Most Read
    Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

    On what rational basis does NY State now deny polyamorous clusters the right to marry?

    On what rational basis does NY State now deny polyamorous clusters the right to marry?

    The slippery slope argument. 

    Perhaps the best (or worst) example is the scene from Animal House in which an attempt by the student disciplinary council to discipline Delta House is turned into, through a series of slips and slopes, an alleged attack on the United States of America.  Slippery slope arguments have a way of ending up in absurd places, but the absurd end result does not negate a legitimate starting point.

    In the same-sex marriage debate, there were some stupid slippery slope arguments, for example, that eventually you would have a right to marry your dog.

    But when it comes to polyamory, the slippery slope argument had a sound footing and went something like this:  Once society moves away from the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, why stop at one-and-one?  If loving each other and having a healthy household in which to carry on one’s life, and in some cases to raise children, is the standard, then on what basis does one deny three or more people who meet those qualifications the right to legal recognition by the state as a marital unit, with all the benefits that accrue?

    The polyamory slippery slope argument was met with derision precisely because it raised a legitimate point.  There are ample historical and modern examples of societies which recognize polygamy and less frequently, polyandry.   A couple of years ago Newsweek ran an article arguing that polyamory was the wave fo the future here, accompanied by a photo history of polyamorous societies.  ABC News ran a similar article, in the context of the debate over Prop. 8 in California.

    The counter argument, that polyamory is a choice but homosexuality is not, is questionable.  Given the high rates of infidelity, particularly among our male politicians, there is every reason to believe that people are hard-wired not to be monogamous.  What better for society, the argument would go, than to give that non-monogamous tendency an outlet within the family unit?

    The legal argument in favor of same-sex marriage, which breaks a marriage down into pieces and then attempts to demonstrate that there is no rational basis to distinguish same-sex relationships, applies with equal force to polyamorous relationships, if one is going to be intellectually honest about it.

    Don’t take my word for it.  Listen to this audio clip of a talk by Martha Nussbaum, Professor at the University of Chicago School of Law and one of the most prominent intellects advocating for same-sex marriage.  (You will find the full hour and 25 minute audio at the link, but I’ve clipped the ending part where she discussed polygamy and incest.)  Nussbaum argues that most if not all of the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage apply to polygamous relationships, and even goes so far as to argue that modern genetic science demonstrates that there is no rational scientific basis for barring marriage as to some incestuous relationships.

    Once society decides that one-man, one-woman no longer is the “arbitrary” standard, on what rational basis do we stop at one-and-one?

    This is not a slippery slope argument against same-sex marriage, at least not in New York State.  Same-sex marriage has been signed into law and will become effective in less than 30 days.

    Why stop at one-and-one?


    Donations tax deductible
    to the full extent allowed by law.


    Captain Obvious | June 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I didn’t really miss that point, as I wasn’t writing about the purpose of marriage… it just wasn’t relevant to a post addressing the legal rationale for government involvement in marriage. You’re not wrong, I just don’t think you’re using “legitimate” in the same sense I’m using “legal”. It don’t disagree there exists disparate real reasons why people are passionately for or against, but when it arguments come to a court room, I think the licensing issue is what should be addressed, and I’ve never heard it tackled by either side.

    There is no slippery slope from gay unions by any name or word within 100,000 words of “marriage” in the dictionary to polygamy or polyandry — the latter two are heterosexual institutions found in many societies, and endorsed by the Bible itself. Heterosexual marriage is the slippery slope to polygamy or serial marriages, not us.

    Us gay folks keep saying this — we are gay, and you are not, and we have unions. I personally know couples who have been “married” longer than the combined six marriages of Newt and The Donald, and those two didn’t claim gay unions caused their failings. And I know couples whom no doubt are “married” longer than you Mr. Jacobson, and probably pay more in taxes. We already have had unions legally recognized for decades — only under commercial law, and not family law. We wish to be included in family law. This would make it automatic, and not make us jump through hoops and gyrations in a multitude of differing ways to effect what you heteros do automatically without a thought or a lawyer. If family law is, say, Title II, and we don’t quite fit, then give us Title II 1/2.

    However, what you heterosexuals do is your business. Do not attempt to claim that what you do is dependent on somehow denying our reality. The reality is gay unions exist without a shred of societal support, so logically, we do it even better than you folks. There are no fairy tales for “fairies” after all. But despite the enormous societal support for hetero unions you all have botched it up big time. Do not blame us for your shortcomings, now or in the future. No hetero ever got a divorce or committed adultery or bigamy, or the pseudo-legal polygamy by Mormon fundamentalists, by claiming there was a commercially partnered gay couple on the other side of town or down the block. Nor will you all cease messing with the “sanctity” of marriage, heralded more in the breach than the practice, because we gays now have a legal regime to recognize the unions which exist in reality. And conservatives, my dear professor, deal in reality.

    On the other hand, we do have assets, wealth, houses, business, insurance, wills, and all manner of other life-reality things going on that require some legal recognition of some kind to effect what we wish to do as citizens of this nation ought to have a right to do — and yes, we don’t leave it to our kids, unless we adopt some, or have some from our ex-hetero lives, because we don’t have kids. But we do leave our assets, etc, to our nieces, nephews, siblings, charity, etc. And why should we be denied some legal mechanism to do so in a free Republic merely because heterosexuals have bollixed the institution of marriage without us having a thing to do with it? Surely Henry VIII didn’t use gay marriage as an excuse for his divorces, did he?

    Let me paraphrase Jesus: render unto heteros what is hetero, and unto gays what is gay.

    And as for “natural,” there is now ever more increasing evidence that gay men react differently to a whole range of drugs than do hetero men — give a pill to a hetero guy it does one thing, to a gay guy it does another — something must be afoot biologically. And that has nothing to do with polygamy, but brain chemistry and wiring. Put us on the autism spectrum if it will help you deal, and be done with the nonsense already.

    And the quicker you all come to this conclusion the quicker the whole thing will just disappear and we shall return to our rather quiet, peaceful, productive little gay lives with which you interact every day anyway — have you never flown and seen the flight(y) attendant? Stayed at a hotel? Gone to a little theater or Broadway show? An antique store or interior design firm? Whom do you think is filling those positions which enable you and your wife to enjoy your time? And we have already set up a complete separate “pink” economy to get as far away from you all as possible, to spare us the grief of listening to you all complain how terrible we all are, or to spare you the grief of having to witness reality which so many of you can’t handle. You have Club Med, we have Club Ted, for heaven’s sake.

    But I’m sure tired of hearing how the entire hetero world is dependent on the continued denigration of gay folks, and the denial of the reality of our relationships, as if gays are lynchpin of it all. We are just not that important — but deserve a whole lot better than to just be pilloried and hounded all our days.

    Oh yah, on a very practical political note — I have never heard of a political movement that wins elections by chasing votes away as the Republican Party seeks to do. I have too many Palinista gay friends, and you know I am very conservative on everything – which to me, also includes gayness — for I do recognize the reality of my existence within this Republic, which is not a theocracy. And might I remind you, sir — no force on this earth is going to stomp us out of existence. We shall not go quietly to the spiritual or physical slaughter which so many still seem to call for. I will not “pray my gay away” as is demanded of me, so that I will be forced to join some religion which I will not adhere to. You wouldn’t either; that’s the point of your blog, isn’t it? The inquisition and forced conversion of me is unto Medieval Spain converting Jews on penalty of death. And I have never even so much as kissed a girl, and have no earthly clue as to what else to do with the fair sex other than treat them as I wish to be treated.

    And I will also add, as the most politically astute member of my family, I am asked about the Tea Party movement which enthralls me, and I must somehow convince my 60 member extended family — who has known I was gay since I was 10 years old — to not vote for the socialists destroying this great nation — or to vote for someone whom thinks they are going to once again outlaw me, harangue, harass and hound me, and threaten to incarcerate me or do whatever you all think will be done with us. We are so few and are so dispersed that we have no real effective political power other than to keep up this sort of begging and pleading for a recognition of our reality. But if anyone thinks I’m going to recommend voting for someone like Santorum or Bachmann so that my family’s gay boy (me) is the target of the police state once again is out of their minds. Get a grip sir, get a grip. We gays are here to stay. And we earn a hell of a lot of money, and are taxed at the same confiscatory rates, and we deal with the same inflation and the same gas prices, and falling home prices. If I might pun, for I always endeavor to be humorous — gays are like ripe fruits ready for plucking. Come and get our votes — don’t chase them away — for the good of the nation, and for yourself and your family. Thanks.

    Captain Obvious | June 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    If one admits that heteros “never” claim that “gays are responsible” for the problems with marriage, it’s rather absurd to then argue against the pseudo argument your opponents admittedly aren’t making. You might think you’re bravely vanquishing dragons, but the rest of us are watching you tilt at windmills. To rail about the most visible problems with marriage being different from the consequences of same sex marriage (which is debatable) is not to prove that those consequences are not also problems. In acknowledging the symptoms of national marriage problems, it needs to be understood that what they fundamentally stem from is a lack of respect for the institution and what it achieves.

    Conservatives do deal in reality, and that means considering the consequences to the long-term big picture, not just the selfish short-term good for an individual case, else we’d all be welfare queens (I can make puns too!). No-fault divorce is a short-term individual-case good… it allows someone in a bad situation to escape it. Who could oppose that? Yet we recognize that macroscopically this has had disastrous consequences in exploding the divorce rate, not just because it’s easier to divorce, but because the lack of consequences makes those considering marriage do so less seriously, with a fundamental dearth of respect for the solemnity of both vows and legal responsibilities, which has lead simultaneously to fewer couples bothering to marry at all, and a higher proportion of those who do naively getting into “bad situations” in the first place.

    While a piece of paper from the government with the word “marriage” on it instead of “civil union” might make a loving devoted couple feel all warm and fuzzy (who could oppose that?) what effect do you think it has in general on people’s respect for the institution to redefine legal words on a whim? Your argument is that it’s such a wonderful thing to have that it is such a wrong to be denied, but that belies your cognitively dissonant argument that it’s so screwed up already that we shouldn’t care what the consequences are.

    That strawman dealt with, what you’re asking for is a handout… a special coupon for free legal services as you’ve admitted. Nobody, not even you, believes for a second that conferring “Title II 1/2” wouldn’t INSTANTLY be met with a lawsuit decrying “separate but equal”.

    You want the license without doing what is legally required to qualify for the license. We got it. The answer is “no,” for the good reasons outlined above. You are not being subjected to Torquemada just because you can’t have free government cheese, nor because conservatives rightly won’t use the force of government to make others more accepting of your lifestyle. You are not being “driven away” unless that is the only issue you care about. Skip the persecution complex, make whatever private vows you want to with your partner, reflect in the fact that those are the only part of marriage which SHOULD matter to you, take whatever legal steps you need to in securing your property and posterity, and enjoy your life. Best of luck to you and your family, and I hope you continue to be a good sane fiscal conservative.

    mark.bauer | July 3, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Captain Obvious, this takes “friends with benefits” to a new extreme.

    Leave a Comment

    Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Notify me of followup comments via e-mail (or subscribe without commenting.)

    Font Resize
    Contrast Mode
    Send this to a friend