base marriage on children. Well let's see here... not all married couples (ONE man and ONE woman) have, want to have or even CAN have children yet they are still allowed to get married. What is the point of that marraige then in the context of procreation? What is the difference between a married, childless, heterosexual couple and a non-married, childless homosexual couple? Oh that's right-- the hetero couple can get married. How stupid of me LMAO

Polygamy is just a nice word for keeping a harem. It's backwards and restrictive, treating women as expendable parts in a marriage.

Something to remember:

Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and one of the main Biblical patriarchs, had four wives.

As a person who has lived in a poly relationship, I've found the constant refferences to the downfall of humanity via legalized polygamy to be both insulting and comedic.

Philosophically, Sims should not have dodged/dismissed the issue. Politically, what choice did he have?

I think that, ultimately, gays will be allowed to marry under federal anti-discrimination law, the poly issue WILL come up as part of a serious debate, and someday we will have to recognize, as a society, that that the government has no business recognizing, sanctioning, or granting rights/benefits based on the personal relationships it does or does not approve of.

Marriage should be something that people do privately. It should not be a legal issue at all.

Obviously, we're far, far away from that point. But eventually, that's where this has to end up.

Violet - glad to hear you found some good stuff in a bigger circle...... and it is is OK not to like the old style earthy terms.

Be that as it may - There are no Federal laws that protect gays. Let alone adding gay marriage.

I am gay.
America will give same sex marriage for my grand children....many years from now, maybe 60. Generational issue.

About 1850, at the time slavery was the hot issue, so was poly --- ask the Mormons, did not fare well -- as offical desigation, ie. civil --- it will be even longer 200 years. You will be able to go to another solar system to polyized circles.

How do you label kids and inherit and keep statistics and, and, and and - without civil marriage?

And, there is always common law. Why bother with the paperwork at all?

It seems like most of this discussion has focused on Mormon polygamists, but what about Muslims? According to Muslim law, a man can have up to four wives. Some people might say that Muslim immigrants should have governmental recognition of their polygamous relationships.

I'm not so sure about that. It's an interesting idea, in theory, to legalize polygamy. However, the fact remains that, in polygamous relationships around the world, women are the losers. They usually can't choose whether their husbands can have more than one wife. They frequently can't choose who to marry. Their families do that for them. In theory, our laws would protect women from that kind of coercion. But then, in theory, our laws are supposed to protect women in rural Utah.

When I heard that that TV show was coming, I was horrified, because this is exactly what I thought would happen: everyone would have the image of multiple enslaved women serving one man on a perpetual ego-trip as representative of all multi-partner relationships. The term "polygamy" is avoided like the plague by people who engage in multi-parter relationships precisely because it brings up that image. The modern term is indeed "polyamory", reinforcing the idea that all involved love each other. These are complicated situations - it takes a strong will and the ability to approach complex, powerful emotions in a rational way, and to discount the instinct of feeling threatened by a partners relationships with other people. That is part of why they are so rare, and why most people wouldn't ever think of engaging in them. However, many people do, and very successfully. And, the principles that underly these relationships are in fact very good ideas for any relationship, no matter what its boundaries are. A very good book on the subject, written by two women, is "The Ethical Slut". You can also (more immediately) check out the website of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: , an advocacy group for all sorts of (safe, consensual and ethical) alternative sexual practices. There certainly exist situations like the abomination of traditional polygamy, or the, let's say, flawed, hippie movement, but I plead with everyone to avoid associating all ideas of polyamorous relationships with the certainly limited examples you've heard of or participated in.

HEY! I just watched Veronica Mars on TV. That by itself should be considered a serious confession, but it's on right after Enterprise, and I just didn't want to get up to change the channel...
But a really interesting thing happened on the show. Veronica was snooping about, hunting down a highschool blackmail artist who was threatening to "out" gay rich highschool students. Um, I guess that's supposed to be something really terrible. Well, at one point in her investigation she's looking into an online chatroom, where someone suspicious uses the name RICK SANTORUM!! Savage has made his mark and it spreads... ew.

I have never heard more ignorant and bigoted comments in my life than these gays who discrimnate against polygamist and deny them their right to mary.

Gay marrieage is worlds more of a usurpation of marriage than is polygamy. That practice has been a recognized form of marraige in cultures all over the worlds. It is totally judgemental and ignorant to act like you kow what is better for someone based on moral grounds. These women love it, it is one hundred percent consentual. Who the hell are these gays to say that these women are "exploited." YOu are exploited by the ignorant myth of homosexual victum politics.

How can you say that it is okay to have gay marraige, a radical change but polygamy is not okay? How can the state impose moral judgment and prohibit one marital relationship, but not prohibit a marital arrangment that is equally if not moreso condemned by tradional moral values? YOu can make the leap to gay marraige, someting unprecedented in history, but cannot give that right to polygamy, which is well-established? That does not survive equal protection of the law. It is bigoted patronizing and religious persecution!

SOme people think polygamy is great,some expoitative. Some think homosexuals unions are great, some think immoral. THey both are unpopular for reasons moral judgements and values, just the same. What gives you the right to say we can have one and not the other. That is not equal protection. If morals are relavent, they are. If not, they are not. THe moral rationale if applied must be applied equally then.
Gays have no more right to claim their relatiohship should be legally banned then they polygamist do to claim your relationship, a gay marraige should be banned.

Homosexuallity is perverted. Look at the equipment. You have it to have offspring. What does a man do. Get old and become an old fag? A woman is made to have a child. YOu cannot deny what you are. NO children of his own for a man?. That is death. Polygamist are the highest of virtue compared to your sordid life. Stop judgeing others. Polygamy RIghts!

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).