Friday, January 13, 2006

Canadian polygamy recommendations are irrelevant to same-sex mariage debate

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:59 PM |  

Okay. The comments are going to come fast and furious (and some already have via email) so I’ll put up the target. As Captain Ed reports today --
No sooner than Canada legalized gender-neutral marriage than a new study commissioned by their Justice Department has concluded that the government should repeal the criminalization of polygamy. In a report that the Canadian Press received confidentially, the Queen's University study not only recommends decriminalization but a regulatory system defining spousal support and inheritance rights based on marriage order and other considerations:
A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

“Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,” says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. “The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.” ...

Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.
Captain Ed rightly says --
Undeniably, though, the advocates for traditional marriage had it right when they argued that redefining marriage would open a Pandora's box for all sorts of other banned behaviors. The paleolibertarian argument will continue ad nauseam until the government will have to allow any combination of consenting adults, regardless of consanguinity, to form whatever sexual relationships they desire -- and then come up with laws that govern the messy outcomes of the failure of those relationships.
I don’t know about “paleolibertarians,” but certainly the liberal argument will continue ad nauseam -- and that has been my point all along in the same-sex marriage debate. A liberal implementation of same-sex marriage, the Canadian implementation of same-sex marriage, definitely creates the situation Ed describes. A conservative implementation of same-sex marriage definitely does not.

First and foremost the conservative approach definitively acknowledges that the authority to define marriage rests with the legislative branch of government, not the courts. The liberal/Canadian approach is to use the courts to mandate changes in marriage laws. Independent of same-sex marriage, the issue is one of separation of powers; arguing the issue based on one’s visceral reaction to same-sex relationships diminishes the importance of the separation of powers issue.

Second, focusing on same-sex marriage, same sex marriage requires no extension or change of marriage laws or benefits. Marriage is still between two people. No new privileges are required for same-sex couples that don’t already exist for opposite-sex couples. Other than eliminating the restriction on gender, there is no required change in marriage law.

To define a “polygamous marriage,” definite changes must be made, as the Canadian study recommends. There must be an extension of benefits. The law must address and untangle multiple partner family relationships. There must be massive changes in marriage law. The prospects for civil litigation increase geometrically.

Moreover, the benefits to society of two-person committed relationships is a conservative reason for supporting marriage. Same-sex marriage extends that societal benefit. Discounting gay activists, who are out to destroy marriage because of their political philosophy not their sexual orientation, same-sex partners that seek the spiritual commitment that comes from “marriage” affirm, not deny marriage tradition.

Polygamy does none of that. It complicates the legal system. Unlike incorporating same-sex couples into the existing marriage construct, polygamous marriage forms a whole new construct. Recognizing that the legislature has the sole authority to define marriage, there is no obligation to recognize polygamous relationships simply because same-sex marriage might be recognized. They are disconnected issues.

Along the same lines, polygamous marriage can be debated right now irrespective of the status of same-sex marriage. It’s a heterosexual activity, that produces lots of children -- something opponents of same-sex marriage argue such relationships cannot -- so maybe it’s a good thing. I am being factious, but the point is valid -- same-sex marriage has more in common with traditional marriage than it does with polygamous marriage.

Liberals and Canadians recommend lots of strange things. That shouldn’t divert Minnesotans from focusing on the basic conservative question -- Is society better off recognizing same-sex couples and providing the benefit of marriage to them and their children than it is by marginalizing them? The polygamy question is irrelevant.

Category: Same-Sex Marriage