Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Not Polygamy?

Recently I was having, for the umpteenth time, a conversation about gay marriage. Every aspect of my position was scrutinized and I of course returned the favor. And then a question occurred to me. Why are we having this discussion about gay marriage and not polygamy? Why is there legislation and litigation on gay marriage but not polygamy? Why has one become a national issue but the other seldom if ever discussed? Why?

It is a simple question but the answer I suspect is not so simple. I especially would like an answer from a left leaning individual. That said, I do not discriminate on the basis of political ideology and I appreciate diversity.

32 comments:

BradK said...

*there

(Geez Denis...)

;-)

BradK said...

If marriage creates a legal paper corporation, does polygamy represent an IPO?

The biggest question I have on the gay marriage debate is... why are we having one?

I certainly lean left on the question, so I may develop my thoughts and debate points as I go here...

The government creates and recognizes civil unions (called marriages) between two consenting adults. Currently, the law includes language that identifies opposite gender. The change being asked for is to remove that gender identifier. Is there a compelling reason not to do so that DOESN'T include a theoretical slippery slope?

Denis Navratil said...

Brad, it has been understood, rightly or wrongly, for the last few thousand years that marriage was between opposite genders. So removing the "gender identifier" is a monumental change to the institution, more so I submit than removing the numerical identifier (ie two adults).

Re your question, not one that I can come up with. However, the slippery slope is a compelling argument. But I don't want to get into that now.

Re my question, are you arguing that the change in the "gender identifier" is so minor or so obviously logical that there is no legitimate reason to discuss or debate the change? If so, wow! I can't think of a single legislative change that should not be subject to participation among the citizenry. That is what they do in dictatorships.

BradK said...

Contrary to the question in the last paragraph, I think the removal of the gender identifier does require debate and discussion, much like it did when it (along with race) was removed from the "right to vote" legislation.

I wonder though what is left to debate at this point beyond a theoretical slippery slope argument?

From your second paragraph, I wonder where your comment about "not wanting to get into that" comes from since the original question on your post was one of "why not polygamy" which conjures that question at the forefront.

And in response to your first question, was allowing non-white, non-male, non-property owners the right to vote also a monumental change to the essence of democracy (one for the better, I might suggest)? Just because it's how we've always done it, doesn't mean it's how it should always be done.

I have no logical reason for answering your paragraphs in revers order.

Denis Navratil said...

The reason I do not want to get into a detailed discussion on the slippery slope is because the point of this posting is to explore why it is that gay marriage argument has been elevated to a high degree of importance while polygamy is rarely if ever discussed. I am happy to discuss my views on gay marriage on another post perhaps, but in the mean time I find it ironic that in a post seeking to understand the dominance of the gay marriage issue relative to the polygamy non-issue, I am being drawn in to the gay marriage issue.

Care to take a stab at the original question? Why do you suppose gay marriage is in vogue and not polygamy?

BradK said...

Fair enough - so... speculating:

Best guess, those that would push for it are either small in number or in voice, have a hard time gathering supporters, have a Supreme Court case to fight against and therefore see it as futile (a century old Reynolds v. U.S case), or see little practical benefit to pushing for it.

Anonymous said...

Denis, the law on polygamy is meant to protect men who are too stupid to protect themselves.

BradK said...

Denis,

It occurred to me to ask, why polygamy as opposed to ?

Really your question can transcend beyond polygamy to "name your social issue"... but you chose polygamy.

I'm merely curious as to why you picked that one?

Sean Cranley said...

Because it is understood by almost everyone, that to have an orderly and cohesive society, a limited and yet nearly universally desired resource, such as that in question, must be distributed on a somewhat equitable basis.

BradK said...

Sean, what resource are you referring to?

Sean Cranley said...

Isn't it obvious?

BradK said...

I could speculate, but I'd rather just ask and know for sure.

BradK said...

Oh. I was taking you too seriously :)

Got it.

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you Brad. I might add to your list but can find no fault with it. Missing from it, appropriately in my view, is that the gay marriage argument is stronger.

You ask why polygamy as opposed to any other issue? I am comparing possible broadening of the types of marriages and I think the argument for polygamy is at least as compelling as the one for gay marriage. Not sure if comparing gay marriage to, say, raising the tax rate, would make much sense.

Sean, thank you for your response. If you are seeking a more equitable distribution of marriage, my original question remains unanswered. That is, why distribute marriage to homosexuals but not to polygamists. The resource in question is not limited.

GearHead said...

I like the idea of multiple wives. Well, maybe not! But multiple girlfriends? Now you are getting warmer! But then, my stamina isn't what it used to be either. Maybe the government can GIVE me some of those herbally testosterony meds. Yeah, where do I get in line for that? Hey it worked for those MKE teacher union thugs and their Viagra! Why discriminate against guys who want multiple partners, but are getting older? It's my right, isn't it?

Sean Cranley said...

I DID answer the question. Let me be more clear.

Why not polygamy? Because by allowing multiple women to marry one man, polygamy will result in the scarcity of women, such that some men will have to go without women. And there is nothing more dangerous and destabilizing than young human males without females/sexual partners.

China with some 10 million excess young men, due to female infanticide, is grappling with this problem now. Neither monogamous heterosexual or homosexual marriage poses this problem.

Maybe it's not the best answer, certainly it's not the only answer, but it is an answer.

BradK said...

Sean,

Isn't polygamy a two-way (well... more than two apparently...) street? Couldn't one wife have multiple husbands as well? Couldn't that lead to scarcity of available men?

Imagine what THAT could lead to... (for the occasional remaining available man especially)

B

Sean Cranley said...

I know of no culture (or species for that matter) where that practice has existed. I don't think multiple male partner per female has any biological/evolutionary advantages that would make it a viable option.

Denis Navratil said...

Sean, what biological/evolutionary advantages does gay marriage bring to the table to make it a viable option?

BradK said...

Sean,

(Not that I consider wikipedia the de-facto source on, well, anything, but...)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyandry

Just because you've not heard of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In fairness, there are some reasonable citations in both the human and animal versions.

Having said that, I was more or less making a joke.

B

Jancis M. Andrews said...

Same-sex marriage is between two individuals, each of whom have equal rights and equal responsibilities. However, there is no equality within polygamy, where one man lords it over several women, all of whom are in competition for his attention to them and their children. As well, only the first, legal wife and her children are entitled to benefit from the man's life insurance, health, dental and vision insurance, pensions and tax benefits, etc. The remaining women are merely concubines in the man's harem, and they and their children have no legal rights. That some women agree to such arrangements shows they haven't researched what could happen to them. Polgyamy comes from the dark ages when women were considered chattels. This is why on November 23, 2011, Canada confirmed the law proscribing polygamy is constitutional (check the Internet). Chief Justice Robert Bauman, after a 4-month hearing from both pro and con groups, stated that polygamy is an anti-social act that contravenes women's equality rights, harms their children, and harms poor young men who would have to fight richer men who could garner many women. Polygamy should be kicked into the garbage can of history. The year is 2012 AD, not 2012 BC, and women (in the First World, sadly, not in the Third World) now have equality with men.

Marriage Equality said...

An adult should be free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage with ANY consenting adults. This includes polygamy, but note that polygyny would not be the only form of polygamy allowed under law. Polygamy can include polyandry and well as three or more participants of the same gender, as well as a mix.

All objections to this freedom to marry fail the smell test.

"Some men will be left out as other men attract more women." This assumes that polygyny would be more widespread than polyandry, and widespread enough to make a real difference. It also says that women should be FORCED to choose a man they desire less because the man they want to marry is already married.

Pointing to places where women don't have equal protection under the law or where children are not protected does not demonstrate that polygamy is harmful. Gender inequality is what is harmful.

Citing paperwork concerns isn't a good reason to deny the right to marry, either. We can make adjustments, just as we did with the Americans With Disabilities Act and with racial integration.

In most places, it is perfectly legal an not uncommon for people to have sex with, have children with, and live with different partners, even marry and divorce them one at a time. But we don't allow, say, a woman who has children by two different men to be legally married to both of them at the same time, even if both men want such an arrangement? It is legal for someone to have sex with ten different strangers a night, but not be married to two people he or she loves and lives with on an ongoing basis. What kind of sense is that?

Denis Navratil said...

Jancis, thanks for your comment. It appears that you favor the government deciding what is best for women and perhaps others, despite their wishes. I reach that conclusion because of your agreement with the Canadian court decision which compared single sex marriages with polygamy and found the latter lacking. I think similar comparisons between marriage as commonly understood and gay marriage would also find the latter lacking. While I am sure there are multitudes of exceptions on an individual level, the best arrangement for children is to have a mother and a father. As such, I find it entirely reasonable for government to favor traditional marriage over other kinds of arrangements. That said, I also think we should allow people to make contracts with one another and we should remain tolerant of lifestyle choices which don't create children. Once children become part of the equation, I think society/government has an obligation to weigh in.

Denis Navratil said...

Marriage Equality, thank you for your comments. I think you offer excellent evidence that demonstrates the nonsense of trying to thread the needle between gay marriage and polygamous marriage. Once you have opened the door for the former, you have destroyed all reasonable rationale for stopping the continued redefinition of marriage. Of course I disagree with your conclusions for same reasons I offered to Jancis.

BradK said...

Denis,

(re: your response to Janice)

She said:

"However, there is no equality within polygamy, where one man lords it over several women, all of whom are in competition for his attention to them and their children."

also:

"The remaining women are merely concubines in the man's harem, and they and their children have no legal rights."

also:

"polygamy is an anti-social act that contravenes women's equality rights, harms their children, and harms poor young men who would have to fight richer men who could garner many women."

You responded, including:

"I think similar comparisons between marriage as commonly understood and gay marriage would also find the latter lacking."

What similar comparisons to Janice's argument are being made for the gay marriage debate? The bullet points are light-years apart from any I've ever heard!

Denis Navratil said...

BradK, I think I may have been misunderstood somewhat. I meant that if there were a court case and we had to decide which type of marriage were better, gay or straight, we would probably conclude that straight were preferable. At least I would insofar as only one can produce children (naturally anyway) and I think all other things being equal, a child would be better off with both a father and mother.

BradK said...

Denis,

If only marriages that can naturally produce children are "preferred" from a legal sense, then are we creating a sub-class of (even straight!) married people who for medical, religious or personal reasons cannot have or choose not to have children (naturally)?

What *legal* argument can be made to suggest that (all other things equal - a fallacy in its own right because it's not possible) one marriage is better than another because it can naturally produce offspring?

I would guess that IF the legal system had to get involved somehow - granted I cannot think of a lawsuit where with all other things equal this might come up - the 'type' of home environment or gender of the parents would be a moot point.

Maybe you and I fundamentally just disagree with this:

"we would probably conclude that straight were preferable" - citing your personal belief that the ability to naturally create offspring fuels that preference.

You consider it a prevailing factor in determining preference, whereas I would consider it irrelevant.

B

Cara Curfew-Kociela said...

People need to understand that polygamy is NOT “sister wives” and “big love”. UT, AZ, TX and other states "turn a blind eye" to true polygamy where children (girls as young as 12) are married off to much older men and then live off of welfare, food stamps and Medicaid (known as "bleeding the beast")... as discussed in new book "plygs", a fact based journalistic view at the REAL world of polygamy ... Warren Jeffs, the leader of this group (serving a life sentence for child rape) has recently ordered that only 15 men in the group can procreate with ANY of the women of their choice within the group… it is a SAD, SICK way to live. this group in UT / AZ / TX are nothing but pedophiles and welfare cheats...

Denis Navratil said...

BradK, of the types of marriages that exist or could exist with some redefinition, only those which include at least one member of each gender is able to produce children naturally. That not all traditional marriages can produce offspring is to me irrelevant. I suppose as you suggested we might just have to disagree, but I think that we, via our government, can choose to favor/recognize relationships which produce citizens, future taxpayers etc... over other relationships. I don't think it is fair to conclude that some people are part of a sub-class as they share the same right to marry as everyone else, ie, they can marry someone of the opposite sex just like you and I can. Re the legal argument, I was conjuring up a similar situation as to what Jancis mentioned in Canada. They looked at the evidence and then reached a conclusion apparently. Legally justified? Perhaps not. I am not prepared to make a legal case here but I think that if a society had to pick one and only one type of marriage to endorse, they would pick straight marriage or risk failing to exist a century or so down the line.

Sean Cranley said...

Denis, I'm uncertain about any evolutionary advantage to gay marriage. However, I have heard arguments for the evolutionary advantage of having homosexual members in a tribe or village to explain the long-term persistence of this fairly common trait in human populations. So there may be an advantage to the larger group for gay people to be able to form long-term stable relationships. I think the advantages of that to our modern society are obvious.

I think there are certain conditions that can favor monogamous and/or polygamous heterosexual relationships. For example, a scarcity of males able to support children might have been a factor in favoring polygamy in the past. I don't think those conditions are present today and therefore, few people are currently pushing that issue over monogamy.

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