On threesomes and marriage

triplearch22The mainstream media really hasn’t done a very good job covering the heated debate over whether to extend the institution of marriage to same-sex couples. It’s been a problem for years and the coverage has been so amazingly one-sided that it’s surprising that all 30 states that have asked voters to define marriage as a heterosexual institution have done so. Part of it is that the mainstream media has long been an elite institution with views on homosexuality somewhat out-of-step with the general populace.

Five years ago, for instance, Pew found that journalists were more than twice as likely to self identify as liberals than conservatives and that 88 percent of journalists felt society should accept homosexuality compared with 51 percent of the general public. That same poll found that nearly half said that journalists’ ideological views color their work. Probably none of this is surprising to any media observer. But it means we get a number of emotional puff pieces about same-sex marriage with hardly any — if any — seriously engaging the concerns that the majority of voters in the majority of states have registered about making changes to how society has viewed marriage since its inception.

A few years ago, Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler wrote (in a column I can no longer find online) that “critics who say the paper has had few, if any, features portraying opponents of this social change in a positive or even neutral light have a point. The overall picture, it seems to me, could use more balance.”

Okay. It took five years but the Post found one — and only one, the reporter repeatedly reminds us — supporter of traditional marriage who it can portray in a “positive or even neutral light.” It doesn’t go deep in describing his arguments and it throws pretty much every other traditional marriage supporter under the bus in doing so — but it’s not actively hostile (toward him — and only him) like so many other pieces about traditional marriage activists are. Here’s how it opens:

The nightmares of gay marriage supporters are the Pat Robertsons of the world. The James Dobsons, the John Hagees — the people who specialize in whipping crowds into frothy frenzies, who say things like Katrina was caused by the gays.

The gay marriage supporters have not met Brian Brown. They should. He might be more worth knowing about.

That’s a pretty weaselly introduction, there. I’m sure the Post newsroom doesn’t feel the same affection for James Dobson as it does for Vice President Joe Biden but a few things here. Maybe they all look alike from the cozy confines of the newsroom but not every evangelical or charismatic Christian believes the same thing. It’s unfair to describe them as “whipping crowds into frothy frenzies” and while it’s a butchering of the actual statement regarding hurricanes being acts of God, be careful who you ascribe it to. Thanks Snopes!

Anyway, you get the basic device reporter Monica Hesse is using: Most traditional marriage supporters are crazed bigots but there’s this one guy who is not vomiting while his head is spinning around. His name is Brian Brown.

But apart from the misrepresentation of what a lot of people believe, the device is probably the only way you’re going to get a feature profile of someone with his views in the paper. And within its own logic, it works. Brown is the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which works to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Hesse characterizes the aforementioned Christian-types as “fringes” who appeal to the far wings:

But this country is not made up of people in the far wings, right or left. This country is made up of a movable middle, reasonable people looking for reasonable arguments to assure them that their feelings have a rational basis.

Brian Brown speaks to these people. He has a master’s degree from Oxford, and completed course work for a doctorate in history from UCLA. He shoulders the accusations of bigotry; it’s horrible when people say that your life’s mission is actually just prejudice. He tries to help people see that opposing gay marriage does not make them bigots, that the argument should have nothing to do with hate or fear, and everything to do with history and tradition.

The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.

You mean you can be sane and support traditional marriage? It’s a testament to the one-sided nature of the media treatment of this issue that this line could be published in a national newspaper. And yet, while it’s not news to many voters throughout the country that the arguments in support of traditional marriage could be considered sane, it probably is news to many media elite and their readers. And so we get this curious profile that treats Brown remarkably charitably. I mean, it quotes a critics but one saying relatively nice things about him.

These features are sort of a staple of the Post‘s Style section. They are usually very light and breezy and hardly critical of the subject of the profile. Brown’s is no exception. (For another puffy profile in last week’s Washington Post, you simply must read this one of ‘The It Girl of a New Generation Of Lobbyists’, Heather Podesta. The description of why she decided to take her third husband’s last name will make you laugh or cry. Or both.)

Here’s the portion that discusses Brown’s faith and a bit of his beliefs:

Brown is Catholic. He converted at Oxford, where he studied after a BA at Whittier College (he grew up surfing in California). He liked Catholicism’s traditions of social justice and work for the poor. Along the way, he met Sue, also a devout Catholic. After UCLA he accepted a position with the Family Institute of Connecticut, and worked to prevent the distribution of condoms in schools. “People would ask, ‘What does your husband do?’ ” Sue says. “It was embarrassing to say he worked on condoms. But it was nothing compared to this.”

His faith is important to him, but in his arguments he is ever the PhD candidate, addressing questions and dismissing counterarguments with fascination.

“I have gay people who are friends and family,” he says. “We can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other.” And later, “Of course, I have to take their arguments seriously. This issue is important. Ideas have consequences.”

He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling. His arguments are based on his understandings of history, not on messages from God that gays caused Hurricane Katrina.

In short: The institution of marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Yes, there have been homosexual relationships. But no society that he knows of, in the history of the world, has ever condoned same-sex marriage. “Do they always agree on the number of partners? Do they always agree on the form of monogamy? No,” Brown says, but they’ve all agreed on the gender issue. It’s what’s best for families, he says. It’s the union that can biologically produce children, he says. It’s all about the way things have always been done. He chose his new church, St. Catherine of Siena, because it still offers a Latin Mass. Other noted conservatives have been parishioners there; Antonin Scalia has worshiped at St. Catherine’s.

I hear even some people who don’t choose Latin Mass Catholic parishes have these same views on the institution of marriage! But it’s a start. It shouldn’t be shocking to see some of these simple and straightforward positions of traditional marriage advocates in a newspaper but it is.
Threesome
What I’d really like to see is a deeper exploration of those views and the various other arguments against same-sex marriage and some actual back and forth of the arguments for and against changing marriage laws. I’m sure advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage would love to see the same. We’ve had eleventy billion puff pieces — usually in favor of same-sex marriage — and we have this piece that is an uncritical look at one proponent of traditional marriage. But how about we move Brown and his arguments off of the Style pages and into the news pages where they can compete in the public policy marketplace.

Oh, one last quibble with the piece:

NOM’s campaigns have had missteps. “Gathering Storm,” with its melodramatic dialogue and fake lightning, prompted parodies as much as panic; one New York Times columnist called it ” ‘Village of the Damned’ meets ‘A Chorus Line’ ” for its instant camp value. Two Million for Marriage, the organization’s push to rally online activists around the country, was similarly unfortunate: Apparently no one at NOM had realized that 2M4M, the hip-sounding tag they’d chosen for the initiative, is also the abbreviation favored by gay couples looking for a threesome.

Okay, obviously it’s a bit dramatic and emotional of Hesse herself to claim that the purpose of the ad was panic. And while gay activists and the media may have disliked it, that doesn’t say much about its effectiveness. I’m always amazed at how stories fail to mention how successful traditional marriage activists are politically.

But more than anything, I wonder whose side it hurts more to learn that 2M4M is the favored abbreviation used by gay couples looking for a threesome.

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  • http://goodintentionsblog.com Bob Smietana

    Interesting statement in your post: “But apart from the misrepresentation of what a lot of people believe, the device is probably the only way you’re going to get a feature profile of someone with his views in the paper.”

    Have you ever been to a news planning meeting at the Post? Would be interesting to see if any similar stories come up in those meetings, and get shot down. (Our editor at the Tennessean regularly issues an invitation to those meetings in his Sunday column.) Or have you talked to Post reporters who’ve made that claim. Be interesting to see what the Post’s religion writers think about that statement. Maybe a call to the paper is in order.

    Otherwise it’s a pretty thin assumption.

    One complicating factor about gay marriage stories is that marriage/wedding stories in general are puff pieces. Almost all of them are sentimental and romantic. Unless you’re saying that gay marriage stories are portrayed in a positive light, and straight marriages are not. That’d be something worth writing about.

  • Peter

    I don’t suppose we could make a distinction between the idea of supporting traditional marriage and opposing same sex marriage.

    I have seen next to no coverage in the media of anyone who supports same sex marriage claiming that marriage for opposite sex couples or religious blessings of marriage should be eliminated.

    Nearly 100% of same-sex marriage supporters also support marriage for opposite sex couples.

  • Sapphie

    As my brother is fond of saying, a majority sometimes only means that all the fools are on one side. The fact that journalists appear, statistically, to be ‘out of step’ with the ‘majority’ of mainstream America may only be indicative of the more objectively verifiable fact that by and large, journalists are better informed than most Americans. More informed opinions are more reasoned opinions — again, generally speaking. At some point, nearly ever idea that now seems obvious to all was a minority viewpoint. It’s entirely irrelevant to reason to consider what percentage of people have what opinions at any given moment in time.

    That Mr. Brown may seem reasonable does not mean that he is. As a subscriber to a body of faith that has sometimes violently defended some ideas over the years that turned out to be embarrassingly wrong, I would not presume him to be a man of reason, no matter how nice he might sound. If one’s ideas of how to run a secular republic are informed by a church that has tried to run the world, then one is impaired by a distorted perspective of the purpose and process of our nation and government.

    It is not necessary to consider opponents of marriage equality bigots or backwards to understand that their views are anathema to our constitution. That they are sincere is rarely in doubt, but that their arguments fail to hold up against constitutional reason or the arrow of history is also not in doubt. Ultimately, it does necessarily derive from irrational bias, either personal or religious, and I have much more respect for those who acknowledge this, than for those who try to rationalise it.

    That the media seem to prodominantly favour the perspective of equality is to some degree also inarguably bias. The media, after all, are dependent on the theories of liberty that make their activities possible, productive, and useful, and these same theories inherently communicate a strong sympathy with arguments for freedom and equality. More than that, however, most journalists can recognise unfairness when they see it. It should surprise no one that they’d favour the underdog in a constitutional debate. I feel sure that a similar survey of media coverage of other such struggles would reveal the same patterns. (How ‘balanced’ was media coverage of segregation, back in that golden era of the great post-War society?)

    It naturally follows that metamedia discussion of this will repeat the same patterns: How we each view this will depend heavily on our own perspectives of the core subject.

  • Jerry

    @Sapphie

    “…may only be indicative of the more objectively verifiable fact that by and large, journalists are better informed than most Americans.”

    To judge from the gross misrepresentations of religions picked apart on this blog, I think the objective evidence would imply that journalists are less informed than most Americans on religion and topics that religion touches upon.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Overall it is a positive and sympathetic article.

    Actually, I’ve seen videos showing that the pro-gay marriage activists specialize in whipping up their base into “frothy frenzies” with references to Pat Robertson, James Dobson and John Hagee. It seems the gay pro-gay marriage activists use these “nightmares” to raise money to pay their own salaries.

    And I totally agree with you that the very idea that there are so many gay couples advertising for a third sexual partner confirms one of the “talking points” of those who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage.

  • dalea

    Yet one more time we see an article about Gay people that directly quotes NOT ONE GAY PERSON. Instead, we are left with the assurance that there are liberal people who support us in the news business so we need not bother our empty little heads about it. It is as if an article about David Duke had not spoken to any actual black people.

    The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association has a thread on this topic:

    http://nlgjareact.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/conservatives-in-the-mist/#comments

    But journalists need to do better. Just as a story describing gays like they are mysterious specimens that will shock people with their likeability and intelligence are insulting, so too are such stories insulting when they treat other people that way.

    This article truely shows how little influence Gay people have with the MSM.

  • dalea

    Perpetua says:

    And I totally agree with you that the very idea that there are so many gay couples advertising for a third sexual partner confirms one of the “talking points” of those who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage.

    No one said that there were ‘many’ people doing this. You are showing your prejudices. The press simply referenced this as a fact with no statement about numbers.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Hi dalea,

    Well Rachel Maddow seems to think it is fairly common. And she suggests checking it out on Craig’s List.

    Are you saying this is a progressive myth created just to make fun of conservatives?

  • Dave

    [...H]ow about we move Brown and his arguments off of the Style pages and into the news pages where they can compete in the public policy marketplace.

    In a flurry of nits picked left and right, this is a solid suggestion. I suspect the quality of the journalism would rise organically if this shift were made.

  • Davis

    Surely there is a Godwin’s Law equivalent for raising the issue of threesomes everytime same-sex marriage is discussed. Intellectually and ideologically lazy. Reporters need to be careful about being lured into dishonest conversations about polygamy by ideologues, or at least expose the argument for what it is.

  • Stephen A.

    @Sapphie When a group feels it knows better than the rest of us how we should order our lives that’s called “elitism.” Thanks for a living, breathing example in your response.

    The line in this article that shocked Mollie so much (or not) “The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane” is indeed biased, though I must say that there are some on the Anti side who are, frankly, using insanely bad arguments against the idea of gay marriage, and it perhaps is this to which the reporter is referring. The old, “they’ll want to marry dogs next” argument is one example of this. That language is totally unhelpful. It’s about as stupid, ignorant and repulsive as implying that pro-traditional marriage people are like David Duke. But I’m sure no “enlightened” liberal – educated and refined as they are (according to Sapphie) – would EVER do that. Um, right?

    Still, it’s clear from numerous polling that the press is overwhelmingly indoctrinated into the gay marriage camp, and it is odd to read what comes out of their mouths sometimes.

    It’s also amazing to read gay marriage supporters argue that the media is slanted AGAINST them. (Seriously?) Perhaps reporters don’t quote gays in articles because they know so many and they’re so smug and self-satisfied that they know the topic that they see no need.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Jerry makes a good point. Rare is the article or story in the MSM that doesn’t have an example or two of ignorance about religion (or thinly veiled bigotry) -especially with regard to orthodox Christianity. To call the average reporter better informed on religion than most Americans is ludicrous. Frequently, some can’t even get the most basic facts correct– even the pope’s name–as I heard repeatedly on one evening news recently.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I deleted a comment for not staying on the topic of journalism. Please keep comments focused, peeps!

  • Pingback: On threesomes and marriage » GetReligion | marriageproblems

  • Stephen A.

    @Davis: I hope that applies to both sides of the issue, such as when the word “bigot” and “same as Jim Crow” are thrown around willy-nilly and are stuck into articles, as well as the “threesome” argument, which does go over the line, just as the stupid “marrying dogs” line does, as I noted.

    I think it’s almost impossible to keep emotion out of this issue. Reporters must cover the emotion in the debate, for sure, but they (and their editors) have a duty, I think, to step back and note the facts in a dispassionate way, including a rational analysis of the effects on society (positive AND negative) of gay marriage, then let US decide, rather than taking sides and smearing one side.

    What a great service that would be to us all!

  • hoosier

    I don’t know, Deacon John. As poorly as many journos understand religion, do you really think the average American is better informed? Mabye the average American is better informed about his own religion than is the average journalist, but what about of other’s religions. I grew up in the South. Down there, many Protestants (and there’s little else) believe that Catholics actually worship devils, they just don’t know it. Are those people better informed about Catholicism than the journo who gets his facts wrong about the host/wafer/cracker? Somehow, I don’t think so. So while journos could certainly be better informed still, I’d say the statement that they’re better informed on religion than the average American sounds correct to me (especially for those on the Godbeat) in the absence of any data corroborating or disproving it.

    I mean, there’s just an incredible amount of misinformation out there concerning religion, especially when you get to minority sects like Mormons, Muslims, and (in Dixie) Catholics.

  • Chris Bolinger

    I’ll ask again: If we’re all in violent agreement that Newsweek cannot be considered an MSM publication, then why do you continue to treat its sister publication, The Washington Post, as an MSM publication? You folks near the Beltway pay much too much attention to the WaPost.

  • Chris Bolinger

    In a politically charged issue, as this one has become, the question is not how well-informed a journalist is but how biased a journalist is. So-called MSM journalists are extremely biased on this issue and even admit that they are biased. If you share their bias, as Sapphie clearly does, then you are likely to consider them well-informed and justify their bias (poorly).

  • Davis

    Chris, did you bother to read the story. Seriously, it was 2000 words of unfiltered arguments from the anti-same sex marriage movement. Most of it read like a press release from NOM. I’m not sure how you can argue this is a product of liberal bias given that 90% of the story reads as if it were written by the National Review or the Washington Times.

  • Nicholas

    The article may be neutral with regard to Brian Brown and his beliefs – but that’s its fatal flaw.

    It says nothing about his beliefs other than the vaguest “support for traditional marriage”. There is nothing to suggest how he believes that gay marriage will damage traditional marriage, his beliefs on the damage done by no-fault divorce or skyrocketing infidelity among heterosexuals, or whether he supports some sort of civilly recognized institution for gays. The reader comes away with a lot more questions than answers – at least, I did.

    It just says that he’s not a raving lunatic. Talk about damning someone with faint praise. Further, the “some of my best friends and family are gay” line should have died around the time Archie Bunker went off the air.

    Arguments against depriving any minority class of what has been defined as a civil right demand very close journalistic scrutiny and clear reporting, so they can be analyzed by the reader. None of that was provided in this piece. We learned only of his style, not his substance.

  • rq

    Sapphie wrote: “It naturally follows that metamedia discussion of this will repeat the same patterns: How we each view this will depend heavily on our own perspectives of the core subject.”

    So PoMo!

    I, for one, welcome our better-informed journalist overlords.

  • Dave

    Surely there is a Godwin’s Law equivalent for raising the issue of threesomes everytime same-sex marriage is discussed. Intellectually and ideologically lazy. Reporters need to be careful about being lured into dishonest conversations about polygamy by ideologues, or at least expose the argument for what it is.

    Davis, for that to happen the reporters must have an opinion about marriage equity that they have pondered. For example, the forumulation that the BGLT community is discriminated against because its couples are not allowed to marry. That formulation excludes threesomes, siblings, animals and the rest of the conservative parade of horribles. But this require the reporter to think analytically about the subject rather than just exercise a bias in one direction or another. There’s a difference between a reflexive bias and a mindful preference.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    As far as the threesome issue is concerned, this bit from Bill Meuhlenberg, while obviously a bit of an editorial, also has a lot of solid newsy quote material in it.

  • SKirk

    # Davis says:
    August 30, 2009, at 8:12 pm

    Surely there is a Godwin’s Law equivalent for raising the issue of threesomes everytime same-sex marriage is discussed. Intellectually and ideologically lazy. Reporters need to be careful about being lured into dishonest conversations about polygamy by ideologues, or at least expose the argument for what it is.

    Mollie hasn’t even been “lured into [a] dishonest conversation…” because she never bothers to actually address the threesome issue–she (or her editor) is just using it to get attention. I’m not sure which option is worse.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    SKirk,

    As you can read, the Washington Post raised the issue of threesomes and I thought they handled it oddly. Your mileage may vary.

    And, of course, we don’t address the underlying issue of whether changing marriage law might have other consequences. They do that over at GetMarriageLaw.com.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    The threesomes issue is often raised by progressives. It was MSNBC (Kieth Oberman and Rachel Maddow) that made a big deal about 2m4m meaning two male partners seeking a third.

    And years ago it was Andrew Sullivan who raised the issue of gays preferring “open marriages”. As well as Dan Savage.

  • Greg Scott

    One of the better examples of how irresponsible and dismissive Big-Time MSMers are when it comes to understanding the position of individuals and organizations who support the preservation of marriage is an encounter I had in 2006 with an Arizona Republic reporter.

    She had been covering the marriage amendment campaign in Arizona from its kick-off, to include a challenge filed by homosexual activists who were trying to deny Arizonans the right to vote on marriage by keeping the amendment off the ballot. The case was ultimately resolved at the AZ SC.

    In all, this reporter had probably filed 10 stories on this topic prior to calling me over at the Alliance Defense Fund media relations dept.

    She calls. The first question she asks?

    “Do you have any arguments that are not based on the Bible?”

    My answer?

    “ADF has filed briefs in dozens of marriage cases across the country. Read all of them, some of them, or even one of them. Then call me back and let me know if you were able to find the text of a sermon in any legal filing.”

    Obviously, she wouldn’t have been successful in the assigned scavenger hunt. What was amazing is that she still had no idea that there were good legal and public policy reasons behind retaining the definition of marriage. What was most annoying is that she didn’t even bother to read anything ADF, the leading and most successful marriage-protection litigators in the country, had ever written on the subject. I suppose she imagined ADF wins cases by hurling Bibles at judges.

    Not sure we ever conviced her that we are “ruthlessly sane.”

    Naturally, this J-giant is now teaching over at Arizona State.

  • Greg Scott

    Davis wrote: “Surely there is a Godwin’s Law equivalent for raising the issue of threesomes everytime same-sex marriage is discussed. Intellectually and ideologically lazy.”

    Problem is David, the very same legal arguments being made for redefining marriage to call two men “married” can and will be used by those who advocate for plural “marriage.” It’s totally legitimate and appropriate to bring it up in every story that deals with the legal angle of marriage.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Greg, your comment (#27) is one of the best I have read on this blog in years. Of course she didn’t read anything ADF! That would have required her to do her job and not just grind her ax.

  • Dave

    Greg @28:

    This depends on how the rationale for marriage equity is formulated. For example:

    “Gays and lesbians are de facto second-class citizens because their couples are not allowed to marry. This should be corrected.”

    This formulation has no wiggle room for plural marriage; it focuses on the rights of couples.

  • Greg Scott

    Thanks Chris. Do you mind if I steal your last sentence? Great sound bite!

    Dave, just because those arguing want to limit the conversation, or the legal argument, to COUPLES doesn’t prevent those who think that the definition of marriage should not be limited to two people from making the precise arguments that same-sex “marriage” advocates are making now.

    If those arguments prevail for same-sex couples, they are equally applicable for any human grouping permutation. Marriage is defined as one man and one woman for many good reasons and is not arbitrary (let’s not pretend we don’t know why). Any redefintion is arbitrary. If the gender composition of marriage is not important what is so sacred about the number of participants?

    The faux indignation directed at the MCs of the “conservative parade of horribles” who dare to bring out this obvious point is nothing but soundbite theater. The Lambda Legals, HRCs and ACLUs of the world know full well where the logical extension of their arguments end up. Nadine Strossen, the immediate past president of the ACLU, is on record (in an interview with the Yale campus newspaper) supporting plural marriage. So again, it’s totally legitimate and appropriate to bring it up in every story that deals with the legal angle of marriage.

  • Davis

    The faux indignation directed at the MCs of the “conservative parade of horribles” who dare to bring out this obvious point is nothing but soundbite theater. . . So again, it’s totally legitimate and appropriate to bring it up in every story that deals with the legal angle of marriage.

    Given that hate is the basis for some of the opposition to same-sex marriage, then using your logic, hate should be brought up in every story that deals with same-sex marriage.

    There is no active effort to expand marriage to threesomes or foursomes, beyond far-right religious groups. So bringing it up, even as a slippery slope argument, is disengenuous and really an attempt to create “soundbite theatre,” as you put it. Look how, in this post, Mollie turned a single sentence or two into the headline and the graphics. Soundbite theatre is the exact term, but you are missing who is putting on the show here.

    There are going to be slippery-slope arguments made on both side. But they shouldn’t go unchallenged. A reporter has the ability to ask follow-up questions, like, “Do you have any support for that?” “Do you have any concrete evidence of that?” “Is there any proof that is likely to happen?”

  • Dave

    Dave, just because those arguing want to limit the conversation, or the legal argument, to COUPLES doesn’t prevent those who think that the definition of marriage should not be limited to two people from making the precise arguments that same-sex “marriage” advocates are making now.

    Greg, that doesn’t validate injecting the issues of the latter into discussions of the former, unless you are simply asserting your right to inject your alarmist propaganda anywhere you may find an audience. Which, of course, you have under the First Amendment, but it leaves you presenting an argument with more holes than Swiss cheese.

    There is no active effort to expand marriage to threesomes or foursomes, beyond far-right religious groups.

    Davis, I appreciate your help in resisting Greg’s assertion of privilege to trot out his parade of horribles on every occasion. But the Fundamentalist LDS and the more egalitarian polyamorists with no unifying political flavor are part of our culture; the latter even have (or had) their own magazine, “Loving More.” Sooner or later they may seek their turn at bat. What gay/lesbian couples deserve in the way of a fair discussion is to keep those issues from distracting from their issues.

    The way to put a sock in the parade of horribles is to present the current issues of marriage equity in the narrowest terms possible for purposes of promoting legal reform. That’s why I developed the “couples denied marriage” formulation and have repeated it on this board, where I know marrige-equity activists see it.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    While it’s true that the “slippery slope” arguments” aren’t exactly germane to the current same-sex marriage discussion, and really are a distraction (and can be part of the “parade of horribles” tactic being decried here, by myself and others) the nature of the arguments FOR 2-person same-sex marriage may indeed lead to a more thorough discussion of it, and perhaps SHOULD be part of the overall discussion of what marriage really is, or should be, in our society.

    The very nature of the arguments FOR same-sex marriage (i.e. it’s not fair, people should be able to marry whomever they wish, the State shouldn’t be involved in marriage, if they love each other who’s to say it’s wrong, it’s bigotry to deny them the right to marry whomever they wish, etc.) makes one wonder why anyone FOR gay marriage would be so AGAINST polygamy.

    The historical fact that polygamy has a long history in numerous cultures – even our own in the US, among Mormons until 1890 – actually gives more historical backing to that practice than gay marriage, which has never been officially given sanction in any nation or culture until a few years ago in Massachusetts, although homosexuality had pockets of acceptance in ancient times and of course in some modern Western nations in the past century or so, and even then only among the elites until the past few decades, a fraction of time on the scale of history.

    Given this background, it’s a wonder why reporters don’t quiz the ADVOCATES of gay marriage more rigorously, as to why they would dismiss polygamy as an absurdity, and deny polygamists the rights they are fighting for.

    (P.S. No, I’m not a polygamist or an advocate for that practice, but I believe all sides deserve an examination and a fair hearing. Don’t reporters? Don’t liberals?)

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    WHY is it dishonest? WHY is it “hate” and “bigotry” to say “marriage consists of a man and a woman”, but not to say “marriage consists of two and only two adults”.

    Sorry, Davis, I know living breathing polyandrists (and if I do, how many more are there I don’t know?), and I doubt they would agree that they are figments of my paranoid imagination. Or that it is “dishonest” to discuss their stake in this. Or that it is adequately dealt with by chanting “La la la, there’s no slippery slope!” They might even suggest that exerting emotional blackmail by calling the version you happen to want “marriage equality” makes some people more equal than others.

  • Dave

    The very nature of the arguments FOR same-sex marriage [examples elided] makes one wonder why anyone FOR gay marriage would be so AGAINST polygamy.

    Stephen, I don’t know if that “one” is a reference to me, but I’m not against polyamory. I think that gays and lesbians should have their case examined without a lot of irrelevancy. I think polyamory, if instituted legally, should be done with prudent caution about the fate of children. One need not do double-think to hold both ideas simultaneously.

    Will, Greg was claiming that everything can be thrown into the bucket. Accept that and you must accept that the connection between hate and opposition to marriage equity exists in some instances. I don’t accept either but, however high or low the standard of discourse is set, it must be a single standard for all.

  • Stephen A.

    Dave: No, “makes one wonder” wasn’t referring to you in particular, or to anyone all, actually. That phrase rarely does.

    For the record and to be clear, as far as I know, polyamory – loving more than one person at once, a 3-way consensual love affair, if you will – is perfectly legal NOW. Polygamy, or bigamy – being married to more than one person at a time – is not.

    Interesting that you bring up children’s welfare, since many opponents of gay marriage raise the same concern, since it can involve two same-sex partners and a “donor” who, in the case of two female partners, provides, well, the stuff of life.

    Does a “donor” have rights in regard to a child? Does a child have a right to two parents of a different gender? Who of the three gets custody in case of a divorce? Arguably, similar discussions would take place in polygamous relationships, too.

    These are questions not reporters to answer FIRST “in their minds”, as some say, but for reporters to ask without prejudice and get answers from ALL sides so their readers can make educated decisions.

  • Dave

    Stephen: Thanks for clearing that up. Yes, polyamory is legal today, though it wouldn’t have been 50 years ago with all the state anti-fornication and -adultery laws we had then. What I am talking about is institutionalizing it as a new form of officially recognized marriage and what kind of precautions should be in place.

    The scenario of two lesbians and sperm donor does not raise any complications that are not alreay present with a fertile wife, a sterile husband and an IVF clinic. Whatever case law sorts that out can be applied to two lesbians and a turkey baster.

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  • http://www.mormoninmichigan.blogspot.com John Pack Lambert

    People need to engage Monte N. Stewart’s “Social Institutions Argument for Marriage”. We need to understand we are replacing the existing man/woman marriage with Genderless marriage. Until we realize this will change the nature of marriage for everyone, we will be making a false debate on the issue.


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