Most churches and theological traditions have their controversies, spats, factions, and schisms. Unfortunately, that is to be expected among groups of people with strong beliefs. One would think, though, that Unitarian Universalists would be relatively immune from internal controversies over doctrine, morality, or practice. After all, Unitarians can believe anything, everything, or nothing at all.
But there is contention among Unitarians over the definition of marriage and whether the denomination should support the legalization of and perform weddings for those who have previously been denied that right. Not gay marriage–Unitarians have signed on to that years ago–but polyamory. (Not to be confused with polygamy, a relationship that is “poly,” to use the favored term, may include two men and three women or any other combination of multiple partnes.)
From Lisa Miller in the Washington Post:
Within the ranks of the UUA over the past few years, there has been some quiet unrest concerning a small but activist group that vociferously supports polyamory. That is to say “the practice of loving and relating intimately to more than one other person at a time,” according to a mission statement by Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA). The UUPA “encourages spiritual wholeness regarding polyamory,” including the right of polyamorous people to have their unions blessed by a minister.
UUA headquarters says it has no official position on polyamory. “Official positions are established at general assembly and never has this issue been brought to general assembly,” a spokeswoman says.
But as the issue of same-sex marriage heads to the Supreme Court, many committed Unitarians think the denomination should have a position, which is that polyamory activists should just sit down and be quiet. For one thing, poly activists are seen as undermining the fight for same-sex marriage. The UUA has officially supported same-sex marriage, the spokeswoman says, “since 1979, with tons of resolutions from the general assembly.” . . .
The UUPA has received its share of attention over the years – a PBS interview, a San Francisco Chronicle article – but mostly it has caused anguish and dissent among Unitarians. In 2007, a Unitarian congregation in Chestertown, Md., heard a sermon by a poly activist named Kenneth Haslam, arguing that polyamory is the next frontier in the fight for sexual and marriage freedom. “Poly folks are strong believers that each of us should choose our own path in forming our families, forming relationships, and being authentic in our sexuality.”
Over coffee last week, a friend of mine who is studying to become a Unitarian minister wondered aloud how she would feel if folks in a future congregation asked her to perform a polyamorous commitment ceremony. She is a traditionalist; she’s glad, she says, that the issue hasn’t come up.
This future female minister is a traditionalist! She is fine with gay marriage, but she draws the line at polyamory! Why?
Isn’t this a case in which the slippery slope fallacy is not a fallacy? If gay marriage is legalized, don’t the same arguments also justify other arrangements? What possible legal objection could the state, having legalized gay marriage, make against polygamy (which can also be argued for on religious freedom and multi-cultural grounds, the monogamy laws arguably being discriminatory against Islam and fundamentalist Mormonism)? What possible legal objection could be made against polyamory? In fact, if we legalize gay marriage, shouldn’t we, as a matter of equity and consistency, go ahead and legalize all of the others?