Is it Bigotry to Advocate Gay Marriage but Oppose Polyamory?

Is it Bigotry to Advocate Gay Marriage but Oppose Polyamory? May 27, 2012

If you are going to regard marriage as nothing more than a legal fiction whereby the state recognizes a relationship between two persons so that said persons can have certain legal rights and recognitions, then to be honest, you have evacuated yourself of any moral or legal argument against polyamory. This issue has recently come up in the gay marriage debate in Australia.

The Australian Newspaper reports that:

THE Greens face a backlash from polyamorists outraged after senator Sarah Hanson-Young rejected their aspirations for equal rights in her bill to legalise gay marriage.

The blogosphere has been full of vitriol, with postings from participants in menages-a-trois and other plural relationships who feel dejected since Senator Hanson-Young said the institution of marriage should involve only two consenting adults.

One grieved polyamorist wrote this on Hanson-Young’s facebook page:

The first time in a long time the Greens have disappointed me,” Tracey Kerr wrote on Senator Hanson-Young’s Facebook page. “I know that it might be politically expedient to cast us poly people out but true marriage equality should let the people getting married decide what their family looks like.

If you are gonna say that marriage is about “love not law,” and cannot be restricted by “religious prejudices” or “get your religion out of my bedroom” – to quote the standard mantras – then the same apparent bigotry of opponents of gay marriage is committed by opponents of polyamory. It is grossly hypocritical to be in favor of gay marriage and yet to be opposed to polyamory because the same arguments for gay marriage can (and will be) used for polyamory.

For some, this is an argument against same sex marriage, though I am genuinely curious as to how this issue will be handled by same sex marriage advocates.

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  • CatB

    Personally, I do not believe that polyamory is a comparable issue to Gay Marriage at all, based on my understanding of polyamory practice from people who are active in that lifestyle. It is a very active segment in my part of the country and they actively recruit people into their scene. {In case you were wondering, I said NO.}

    When we speak as advocates about/for same sex marriage in the church, we are advocating for the recognition of a committed, intimate relationship in which two people are forming one unit — and the Biblical concept describes a lifelong relationship in this format —

    • You seem to be confusing *polyamory* (a committed, loving, usually long term relationship involving more than two people, with knowledge and consent by all) with *swinging* (indulging in sex with multiple partners with or without knowledge and consent of your partner)

  • and agreeing to care for one another with the same passionate devotion that Jesus characterized/s in His love for the church, up to and including a readiness to give one’s life if on behalf of the other if need be.

    Polyamory is nothing like that. As I understand it, it is basically

  • Weird interface is causing my post to break apart and posting in reverse order. Scroll down for first post, then read up the screen for each successive segment if you are trying to track this reply. THX

    …pretty much an orgy type event with certain pre-defined rules and ZERO intent by any of the parties involved to take lasting commitments with or responsibility for those who join their “band”. In a general context, the question seems totally out of order, since marriage is, by definition, a commitment with a set of legal responsibilities.

    • Dominic Foo

      “since marriage is, by definition, a commitment with a set of legal responsibilities.”

      Notwithstanding Rose Morgan’s reply that polyamory (“a committed, loving, usually long term relationship involving more than two people, with knowledge and consent by all”), is distinct from “swinging”, I thought appealing to the “definition” of marriage is something which only opponents of gay marriages do, who alleged that marriage is “by definition”, between opponent sexes…

  • JPuck

    If you’ve ever read about the immigration procedure for those marrying a US citizen you’ll know that the government determines the legitimacy of a marriage by measuring how much the partners love each other, requiring proof that they rely on each other in their daily lives and would be greatly harmed if they were not able to live together. They have to prove that deep feelings exist between them.

    The reason marriage is between two people is because a person can only have one true soulmate. Sometimes it’s possible to have strong romantic feelings for more than one person, but unequivocal love for multiple partners seems unlikely. In the case of polygamy you would have the greater challenge of proving that each member of the relationship loves all of the other members equally. The government won’t want to listen if you claim that only some of the partners love each other. They all would have to love each other equally, rely on each other equally in their daily lives, be unable to function properly without all of the others. That’s how the government determines if a marriage is legitimate. I don’t see how that kind of an emotional matrix is even possible, let alone demonstrable.

    • BradK

      “The reason marriage is between two people is because a person can only have one true soulmate.”

      Sorry, but that sounds silly. It’s easy to question whether such a thing as a soulmate even exists, much less whether it is possible for someone to have more than one. Based on that assumption, we should not allow remarriage for someone whose spouse dies, right? After all, a person can only have one true soulmate…

  • Jebus

    What’s wrong with polygamy? It’s only biblical…

    • John Inglis

      Narrative history is not prescriptive as to morality.

  • MarkP

    Who’s asking? If it’s a question of legal status, then adding another spouse raises a different set of questions from changing the gender of one spouse (lots of laws on things like inheritance, child care, and medical decision making give weight to a spouse’s judgment, so what if two spouses disagree against the third? what about insurance benefits? and so on). And marriage isn’t as simple as it’s often assumed to be — the state doesn’t recognize marriages undertaken simply to change immigration status, for example, even if the partners are otherwise eligible.

    As for the church, one question that needs to be asked before we start is whether this is about the morality of people having sex with more than one person, or about whether genuine love is possible in a triangle? Either question may lead to the same answer, but I think people will find themselves talking past each other unless it’s addressed up front.

  • Cacafuego

    Al Mohler had an interview with liberal journalist Damon Linker about basing morality on ends/goals/telos vs. rights that included this exchange:

    Mohler: … So let me ask you this when you have a morality of rights, if indeed we were to take your advice and we surrender our morality of ends which is to put it in another language a morality that is based upon clear understandings of the purposes for which human sexuality were given and the right and appropriate means whereby it should be regulated, if we forfeit that entirely and we enter into a cultural negotiation based upon this morality of rights is there any limit whatsoever to where that goes? We’re told that that’s an illegitimate question but it’s an unavoidable question it seems to me.

    Linker: Well, I don’t flinch from the question and I admit that it leads to potentially troubling directions. I guess I would say you know choose your outlandish thing. Which would be hypothetically so even say something that isn’t as outlandish as some other things, so say, polygamy alright I mean that’s often what people say when talking about the slippery slope. So if we allow same sex marriage next thing you know we’ll have legal polygamy. In my scheme in the book I would say, I mean following through on it, I would have to admit that if significant numbers of Americans began to clamor for the right to polygamy then that would have to be permitted. My inclination is that that isn’t going to happen because I just don’t, unlike, again we can debate this too but unlike homosexuality I don’t believe anyone is born by nature being polygamist in orientation. That’s not analogous in that way. And frankly, I don’t think polygamy would be very popular. Then we get to polyamory, and then you know if you’re Rick Santorum next thing you talk about bestiality do we really think that there’s going to be a significant faction of Americans who are going to clamor to marry their dog? I would agree that if we’re talking about a morality of rights as I talk about it there is no absolute way to preclude that because we’re talking about a democracy. We’re talking about a free society and if it so happened that America evolved in a direction where there was a large number of people saying yes we want inter-species marriage then it’s not clear exactly how we as a society would be able to say no to that. My gut, if you will, tells me that that’s not going to happen because there is again, I don’t think anyone is born wanting that, needing that, and I don’t think it would be very popular, ever.

  • Basil

    From a biblical standpoint, it is hard to argue with polygamy. Abraham, King Solomon, etc…, yeah there is plenty of polygamy in the bible.

    From a legal/practical standpoint – there is a significant body social science research, drawn upon the experience of societies/countries where polygamy is legal (many Muslim countries), which documents how legalizing polygamy is dangerous to the status of women in society. Basically, women are driven into submission, lest they be relegated to the role of “wife #2, or #3…” by husbands who can just freely add on an extra young woman to service their “needs”. This applies even in countries where polygamy is legal but rare (most Muslim countries) — it is an implicit threat to women’s status. Basically, polygamy is synonymous with women being viewed as property. Why on earth would we legalize that in the U.S.?

    • Zeus5753

      Polyamory is VERY different to Polygamy. What about a woman who wants and gets multiple husbands to “service her needs”, while one or more of the husbands has multiple wives or ever homosexual relationships in addition?
      I agree that Polygamy is dangerous for the reasons you described but only the religious will practice it in those ways. Others who wish, will practice Ethical Non-Monogamy (Polyamory).

  • MarkP

    “It is grossly hypocritical to be in favor of gay marriage and yet to be opposed to polyamory because the same arguments for gay marriage can (and will be) used for polyamory.”

    One thing about the slippery slope argument is that it assumes arguments are decisive, but I’m not sure most people have been reasoned into their opinion on this. As a practical matter, I’d say that if the day ever comes when a majority of the US population believes polygamy (etc.) is wholesome and acceptable (as either is or soon will be the case with same sex relationships), then it will be legalized. But that’s a very big “if,” because even if you can’t put your finger on what the difference is between poly-something and same sex marriage, most people believe that there is a difference.