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July 29, 2004

Polygamous Routes

Marty McKeever notes a story about a new Spike Lee movie, She Hate Me, that I had noticed, but was too busy to give due consideration. Here's "lesbian author and sex educator" Tristan Taormino, whom Lee hired to keep the movie real through "Lesbian Boot Camp":

"At the very end of the film, Spike purposely leaves the Jack-Fatima-Alex relationship ambiguous," she said. "It's clear that the three are all co-parenting the kids, and [lesbian couple] Fatima and Alex are very much a couple. But it's not clear what their relationship to Jack is. To me, the end is a radical vision of our future, a future where the heterosexual nuclear two-parent family is not the dominant model."

Suggests Marty:

Keep this in mind the next time a gay marriage advocate tells you they won't support polygamy. Not only will they support it -- gay activists will be the driving force behind it. Even two committed lesbians know that children need a daddy...

People approaching this issue from various angles will react differently to Marty's prediction. Those who would claim that he's being absurd should consider the Canadian case that I pointed out in March 2003, in which a lesbian couple went to court to have the biological father of their child certified as a third parent. To be fair, I should mention that, as Stanley Kurtz reported the following month, judge David Aston turned the group down, despite having declared his desire to do otherwise.

Whatever the outcome of further appeals in this case, Judge Aston's legal thinking isn't likely the end of the story. Apart from jurisdictional boundaries, he acknowledged the "slippery slope" argument: "If a child can have three parents, why not four or six or a dozen? What about all the adults in a commune or a religious organization or a sect?" If anything, this barrier need be only temporary; it isn't difficult to imagine a court taking the intermediary step of opining that a family can reasonably include the two married parents and then a third, biological, parent. See? There's no need to go beyond that compassionate recognition of real families for the benefit of the children involved. (Until a lesbian couple has a child with a donated sperm and a donated egg, and/or until the principle of "actual parenthood" gains sufficient legitimacy to be inserted into the law.)

As for the likelihood that the average same-sex marriage advocate will stand in the way of multiple parenting and polygamy, well, I think Marty's commenter "Wilma" provides an opportunity for insight:

What nonsense! Gays and lesbians have the same affection for committed, two person relationships as heterosexuals do. Polygamy is condemned because it is denigrating to the women involved.

This ludicrously jumbled thinking will unravel with the first tug on emotional strings. Leaving aside the undemonstrated assertion about homosexuals' institutional "affection," the explanatory sentence undermines the point. As Marty subsequently suggests, the obvious question is how a biological father's inclusion would be denigrating to his two spouses. Wilma responds by applying the difficulty of "shared affections," which plainly wouldn't apply in a scenario defined by the women's lack of affection for men; it also takes into account neither gay male couples and their lesbian egg donors nor polygamous relationships made up entirely of women or of men.

Immediately, it is clear that traditional arguments cannot hold in a new world in which homosexuality has been declared as no more significantly different from heterosexuality than a minority race is from the majority. This is true even when homosexual activists are the ones attempting to make the traditional arguments. And experience leads me to believe that, when reality forces folks like Wilma to address the illogic of their thinking, they will merely discard the old points in exchange for enlightened acceptance of the new paradigm.

Posted by Justin Katz at July 29, 2004 10:58 AM
Marriage & Family
Comments

To be honest, i am not really suggesting that we will go down the path towards "legally recognized polygamy", even though my post implies that i am.

I consider this just one more emotional assault on the institution of marriage itself, ultimately leading to complete destruction of marriage as a legal entity. In the end, this will create an "anything goes" definition of family (ring a bell?) where defacto polygamous families are accepted by society -- and who the hell are we to judge?

Destroying marriage is the goal, and polygamy can and will be used as a vehicle, just as SSM has been, to reach the utlimate destination: anything goes.

BTW, Wilma is our old friend Bill Ware -- or at least someone using his email address.

Posted by: Marty at July 29, 2004 11:55 AM

I've been thinking that there's an ambiguity in these slippery slope arguments. When someone says, "I advocate X, and I predict that it will not lead to Y," they could mean either:

1. "I take personal responsibility for Y not happening. If it later seems that Y will happen, then I will do everything in my power to prevent it from happening."

2. "As a matter of idle speculation, I don't think it's going to happen. But if it happens, then I won't be too upset about it. In fact, maybe I really want it to happen and will cheer if it does."

The first interpretation is much more common than it might seem. Suppose you go to a doctor and ask him whether you have cancer. You aren't just asking for his idle opinion; you're asking for his commitment to his opinion. The same goes if you go to a lawyer, an auto mechanic, or a computer technician. Their predictions about the future are not just speculation, they are guarantees.

The second interpretation is much less interesting. I think that Bush will win the election. But nobody cares what I think, because I won't suffer if I'm wrong, at least not directly. The situation would be totally different if I were a prominent pollster like John Zogby. When he makes a prediction about the election people listen, because they know that he is putting his reputation on the line, and he therefore has a reason to be careful with his predictions.

This is an objection to SSM supporters' predictions that we won't slide down the slippery slope towards further sexual liberation: They don't have anything at stake. They aren't promising to battle these things if they're wrong. They clearly won't be personally embarrassed or hurt if they're wrong. In fact, they might be happy that they're wrong. Most likely, they just don't care.

It's hard to take someone's predictions seriously when they have no reason to care about being right. I have two children, and I care deeply about the quality of the world in which they will live. So I have a real, tangible motivation to think hard about where SSM logic will take us.

You can approach this from a mathematical perspective: Suppose that there is a 1% chance of some bad thing happening. Should we worry about it? That depends on how bad you consider the bad event to be. If itís a 1% chance of stubbing your toe or scraping your knee, maybe you donít care. But if itís a 1% chance of wrecking your car or getting seriously injured, then it seems like an unreasonably high percentage. Arithmetically, you multiply the harm by its likelihood to get a meaningful measure of the cost involved, which you can then weigh in a similar fashion against possible benefits.

In discussing slippery slope arguments, I get the sense that there isnít all that much disagreement over the percentages involved. The disagreement is really over the magnitude of the harm, and the time horizon used to measure the harm. I donít doubt that most SSM supporters donít want the legalization or legitimization of polygamy, bestiality, incest, etc. (PB&I), but I suspect that they donít consider the harm from those things to be nearly as severe as the harm that SSM opponents envision. They may oppose PB&I, but they wonít do so with the same intensity because they donít perceive the harm as being particularly severe.

This is related to the time horizon difference between the sides. (This is a point that tends to enrage SSM supporters, but Iíve never heard any actual logic underneath the rage.) In measuring the harm of a slide towards further sexual liberation, I think of my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. on through the centuries, and I think of how much worse off their lives would be. I get the feeling that most SSM supporters think only in terms of the harm that would affect them personally within their lifetimes. As a matter of logic, you have less reason to care about the future beyond your own lifetime if you donít plan to leave any descendants. Itís very important to me that America be a strong nation two hundred years from now, and Iím willing to inconvenience myself today to increase the chance of that happening. SSM supporters donít seem to share my priorities.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at July 29, 2004 3:19 PM

Ben:

The reason that PI&B are awful things is because they do not turn out human beings that respect and care for one another. In such a world, everyone is worse off, including homosexuals (as they human beings also)--in fact, with homosexuals always beings such a small percentage of any population, in such a world they are sure to suffer more.

The difference between you and us is not that we don't care for the welfare of America 200 years from now, it's that you don't care for the welfare of 6 million Americans today.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at July 30, 2004 3:35 AM

Arturo,

First, I imagine those inclined toward polygamy, incest, and bestiality would beg to differ that their relationships "do not turn out human beings that respect and care for one another." (Of course, those whose relationships don't entirely involve human beings would say they "turn out creatures that respect and care for one another.")

Second, I wonder by what logic you reach the conclusion that "a small percentage of any population" inherently suffers more from damage to that population. The ultra-rich are, for example, a small percentage of the population. Given the pervasive subcultural presentation as something "alternative" and the lowered likelihood that homosexuals will have children, particularly in a direct mutual lineage, I'd say your suggestion is exactly backwards.

And third, you are wrong that those who oppose same-sex marriage "don't care for the welfare of 6 million Americans today." We just believe differently about what that welfare requires.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 30, 2004 9:39 AM

Justin:

Of all people, I thought that you would agree that a world that accepts PI&B would be a worse place for everyone and not try to argue from the point of view, for example, of those who molest children.

If an ultra-rich heterosexual molests his daughter, that does not make him more accepting of homosexual people. But to answer your point more directly. The difference is that everyone wants to be ultra-rich. Heterosexuals donít want to be homosexuals.

I did not mean that anyone who opposes same-sex marriage doesnít care for the welfare of 6 million Americans. I was saying that Ben doesnít. Over the past several months, Iíve gotten that impression from his comments. I will explain to him, if he wants, what solidified that impression.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at July 30, 2004 11:38 AM
Of all people, I thought that you would agree that a world that accepts PI&B would be a worse place for everyone and not try to argue from the point of view, for example, of those who molest children.

I do agree with your proposition. Should same-sex marriage become a reality, it will have been resoundingly proven that my beliefs on such matters are of little consequence. If SSM comes about in the way that looks likely (i.e., through the courts, declared as a preexisting right and therefore negating the need for legislation), then all of our opinions quickly become moot.

If an ultra-rich heterosexual molests his daughter, that does not make him more accepting of homosexual people. But to answer your point more directly. The difference is that everyone wants to be ultra-rich. Heterosexuals donít want to be homosexuals.

None of this contributes one bit to the premise that minorities, in being such, suffer more from social corrosion. You're skipping the step in which you explain why a particular corrosion will affect a particular minority more adversely than it affects the society at large.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 30, 2004 11:48 AM

You're right about the last part. I will explain as soon as I have a moment.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at July 30, 2004 12:10 PM

Oh, there you are.

I see Wilma (who's the expert on psychology and genetics, while I'm just a farmer) left Marty whimpering on his knees amidst the crumbling remains of his inane arguments with her command of the facts and withering logic. At least that's what I assume since his last comment was mere name calling, the sure sign of a loser.

Well, it's Justin to the rescue!

The judge is correct in not letting the sperm donor join in a three way marriage. Otherwise, there would be nothing to stop the child's grandmother who lived in the house and helped rise the child from doing the same thing. Or any number of family members for that matter.

A purpose of marriage is to encouraged stable, monogamous sexual relations between the two persons involved. The benefits to a society composed of such couples is substantial. Arrangements with more than two persons are harmful to those involved and society, and are thus disallowed.

Encouraging gays and lesbians to form stable, monogamous sexual relations by allowing them to marry is something anyone with a conservative bent should be highly in favor of.
B

Posted by: Bill Ware at July 30, 2004 8:36 PM

Arrangements with more than two persons are harmful to those involved and society, and are thus disallowed.

And your proof would be? Why is two such a magic number? Why would stable, sexual relationships among three people not give benefits to society, whereas among two they would?

Posted by: c matt at August 2, 2004 4:21 PM

A purpose of marriage is to encouraged stable, monogamous sexual relations between the two persons involved.

Quite true. And that purpose is geared toward one end - the begetting and raising of children. If there are no children, then there really is no need to encourage stable, monogamous relationships. Hence, marriage is really only necessary for couples that can beget children. Hence marriage is for a man and a woman.

Posted by: c matt at August 2, 2004 4:24 PM

So, let's see - my husband and I are raising a child, so we need marriage.

My sister and her husband are not and will not be raising a child, so they don't need marriage.

They're legally married, we're not (so far).

True, we didn't 'beget' because we can't; they haven't 'begat' because they choose not to. The fact remains - we're parents, they're not. They're married, we can't.

Discuss.

Posted by: Robert at October 26, 2004 2:05 PM