Friday, May 13, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- Answering Carpenter's polygamous marriage argument

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:54 PM |  

Reader Jerry Ewing takes exception to Dale Carpenter's contention that gay marriage is not the same as polygamous marriage and does not necessarily lead to polygamous marriage. It's a well written, tightly reasoned piece.

It appears you have already reached a contrary conclusion on the issue of gay marriage, but you did task your readers to defend the contrary position against Mr. Carpenter's "rational" argument. It is somewhat disjointed, but I thought I should pass it on anyway.

Tom Green (top centre left) with his family in a photograph that was presented to the jury during his polygamy trial. Green, 52, who has five wives and at least 29 children, faces charges of bigamy and failing to pay child support in Utah's first polygamy trial in nearly 50 years. He could get up to 25 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. Photo: APMr. Carpenter is trying to prove there is a difference between gay marriage and polygamous marriage, because he needs there to be one.

Unfortunately,he does not control that issue. Those who see an equivalency are going to go to court, or whatever path Mr. Carpenter trods for his "rights," and he will have no power over the "unintended consequences" of his actions.

Mr. Carpenter is not attempting a rational affirmative argument for gay marriage, nor is he attempting to deny the legal and rational grounds for the continuation of traditional marriage. Rather, he is attempting to deconstruct just one small reason for the continued denial of gay marriage-- the "slippery slope to polygamy" argument-- and in that he fails miserably, in my opinion. Please excuse the necessary length.

Here are the logical fallacies of the piece:

“[T]he effect of recognition on the individuals involved — the deprivation to gays of the gay marriage ban is greater than the deprivation to polygamists of the polygamy ban.” That is an opinion, and cannot be otherwise. It does not advance the argument one way or the other.

“The deprivation to the polygamist is large, especially if polygamy involves the exercise of his religious faith, but not total. The gay person, however, has no realistic choice of a mate available under a gay-marriage ban.” That is sheer and utter nonsense. Nothing prevents gay couples from committing to one another, just as polygamous “couples” do, without State involvement. In fact, the polygamist can be prosecuted if discovered, the gay would not be.

“Further, there is no ‘polygamous orientation’ causing a person to need the close companionship of multiple partners (though some people may prefer it).” Another baseless assertion, especially when there are many who argue that humans are NOT naturally monogamous. Gay marriage supporters often say that divorce proves gay marriage is OK. It also proves that polygamy may be.

“The ban on polygamous marriage is the denial of a preference, perhaps a strong one; the ban on gay marriage is the denial of personhood itself.” Only a gay person could make this statement. There are many ex-gays, celibate gays, and gays who don’t want to marry; it IS a choice.

“On the second issue — the effect of recognition on society — the differences between gay marriage and polygamous marriage are more pronounced.” That is a completely unwarranted assumption. If much of what we call a “society” is predicated on religion, and it is, and polygamy is accepted in the Bible but gay marriage is not, then the “effect” is quite the opposite.

“There is ample evidence that people who live in stable, committed couples are healthier, happier, and wealthier than those who are single.” And polygamous people can say the same thing. It isn’t about what makes you happy or rich, anyway, but about what society wishes to promote. Mr. Carpenter has yet to make a single distinction that would erect a roadblock on that slippery slope.

“Gay marriage is a good idea because it will benefit not only the gay couple but their families, friends, neighbors, and taxpayers whose burdens to care for the gay partners singly would be greater.” Also not true. Two gay men living together, each with an income, have no need for “care” from others, and getting “married” would not change that. If gay couples receive government benefits, though, other taxpayers will have to pay for it. Besides, isn’t this about “love?”

“While multi-partner marriages might benefit the partners involved, the much greater potential for jealousy and rivalry among the partners make for a volatile arrangement, reducing the expected benefits to them and to everyone else.” This is another spurious assumption. While the author might be considered a gay “expert,” he is not an expert in polygamy. The more generally accepted image is that [voluntary] polygamous arrangements are just as amicable as normal marriages.

“While we have some evidence that children do well when raised by same-sex couples, we have no evidence they do well when raised in communal living arrangements.” Nonsense. The evidence is overwhelmingly otherwise. “It takes a village,” after all, and the extended family situation, in which multiple adults care for children, has been highly successful. There is no evidence on polygamous families because arrest would immediately follow discovery.

“Since multi-partner marriages will almost always take the form of one man having many wives, they present special risks of exploitation and subordination of women, which is inconsistent with our society's commitment to sex equality.” This one is almost laughable. Our society has not committed to androgyny yet, which is the level of sex equality required to accept gay marriage as the equal of marriage as defined for thousands of years. Polygamy accepts that there are two genders, at least, and it is for the participants in a marriage to determine their own roles.

“Perhaps none of these considerations is a decisive argument against polygamous marriages.” That is absolutely correct. Most of them are simply opinions stated as fact, from which are drawn naturally erroneous conclusions.
“But at the very least they suggest that gay marriage and polygamous marriage present very different issues.” Quite the contrary; gay marriage is about changing the generally accepted and legal definition of marriage. Polygamy is about changing the generally accepted and legal definition of marriage. There are legal advocates ready to file suit for polygamy as soon as gay marriage is approved. The slippery slope is already buttered.

Fifty states already give legal recognition to "serial polygamy," but gay
marriage is recognized in only one and /that/ is under threat of repeal. Which
way does this slippery slope slope?