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Thursday, September 20, 2012

John Corvino: "If Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?"

Posted by on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

John Corvino's new series of YouTube videos is a godsend for supporters of marriage equality all over the country—but they're going to be particularly helpful for supporters of marriage equality in Washington state, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, all states where marriage is on the ballot this November. John Corvino's entire series of Marriage Equality videos is here. For more info about John go to his website.


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povertylaw 45
A big issue with legal polygamous marriages is with divorce. We would need to come up with a completely different way of dealing with the division of matrimonial property, spousal support, child support and child custody.

I'm not saying that it can't be done, but that there's a lot of legal work (and re-work) that would need to be done to make it feasible.
Posted by povertylaw on September 21, 2012 at 7:24 PM · Report this
very bad homo 44
@21 Polygamy is not the same as non-monogamy. Study up on your terms and come back when you've learned something.
Posted by very bad homo on September 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Report this
smajor82 43
Why don;t we just push to remove gender language from rules governing social contracts? That way expanding marriage to allow for more than 2 people and giving couples of all gender combinations marriage rights can become separate issues, like they ought to be.
Posted by smajor82 on September 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM · Report this
venomlash 41
@28: Confluence said something, good for you. But the thing is, see, I was hoping for where DAN says something. We're talking about Dan's stance on polygamy here, so the opinions of some other spud on the internet* don't matter.
More bananas, please.
@30: Might have something to do with the difference between homosexuality and polyamory. If I say that murderers are a threat to civilized society, nobody will argue with me. But if you say the same thing about Asians, you'll get called a racist dingbat. (Which you are, but bear with me here.)
See, marriage so far has been between two people. And as much as you might care about gender, most legal documents don't; they work equally well for those of the male and female persuasions. We have a legal framework set up that would be fine for gay couples, but would need alteration to serve polygamous unions.
@40: Sounds good. The gay couple gets full marriage rights, but any additional people get the "spouse lite" package.

*no offense, Confluence.
Posted by venomlash on September 21, 2012 at 6:41 AM · Report this
Sandiai 39
JenV, awesome discussion of the subject. Thank you.
Posted by Sandiai on September 20, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Report this
thecheesegirl 38
@33 I would call that a good compromise-- a "domestic partnership" sort of thing for additional spouses that includes hospital visitation rights, maybe a limited set of quasi-parental rights for any of their spouse's children that they helped raise, but not including tax benefits, immigration benefits, or other things like that.
Posted by thecheesegirl on September 20, 2012 at 9:50 PM · Report this
@35 - I'm not talking about living as a polygamist on a fucking barren desert plain with a bunch of goats for company, which nobody ever had a hard time figuring out how to do. I'm talking about incorporating legal polygamy into a fully modern society and existing US law, and the ramifications of doing so.
Posted by JenV on September 20, 2012 at 9:05 PM · Report this
Also, on the subject of informed consent, would a spouse have to get legal, written permission from his/her existing spouse(s) to add another spouse to the family?

Christ. I'm sure for every example I've come up with there are 87 more, but I have to stop thinking about this because it is literally making my brain hurt.
Posted by JenV on September 20, 2012 at 8:53 PM · Report this
There are lots of sensible reasons why legalizing polygamy is a terrible idea, mostly to do with how it could be abused in all kinds of ways. And it would be so far-reaching into so many areas of existing law that it would be an utter mess.

First of all, how do you lay out the rules for polygamy? If one man can be married to 5 wives, could one of his wives be also allowed to have a couple additional husbands? And could one of those husbands have some more wives? Then who is technically married to who, and who gets what benefits?

Currently, there are certainly some people who use marriage solely for the purpose of some legal benefit, but they do so at a cost - you can't have a "real" marriage in addition to your fake marriage. If polygamy were legalized, this would no longer be a barrier. For example, tax benefits - if polygamy is legal, what would prevent people from forming weird strings of marriages in order to get various tax benefits? Another example is spousal privilege in court cases - let's say a shady CEO is extra-maritally boinking his assistant, and he's being charged with a crime for which his assistant is subpoenaed to testify - he could marry her and now she's included in spousal privilege. Under current law Mr. CEO would have to give up his existing marriage to do such a thing, which is a long and unpleasant process, and he would probably consider it to be too high of a cost.

Another problem is assuring that people getting married are informed whether their spouse is already married to another person. Marriage is handled by states, not by the federal government, so this would be a problem unless we want to spend a ton of money setting up a national marriage database and requiring all marriages to be registered so that you could find out whether the person you want to marry has any other spouses he or she is not telling you about.

It would be impossible to legislate away all of the potential abuses of allowing multiple marriage, but even if you got close, there would still be the problem of enforcement. Are we going to spend even more money and add a "marriage fraud" division to the FBI? Make everyone take marriage tests like you have to do to get a green card? (Green cards - another potential abuse of multiple marriage.)

Just thinking about all the potential problems boggles my mind. And yet, I can think of zero legitimate logistical or legal problems with changing the existing marriage law to allow two people of the same sex to marry. (Uh, maybe some forms would have to be changed. The horror!) And THAT is why yes same-sex marriage, and no polygamy.

(All of that said, I've got no moral beef with polygamy. If peeps wanna be polygamists that's OK with me, as long as only one of the spouses is a legal union. I'd probably even be OK with some sort of "marriage lite" situation for additional spouses, where they would be extended a small handful of the most necessary benefits and protections, like hospital visitation and etc, but nothing that could be abused. But this is a tangent.)
Posted by JenV on September 20, 2012 at 8:46 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 32
VL, you just HAD to mention the troll, didn't you? You've stirred up the one-wasp nest.
Posted by Matt from Denver on September 20, 2012 at 8:44 PM · Report this
venomlash 26
@18, 21: Do you have any evidence that Dan Savage opposes group marriage? You act like you do...
Posted by venomlash on September 20, 2012 at 7:38 PM · Report this
balderdash 24
Why not stop comparing nonmonogamous relationships to bestiality? Why not stop throwing poly people under the bus, LGBT community?
Posted by balderdash on September 20, 2012 at 7:35 PM · Report this
I think the argument about polygany being dangerous because what about the poor men who might not get wives is silly.

We live in a society where there's no reason to think that you would have lots of women all interested in marrying one particular guy. Women have lots of options in our culture, so they don't have to marry a rich man in order to have someone take care of them.

No, the problem with polygamy in our society, as currently set up, is about benefits. Children are pretty cheap to insure, so it's not a big deal that one adult may be providing benefits to multiple children as well as a spouse. But if each adult was entitled to benefits for four, or ten, or a hundred spouses, that would bankrupt the system. So fix our system of benefits first, and then we could start talking about polygamy as an option.

Anyway, as the man said -- 'tsgot nothing to do with gay marriage.

Posted by EricaP on September 20, 2012 at 7:25 PM · Report this
See, the part that gets me with this comparison is that they try to pin polygamy on the gays. Logically, the homophobes are the ones going "omg, marriage is in the Bible!" as an argument, but no one ever turns it around on them and say "hey, so are you pro-polygamy? Because there was a lot of polygamous marriage in the Bible."
Posted by JudT on September 20, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
Noadi 16
@Gonesouth Umm... plural marriage has certainly not died out. It's still prevalent in many areas of the world and it hasn't died out because people want just one romantic partner (if that was true cheating would be far rarer than it is, and many affairs are as romantic as they are sexual). Even with the Church's disapproval you had defacto plural marriages in European noble families with their mistresses who they were quite public about up until fairly recently. I'm completely unsurprised by the increasing prevalence of consensual polyamory, without the economic constraints of single income families or religious disapproval it becomes more attractive to many people where it was once limited to those with the financial means to do it.
Posted by Noadi on September 20, 2012 at 6:26 PM · Report this
Beth in NJ--you nailed it. You are a wise woman.
Gonesouth--nice try, but see Beth in NJ.
Posted by crone on September 20, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
lark 14
I have no problem with voluntary polygamy (for the sake of practicality 2 spouses for now & 18 y/o & over, man with 2 husbands or 2 wives or a wife and a husband and vice versa, a wife etc.). Needless to say, I support gay marriage. I lived next door to polygamist in Cameroon. He was a Muslim and had 4 wives as is customary (Islamic allowance) and 24 children. He was a good guy. He was my neighbor for three years.

FTR, Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa is a practicing polygamist. I believe he has 4 wives. And, while Barack Obama, Sr. was married to woman (his 1st wife is living in England), he married Stanley Ann Dunham, Pres. Obama's mother. Polygamy was illegal in Hawaii in 1961 to be sure. But, for all intents and purposes he, Obama, Sr. was a polygamist. I heard that Bill Clinton's father was a bigamist too. But, I can't substantiate that.

I don't like polygamy. Not for me. But, it is practiced by a lot of civilized humans on earth.
Posted by lark on September 20, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
eastcoastreader 13
"slippy slope" makes me gnash my teeth.
Posted by eastcoastreader on September 20, 2012 at 5:30 PM · Report this
venomlash 12
Any comment from Alleged? He's been concern trolling for months about polygamy...and flat-out begging for attention ever since Rob in Baltimore showed him where Dan said basically "sure, why not" on the issue. Bet the lousy scum-sucking weasel doesn't show up in this thread.
Posted by venomlash on September 20, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Marriage is between adults. Child sex is illegal and should be. Adults can't marry animals because animals have no recognizable legal right of consent. Therefore, marriage is about adults. The slippery slope occurred when divorce was allowed. No one in their right mind would want to live in a society that resulted from that principle. If Adam can marry Eve, why can't Adam mary Steve and Eve and Gail and Frances? Polygamy and polygyny. It would be novel but would die out after awhile. The civilization would not fall apart. Been tried before and people lost interest. Most people want their one 'other', hopefully for ever and ever, but often not so. When people break apart, their lives usually do not end nor does the society crack. What is wrong is the presumption of some people that they have a right to determine who does what voluntarily with whom voluntarily. What is wrong with it all, in my opinion, is that government should not be involved in marriage at all. Marriage is about the devices that people employ to give solidity to their union. You can't call the law because your significant other is sleeping somewhere else. We are born alone and we die alone and the government should be involved in ruling us as little as possible and protecting us as much as possible. No matter how great the union, there are still individuals involved.
Posted by Gonesouth on September 20, 2012 at 4:49 PM · Report this

You should work for the marriage equality campaign. Your second paragraph is the best reply to the question I've heard thus far. John Corvino is an unfunny idiot. Beth in NJ nails it.
Posted by Confluence on September 20, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 9
Yea, why not?
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on September 20, 2012 at 3:13 PM · Report this
Beth in NJ 8
I think the answer is a lot simpler and more straightforward than a lot of people are trying to make it, and it's not about making any kind of value judgments on what is morally acceptable and what isn't. Even if we leave morality out of it entirely, there is a distinct difference between same-sex marriage and all the other practices people like to claim it will lead to.

Equal protection under the law means just that: Equal. That means a law that says that I can marry a man but Dan Savage can't, and that he can marry a woman but I can't, is a law that does not treat us equally. And it's no remedy to say that we can each marry someone of the opposite sex, because it's still treating us as unequal to each other. A law that says neither of us can marry more than one person, or a close relative, or a non-human, or someone too young to be capable of giving meaningful consent, is a law that treats us all equally.

People who want to marry more than one person, or a close relative, or their pet, or a 12 year old, will each have to make their own arguments as to why they should be given those rights, but the idea that opening the door to same-sex marriage will automatically open the door to any of those other things just doesn't have any ground to stand on.
Posted by Beth in NJ on September 20, 2012 at 2:28 PM · Report this
chibby 6
Haha,great answer to the slippery sloppers.I hate that argument when applied to anything!
Posted by chibby on September 20, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Akbar Fazil 5
In all fairness, I do tend to love my kitchen aid mixer as well.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on September 20, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
I have no problem with the idea.
But I'd want to see the VERY specific legal changes that would need to be made to support such. Particularly in a divorce.

With gay marriage, there isn't anything different than marriage right now.
Except that instead of "man" and "woman" you refer to "person" and "person".
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on September 20, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Why NOT polyamorous marriages?
Posted by tired and true on September 20, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Report this
I was expecting a decent answer to the question and didn't get one. If marriage equality is going to win at the polls, it needs to come up with a better retort to this question than, "why do you keep changing the subject?"
Posted by Confluence on September 20, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this

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