Should polygamy be legal?

A judge in Utah recently ruled Utah’s anti-polygamy laws unconstitutional:

Advocacy groups for polygamy and individual liberties on Saturday hailed a federal judge’s ruling that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional, saying it will remove the threat of arrest for those families.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said in the decision handed down Friday that a provision in Utah law forbidding cohabitation with another person violated the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

The ruling was a victory for Kody Brown and his four wives who star in the hit TLC reality show ‘‘Sister Wives’’ and other fundamentalist Mormons who believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

This ruling doesn’t legalize polygamy, but if upheld it would decriminalize it. I have no doubt that is the correct ruling, whether due to religious freedom or individual liberty. In either case, I see no reason why any government can tell people with whom they can and cannot live. (Utah didn’t even stop at that rights violation: the state went so far as to say people couldn’t claim to be married to multiple people.) However, the question of legalization is a different one.

It’s hard to see a reason why one should care about the lifestyle choice of consenting adults. I don’t. It doesn’t affect anyone else in any way whatsoever. However, that doesn’t mean the government should necessarily go about endorsing contractual agreements that bestow various rights, privileges, and tax conditions.

The fundamental question concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage is one of equality: the government can’t invent/endorse a practice that it limits on the basis of an inherent human condition like race or sexual orientation – at least not since the 14th Amendment. That’s exactly what it has been doing (and in many states is still doing) by barring same-sex couples from marrying. With polygamy, however, that is not what’s happening. The basis for barring polygamous marriages is rooted, right or wrong, entirely in a moral stance which passes judgement on the preferences, not orientation, of individuals. Polygamous marriages and same-sex marriages are apples and oranges.

None of this – to this point – is to say one way or another whether or not I’m in favor of legalizing polygamous marriages. Up until now I’ve only discussed what it is. So with that said, let me state: I don’t think it should be legal. I have two primary reasons for my position.

First, I believe one of the most important rights bestowed upon couples who get married is one of spousal privilege where a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against another spouse in a court. Aside from the fact that any right which prevents the government from gaining any evidence against a person for any reason is a fundamentally good thing for freedom, spousal privilege is necessary to fostering healthy relationships. Allowing the government to force a spouse to turn on another spouse can only serve to prevent married couples from free discussion, thus weakening their marriages. This right is to marriages as the ecclesiastical privilege is to religious freedom. Just as forcing clergy to divulge information told to them by penitents would weaken a person’s ability to freely practice his religion, forcing a spouse to divulge information gained via marriage would weaken a couple’s marital bonds. Now, the reason I bring this up is that there is absolutely no circumstance in which I believe this right should be destroyed, yet that is exactly what would be necessary if polygamy was legalized. If any number of individuals could marry, there is nothing stopping a criminal enterprise from conducting a mass marriage, thus gaining spousal privilege for any number of thugs. This would be great for their freedom, but it would be very bad for everyone else’s safety. (In a weeks-old discussion from Facebook someone made the point that if just one person wanted a divorce, it would become necessary for all the other spouses to divulge all financial information, which no crime organization would want. I was asked if I really thought such people would expose themselves that way. The answer, of course, is yes. First, it’s a risk, to say the least, to divorce one’s self from a crime organization, whether in a symbolic sense or in this fictional legal world. Second, crime organizations aren’t exactly known for their well reconciled check books.)

Second, it’s hard to fathom how the tax code would cope with this change in law. A fundamental overhaul would be necessary, which could be done I suppose, but no doubt people would take advantage of it for the sake of saving a few bucks, no matter how careful the changes were. I know I would. This isn’t an insurmountable objection to polygamy (hence why it’s my second, not my first, point), but it’s definitely a huge issue.

At any rate, criminalizing polygamy is just making up a crime. And being against polygamy on moral grounds is some pretty weak sauce. However, simply due to a single, fundamental right bestowed upon married couples, I can’t possibly support legalized polygamous marriages. I imagine there are actually a host of rights to be considered here, but I see no need to go beyond just the one given its importance. We can’t get rid of it – that weakens marriage and individual freedom – and we can’t grant it to everyone – the exploitation would be insane – and we can’t grant it to one group of married couples while denying it to another – that’s no different from what we’re seeing now with the non-legalization of same-sex marriage. The only solution is to keep legal marriage defined to two individuals.

Congratulations, Minnesota and Rhode Island

Equality is happening in two more states right now and no one is worse off for it. No one:

Dozens of Minnesota gay couples made last-minute preparations Wednesday for midnight marriages, determined to exchange vows at the earliest possible moment under a new state law legalizing same-sex marriage…

“It feels historic. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Tim Roberts, the Stearns County court administrator, who planned to perform a 12:01 a.m. wedding at the courthouse in St. Cloud.

Rhode Island was joining Minnesota on Thursday in becoming the 12th and 13th U.S. states to allow gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal. The first gay weddings in Rhode Island were planned for later Thursday morning.

Don’t worry, bigots. You’ll be okay. Your parents and grandparents were fine when interracial marriage became legal. You can make it through this.

Equality in Minnesota

I find this one particularly satisfying given the interactions I’ve had with some bigots from Minnesota:

Minnesota is poised to become the second Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage after the state House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would allow the practice.

The House had been considered the measure’s toughest hurdle. The bill passed 75 to 59 and heads to the state’s Democratic-majority Senate, which is expected to consider it Monday.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has said he will sign the measure.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest objection to equality came from the religious quarter. Denouncing that they were bigots, many appealed to the fact that their misgiving were premised not in hatred, but rather deep belief. As if the sincerity of the bigotry changes that it is, in stark fact, bigotry.

And down go the dominoes

As more and more Americans begin to realize that sexual orientation and morality have zero connection, more and more states keep making marriage equal:

In the past week, Rhode Island and Delaware became the 10th and 11th states to approve gay marriage. But so far, only legislatures in coastal or New England states have voted affirmatively for gay marriage. Except for Iowa, which allows gay marriage due to a 2009 judicial ruling, same-sex couples can’t get married in flyover country.

Minnesota might go first, but Illinois could be close behind. The state Senate there voted in February to allow same-sex marriage, and supporters think they’re close to securing the votes needed to get it through the House and on to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who says he’ll sign it.

Officially, Maine was the first state to make marriage equal by way of the ballot box, but it soon became officially legal in Maryland and Washington the same night. Not long after, Rhode Island caught up with the rest of New England through the legislative process, and, to the surprise of many, did it with very strong Republican support. Now the states that value liberty the most eagerly await the next moves in the mid-west and west.

People become Republicans because of religion

At least for the vast majority, that is. See here:

With no debate, Republicans at the party’s spring meeting here on Friday unanimously approved a number of resolutions, including one that reaffirmed the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

“The Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America,” the resolution read. The 157 RNC members present approved it in a voice vote.

I’ve made the claim in the past that the reason people turn to the GOP is out of their conservative Christianity. To me, this is a very tiny, very obvious claim. Basically dishonest people who aren’t interested in critical thinking (or doing any research, but I digress), such as the odious Michael Hartwell, have tried to spin my statement in a way where in order to prove it I would have to explicitly know the minds of every single Republican. Under his requirements, we could never surmise why anyone becomes anything if the group we’re discussing is sufficiently large. (This is interesting, too, since he has gone the racist route of claiming that blacks vote for Democrats because they benefit from and like handouts.)

At any rate, I think this is all quite obvious: Most people who become Republican are first fundamentally religious, soon recognizing that there is a political party which reflects their religiosity. The re-affirmation of the GOP’s opposite to marriage equality is a perfect example of this because there are no good (or even honest) secular arguments against allowing same-sex couples their constitutionally guaranteed right to marriage. That is, it is the base Christianity that underlies the Republican party that has caused this vote and view; we don’t live in some backwards world where people became bigoted Republicans all on their own, later noticing that a particular cultural religion happens to exactly reflect their positions.

Don’t be shy

People shy from frank and aggressive language in a lot of instances, but I think that’s sometimes inappropriate. For example, there’s this desire to engage in some sort of ‘respectful’ conversation with those who support ‘traditional’ marriage*, as if they deserve equal time and opportunity – despite overtly advocating to deny basic equalities and opportunities to gay people. I disagree with that desire. These people are blatant bigots and should be called as much.

Affording undue respect to scummy people like this is exactly the same as affording undue respect to a member of the KKK or some other racist organization. You lend validity to a view when you say it deserves a fair shake and a good listen. Don’t do that shit.

*I, of course, mean marriage as defined between one man and one woman in relatively recent times by, mostly, Western culture. I am not referring to marriage where dowries and goats are involved, as happened early on before our invention of particular gods.

The collapse of bigotry

Progress marches on:

A solid majority of Americans support gay marriage, capping a complete reversal in public opinion in less than a decade

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that a solid 58 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with 36 percent who believe it should be illegal. The findings represent nothing less than a stunning collapse of opposition to gay marriage: As recently as 2003, the numbers were reversed, with 37 percent favoring gay marriage, and 55 percent opposing.

As the elderly die off, religious adherence decreases, and perspectives and understandings increase in a shrinking world, the equal treatment of gay members and families of society has been on the rise. I would expect nothing less.

The fact is, one of the last times we saw anti-gay bigots come away with a significant victory was in my state of Maine in 2009. That was an off-year for elections and the spending by religious groups (especially the Catholic Church) was astronomical. They were able to organize effectively and take advantage of a relatively low voter turnout. However, they failed decisively in 2012 when Mainers made marriage equal. And why did this happen? Maine is an older, rural state, so while people die and the world shrinks, those effects are not massive here. What was significant, though, was that our generally non-religious nature was able to show through. There are no honest secular arguments against marriage for gay couples, and I think people recognized that. The integrity of secular morality was able to overcome the temporary dominance of religious ideology once a fair showing of voters happened.

If the courts don’t follow the 14th Amendment and the rest of the constitution soon, equality in marriage will still become commonplace anyway. It’s a matter of time.

And the boots of progress continue…

The Obama administration has just gotten even more active in being on the right side of history:

The Obama administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act in a brief that calls the law unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argues in the brief that Section 3 of the 1996 federal law prohibits the marriage of same-sex couples and should get the court’s close scrutiny:

“The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional.”

Emphasis mine. It’s clear that DOMA and other anti-equality measures have always been about a lack of comfort and sexual maturity amongst Christians and those who have been duped by bogus Christian arguments and, often, outright lies.

I, for one, cannot wait to see marriage equality spread across the United States. The only downside is that when absolutely nothing bad happens as a result, I’ll be stuck being associated with the dwindling but still strong base of bigots that pervade my generation and the generation ahead of me.

And the march continues…

Deciding that the right side of history is where they want to be, the U.K., France, and Illinois have all taken steps this month toward putting into law a requirement that same-sex couples be allowed to marry. I think we can expect to see more of this in parts of the world that tend to be enlightened. And if we’re lucky, the U.S. Supreme Court will follow the 14th Amendment and declare that marriage for same-sex couples is required so long as a state decides it wants to have marriage at all. (As I’ve said before, I expect Political Figure Scalia to contradict previous arguments he has made and principles he has stated, but I hope I’m wrong.)

Remember this about Political Figure Antonin Scalia:

Earlier this year I made a prediction about how Political Figure Antonin Scalia will rule when he finds legal briefs on marriage equality for gay people on his desk: I don’t think he will hold to any of the ‘principles’ he has spent the past several decades selectively applying. Specifically, he has said that the ruling in Lawrence v Texas opened the door for equality in marriage:

“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” Scalia wrote.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion said the Court’s ruling against anti-sodomy laws “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”

Scalia’s retort: “Do not believe it.”

“This case ‘does not involve’ the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court,” he wrote.

First, I find it abhorrent that part of this guy’s ‘logic’ in his dissent was nothing more than a slippery slope argument he needed to make in order to defend the personal political and religious agenda he was clearly infusing into his response. Second, it is abundantly clear that if he has any integrity, he must force himself to rule in favor of marriage equality, regardless of how much it offends his personal sexual immaturity and bronze age ideas of morality.

I’m not expecting anyone to be surprised after this ruling, though.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers