GOP Candidate’s Genius Arguments Against Marriage Equality

A Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Wisconsin offered up a genius argument against marriage equality, that it could lead to two sisters or two brothers being allowed to get married. Cue the slippery slope argument.

A candidate in the Republican primary for the Third U.S. Congressional district said Tuesday that a recent federal ruling striking down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban could lead to incestuous marriages.

Karen Mueller, an attorney from Chippewa Falls, spoke about the issue with her two opponents, Army veteran Tony Kurtz, Prairie du Chien, and building contractor Ken Van Doren, Mauston, at a “Meet the Candidates” event in Tomah sponsored by the Republican Party of Monroe County.

Mueller said the argument that any two people who are committed to each other should by allowed to marry must, by extension, apply to members of the same family.

“We’ve got, for instance, two sisters, and these two sisters want to get married. They love each other. They are committed to each other. They want to spend the rest of their life together,” Mueller said.

She said their lawyers could argue, “‘We can just do away with that state law the same way we did away with sodomy laws.’ Once you do away with that, you reveal what is really going on here.”

Lawyers can argue anything, but that doesn’t mean they’re gonna get it. Every single question of whether this person should be allowed to marry that person is a distinct one, with the upshot being: Does the government have a compelling interest in preventing such marriages? The opponents of interracial marriage made the exact same argument Mueller is making, but would that have justified not allowing those of different races to marry? Of course not.

If the government can’t show a compelling need to prevent incest or polygamy, then the laws preventing such marriages should be overturned.

"Yep. Principally raking in a nice fat paycheck for hauling the party line."

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  • Marcus Ranum

    With prenatal screening, it’s probably reasonable to allow brothers/sisters in whatever combination to get married. Why not?

    The only question should be consent. I cannot marry a badger because the badger will not agree to it (emphatically, as only a badger can!)

  • Zeno

    If consenting adults want to get married, let them get married. I hardly care what number or arrangement wants to tie the knot. Except for the prevention of genetically dangerous inbreeding, what interest does the government have in regulating it? I’m sure we have lawyers enough to iron out all the details.

  • Chiroptera

    Zeno, #2: Except for the prevention of genetically dangerous inbreeding….

    Is there currently in US law any demographic or occupational group that is forbidden to marry because of the genetic risk to potential offspring?

    The only precedents that come to mind is the eugenics movement of the 1920s and 1930s where the genetic argument was used to cover up a nastier social agenda.

  • comfychair

    And allowing persons of opposite sex to marry inevitably leads to brothers and sisters marrying, therefore we must ban straight marriage. This is a much greater threat to civilization than gay marriage since there are far more straight people out there.

    Man, this ‘small government’ thing sure is gonna need a lot of new laws and a lot of people to enforce them!

  • daved

    I have a feeling that plural marriages, especially if there are children involved, could lead to immense complexities. As soon as there are children, divorces, additional spouses, etc, it could get very messy.

  • jd142

    @5 – On the other hand, which is most likely better for a child from a support standpoint: going from 2 parents to one or going from 4 parents to 3? I think the study that all of the anti-equality people use actually suggested that 2 parents, regardless of gender, are usually going to be better than 1(although the way the study was done was so horrible that you couldn’t say that as a real conclusion). So I’d expect as the number of people providing emotional and financial support increases, so does the chance of a more stable family for the child.

    The loss of family through divorce is always going to cause some mental anguish. Any dramatic change does. But from the perspective of the child, the more support available the better. At least that would be my assumption.

    The biggest complexities I can see are more related to benefits like social security for the surviving spouses. My solution to that is that every person gets 1 unit of SS benefit to dispose of after their death. If the person is survived by 4 spouses, each one gets 1/4 of that benefit. I don’t know what the current law is for SS survivor benefits for ex-spouses, but just use that and to that math. It get can complicated enough already. If I have 2 exes and 1 current wife, how is my SS death benefit divided?

  • Gregory in Seattle

    @daved #5 – That is the chief argument against plural marriage. Extant laws and precedences are based on there being two people in a marriage, so it is legally trivial to make two person marriage gender neutral. Three person marriage would require creating an entire body of case law from scratch.

    Just one example: separation of assets when the relationship breaks up, a matter of legitimate legal interest. With a two person marriage, that is easy. With a three person marriage, you have to deal with the situation of all three separating versus one person leaving. Another issue: power of attorney. With two people, it is easy: in the event one person is incapacitated, the other person has the authority to make medical and financial decisions. With three people, you must either decide which one has that authority, or figure out how to handle differences of opinion if both have that authority (A is on life support but otherwise terminal. B believes in death with dignity, while C believes that a medical miracle is just around the corner. Whose wishes take precedent?)

    This is why the whole “if same-sex then why not polygamy?” argument is ridiculous. Accommodating same-sex marriage is essentially cosmetic, while it would be a huge task to accommodate plural marriage.

  • daved

    @6 — My point was not that there couldn’t also be advantages to plural marriages, it was that they induce some complexities that I don’t think have been thought through. Your example of survivor benefits is just one. Heinlein touched on it a bit in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, when he mentioned the difficulties of divorce in his fictional Lunar society. And his example was the relatively simple case of a woman with two husbands, one of whom is being let go. If you have joint ownership of property, if you have children, etc etc etc. Shucks, divorces in contemporary society can be a mess, and you’re only dealing with two spouses.

  • Gregory in Seattle

    @jd142 #6 – If a plural marriage goes from 4 parents to 3, how do you determine if the departing adult is obligated to provide child support? That is sticky enough when the marriage has only two people and there are centuries of case law. If there are no children, what about alimony? What about community property in states where married partners are assumed to be co-owners of family assets? Even if laws could be created — and created consistently at all levels of government in all legal jurisdictions at the same time — it would take decades, at least, to establish a body of guiding precedent.

  • chisaihana5219

    To JD142. From the SS gov website:If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. So if you have 2 ex-wives who were each married to you for at least 10 years, each one could apply for SS benefits. As a divorced spouse, when I retired I had the option to recieve my own benefits or 1/2 of my former spouses benefits, which is greater. It would be possible for both your ex-wives and your widow to receive benefits if they are married long enough. Your children from any and all marriages get survivor benefits.

  • John Pieret

    For a lawyer, using as an example two sisters is particularly stupid. Since two sisters can’t, at least without some fancy genetic manipulation we are not really capable of right now, have offspring, it totally undermines the real objection to incest, the danger of genetic defects in the children.

  • jd142

    @daved – Yeah, sorry about that. I took your post as a starting point for a tangent and realized after I hit post that it sounded like *I* thought you were taking a position that *you didn’t actually take*. So my bad on that and I apologize. (Did we just break the Internet because we handled a misunderstanding like adults?)

    @9 and others – It is certainly complex – no denying that – but I also think it is possible. For someone who is not designed for poly relationships, I seem to have spent time thinking about it. Mainly because like gay marriage, I think it should be a right and I was trying to think about it objectively. Plus, there are already precedents, or at least guides, for a lot of these things.

    – Child support – In current divorce, as I understand it, the non-custodial spouse is expected to provide support equivalent to what would have been provided if the marriage hadn’t ended. If my wife makes 10,000 and I make 20,000 and the child “costs” 6,000, then I should owe 4,000 is she is the custodial. If I did the math right, 1+2=3, 2 is 2/3 of 3, and 4,000 is 2/3 of 6,000. Just do the same math for a poly family. Child “costs” 6,000. A makes 10,000, B makes 15,000, C makes 15,000 and D makes 20,000, for a total of 60,000. Just do the math out in proportion so the people who leave pay their share back to the custodial family.

    – Community property. If A, B, and C split completely, then A gets 1/3 of B’s and 1/3 of C’s. B gets 1/3 of A’s and 1/3 of C’s. C get’s 1/3 of B and 1/3 of A. With all of the same asset exceptions there are now(if any). And the court should be smart about it(I know, I know): if A, B, and C each have a car of roughly equal value, A doesn’t get 1/3 of each of the 3 cars. They each get their own.

    – Power of attorney. We already have complex rules in family law court; I think we could adapt them. There are plenty of cases where a family law court judge has to appoint 1 parent in a divorced couple as the person who can make medical decisions for a minor and the wishes of the parents are in conflict. The judge just has to decided between 3 or 4 instead of 2. And no majority rule. 2 parents could be Christian Scientists who won’t allow a blood transfusion, and the 3rd could be sane. The judge decides what is best for the child, not just majority rule.

    The sad fact is that these rules aren’t consistent for 2 parent families now. As you say, states have a wide variety of community property laws, and some have none. IIRC, Iowa, where I’m from, still has a law on the books that a widow must get a certain percentage of her dead husband’s farmland. Or something like that. I doubt non-farm states have something like that.

    We have case law about adoptions. A puts B up for adoption. C and D adopt, but then divorce. C is in jail D dies. A fights the parents of C and D for rights to the child. And then we get to throw grandparents into the mix as well.

    Or complex medical situations. Bob and Alice marry. Alice is infertile. Charlene, Alice’s sister donates an egg for Bob’s sperm. The embryo is implanted in Diane. Alice and Bob divorce and both want the kid for a single parent household. Charlene thinks the child would be better off with her and her husband Ed in a 2 parent household. Diane thinks since she gave birth, she should get the kid. I’d have to look up the exact medical procedure, but we can now take Bob’s sperm, Charlene’s egg (minus mitochondrial DNA), and Irene’s mitochondrial DNA to create a child to implant in Diane. Now we’re up to 4 people with some sort of biological connection to the kid, plus Alice as the mother for a total of 5 parental interests in the kid. Now add 10 sets of grandparents.

    A poly triad is simple by comparison. :)

    I hope the paragraphs come out ok. The preview in FF isn’t showing them correctly, even with added returns between them.

  • busterggi

    I am so looking forward to right-wing heads exploding when one or both of the Hensel twins gets engaged.

  • matty1

    I am so looking forward to right-wing heads exploding when one or both of the Hensel twins gets engaged.

    To each other?

  • Kimpatsu

    This guy’s a bit late to the party; right-wing British blowhard Norman Tebbit made the same facile argument several years ago. (Tebbit was one of the members of Thatcher’s cabinet in the 1980s who rammed through Section 28, a law that prohibited the “promotion” of homosexuality.)

  • Wes Aaron

    Given that we already have laws against (close or fairly close) relatives marrying, how does allowing gay marriage circumvent those laws?

    I understand that they aren’t going to have any offspring together (if they are the same sex), but it still doesn’t negate that you cannot marry too close to your family.

    I don’t see the causal link between this and incest?

    Sounds like a slippery slope argument.

  • Matrim

    I never bought the excuse that poly would be too difficult to manage, we handle communal property and responsibility all the time, it’s called incorporation. It would be trivial to adapt modern corporate law to handle the kind of property arrangements needed for a multi-person marriage.

    @1, Marcus

    With prenatal screening, it’s probably reasonable to allow brothers/sisters in whatever combination to get married. Why not?

    Why would prenatal screening be necessary? We don’t prevent people who have potentially fatal or otherwise disabling genetic conditions from getting married.

    My only qualm with incestuous relationships involve power dynamics. I’d be concerned about someone with obvious power over their partner regardless of the genetic proximity (things like parent-child incest, guardian-ward relationships, or boss-employee relationships). The genetics are a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.