‘Drive a wedge between gays and blacks’

‘Drive a wedge between gays and blacks’ March 27, 2012

We get an unvarnished look at the National Organization for Marriage from internal strategy memos posted online as part of a court case in Maine. The documents include things like NOM’s, “Marriage: $20 Million Strategy for Victory.”

Here, via Alvin McEwen of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, is one aspect of that “strategy for victory”:

3. Not a Civil Right Project

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key democratic constituencies. We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; to develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; and to provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.

My, what lovely “strategic goals” you have, there, Maggie.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin also sifts through the newly released NOM documents, highlighting a NOM project to portray President Barack Obama as a “radical socialist.”

This is from an August 2009 document from NOM:

Expose Obama as a social radical. Develop side issues to weaken pro-gay marriage political leaders and parties and develop an activist hase of socially conservative voters. Raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at teh federal level. This is the mission of the American Principles Project. …

So the supposedly non-partisan NOM was actively campaigning against Obama’s re-election seven months into his first term.

The Human Rights Campaign is collecting the newly public documents from NOM at its NOM Exposed site.

Update, see also:

 

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  • Anyway, I know that “just wait” is a shitty answer given from privilege,
    and what I’m trying to get at is that any arrangement that would allow
    multiple marriages is a priori bad to a subset of people even if gay marriage could somehow be acceptable.

    It’s not just a “shitty answer.”  It’s an acknowledgement of one’s willingness to throw another group of people under the bus if it advance’s one’s own well-being.  It’s an implicit statement that one isn’t against the kyriarchy so much as one is against being on the marginalized side of the kyriarchy.

    And to be frank, those who are historically told “just wait” are rarely told their “wait” is over, thank you very much.

  • Anonymous

    t’s an acknowledgement of one’s willingness to throw another group of people under the bus if it advance’s one’s own well-being.

    In this case, no.  It’s an acknowledgement of one’s willingness to throw one group under the bus for the advancement of the well-being of another (presumably?) larger group.

    My motives here aren’t selfish insofar as neither gay marriage or poly-marriage will benefit me at all.

  • Anonymous

    Marriage might be more helpful in getting health insurance for your partners. I personally sought desperately for some way to cover both my partners under my health insurance. 

    That actually brings up some other questions that I have. A) Why would it be okay for you to put three adults on your insurance, but I could only have one or two?  Why could I not add another adult with whom I don’t have any kind of relationship with (like say my sister, or a close friend and his wife?)  (Of course, universal health care would solve this nicely – but we don’t have that – and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get it.)  B) What is the time split of the children if your relationship breaks up?  Do you wind up with three way custody?  Does the biological parent assume custody?  Are the other TWO parents both obligated to child support?  Doesn’t that make poly relationships economically advantageous over monogamous ones?

    I mean, the more I think about this, the more I think that the legal system should stay out of marriages as much as possible – but I think, as someone pointed out, that requires that we spend a lot of time drawing up contracts for our relationships to deal with legal issues that inevitably arise.  I’m concerned that this legalistic view of relationships with others would inevitably lead to line marriages – which I’ve said before are basically PLLCs with benefits.  I’ve got a problem with that – because I can imagine being “required” to “marry” into the line marriage for economic reasons (our partners are all married, so if you’d like this job…) and then you’re basically at a spot where your job is regulating your sex life.

    Can an individual be involved in more than one marriage at a time?  If so, what’s the advantage of any legal arrangement?  Which one takes precedence?

    It seems to me at first blush that we should completely divorce our sexual relationships from our legal relationships – and have one “marriage” at a time, but then it becomes a sort of “person to contact in case of emergency” for adults, so why do we have marriage at all?  (And who are you “married” to if you’re an elderly widow(er) – your children?)

    I’m legitimately curious about this, and I don’t want to seem like I’m discounting the validity of your choices – your relationship is just as meaningful as mine, and I’m not saying it isn’t – but the world basically revolves around my privilege in the matter, and I’m interested in how the world would need to be structured to make that not the case.

  •  

    A) Why would it be okay for you to put three adults on your insurance,
    but I could only have one or two?  Why could I not add another adult
    with whom I don’t have any kind of relationship with (like say my
    sister, or a close friend and his wife?)  (Of course, universal health
    care would solve this nicely – but we don’t have that – and it doesn’t
    look like we’re going to get it.)

    I’m not sure it is “okay,” actually; in particular, I would say that there’s just as much justification for allowing you to extend your benefits to cover your sibling as your spouse.

    That said, I’ll observe that the current system allows my neighbor to put his two children on his insurance, but I can’t put two unrelated children on mine. Why? Because the current system treats “spouse-and-children” as a special kind of unit (we sometimes call it “family,” as though your sister were somehow not your family). If that’s “okay”, then it would be okay for queerviolet to put three adults on their insurance, where you can only have one or two, because queerviolet’s “spouse-and-children” (aka “family”) contains three adults whereas yours contains only one or two.

     

    B) What is the time split of the children if your relationship breaks
    up?

    The same as that when a two-parent relationship breaks up: whatever the people involved negotiate, or if they cannot come to an agreement, whatever a judge rules.

    Do you wind up with three way custody?

    That seems both likely, and appropriate, in cases where you start out with three parents. Just like two-way custody seems appropriate in cases where you start out with two parents, even though that’s a huge PITA relative to the situation where there’s only one parent (e.g., my father dies rather than my parents divorcing). We cope with the resulting logistical difficulties because that seems preferable to arbitrarily deciding that this adult is no longer their child’s parent.

    Does the biological parent
    assume custody?

    This presumes that one of the child’s parents is their biological parent, and that only one is, neither of which is necessarily true. Personally I don’t think biology should matter nearly as much to determining custody as love and support and other nonbiological considerations. And all of these issues arise for two-adult marriages today: stepchildren and adopted children can create nonbiological parent relationships, and neglect and abusiveness can create biological non-parent relationships.

    Are the other TWO parents both obligated to child
    support?

    I would say that all of a child’s parents are obligated to support that child, yes, even if they aren’t currently married to one another.

    Doesn’t that make poly relationships economically advantageous
    over monogamous ones?

    Often, yes. If nothing else, there are frequently economies of scale to be leveraged when multiple adults share a household. (This applies to adult siblings and genetically unrelated adults living together as well.)

  •  

    Are there more monogamous gay couples who would benefit from marriage
    equality than there are poly relationships that would similarly benefit /
    currently suffer because of lack of?

    Obviously this depends a lot on the kinds of poly and monogamous relationships we’re talking about. But if by “poly relationships” we mean loving, mutually supportive, at-least-potentially-sexual relationships involving three or more adults, and by “monogamous gay couples” we mean loving, mutually supportive, at-least-potentially-sexual relationships involving two same-gender adults and nobody else, then my guess is there are more poly relationships around than there are monogamous gay relationships. Possibly more than there are monogamous straight relationships, as well, come to that. Strict monogamy just isn’t all that common, statistically speaking.

    Of course, that’s not to say that strictly monogamous couples deserve any less respect or support than any other couple. They don’t. How much respect and support a couple deserves is not dependent on their statistical representation.

  • There really ought to be a way to recognize poly marriages, but create options for dealing with clearly exploitative type relationships as well. Really, it’s all part of the same phenomenon: making marriage – a condition with certain social and legal advantages – available to those people who wish to formalize the commitment. What does it matter if there are two, or five, in the marriage? There’s still a cake to be served* when the ceremony goes off. :P

    * Omnom. Why yes, I did have chocolate cake yesterday, why do you ask? ;)

  • queerviolet

    B) What is the time split of the children if your relationship breaks up?  Do you wind up with three way custody?  Does the biological parent assume custody?  Are the other TWO parents both obligated to child support?  Doesn’t that make poly relationships economically advantageous over monogamous ones?

    Dave already addressed this a bit, but, well… yes. Poly relationships often are economically advantageous. Some of my poly friends are quite poor and raising their kid as single mothers, as far as the state is concerned. Living with their partners, and their partners’ partners, and having all those people around to help with the kids has been enormously beneficial to them. Not just economically, either—just having a bunch of interested, caring adults around to take care of the kids for a few minutes while you do something else is a significant psychological help.
    It’s worth noting that since there are already kids in this situation, the custody questions you ask are questions that the courts already have to address. And they do, typically terribly. The poly community is rife with horror stories about exes or family members using the poly person’s relationship status against them in court. And winning, because “oh my god, she sleeps with more than one person, that’s so scary and dangerous and THINK OF THE CHILDREN” is apparently a valid legal argument in many courts. This is a huge, huge reason many poly people stay in the closet.

    I think for that reason, a lot of poly activism isn’t pressing for marriage, but rather, for courts to stop fucking over poly parents.

    (And yes, it’s true that this is an issue in the gay community as well, though subjectively, I think it’s on the wane.)

    I’m concerned that this legalistic view of relationships with others would inevitably lead to line marriages – which I’ve said before are basically PLLCs with benefits.  I’ve got a problem with that – because I can imagine being “required” to “marry” into the line marriage for economic reasons (our partners are all married, so if you’d like this job…) and then you’re basically at a spot where your job is regulating your sex life.

    Out of curiosity, this thing you’re apparently quite worried about… has it ever happened to anybody, ever? I’ve never heard of it before now, and the only references I can find are fictional. And it seems like if someone wanted to set up an arrangement like this, there’s nothing functionally stopping them from doing it right now.

    It’s also the case that having to marry for economic reasons—and then having that economic exigency dictate your sex life—is actually the precise situation faced by a lot of women today.

  • Anonymous

    It’s also the case that having to marry for economic reasons—and then having that economic exigency dictate your sex life—is actually the precise situation faced by a lot of women today.

    Right, but that’s because society hates women, not because it hate their relationships.Basically, I consider this a bad thing of the very first order, and any first principles of marriage that aren’t designed to prevent this are bad ideas.  One of the reasons polygyny is “bad” is because it creates a sort of permanent underclass of unmarried adult males and exacerbates existing economic inequalities.  (Which is why I’d be categorically opposed to recognizing multiple-wives but not multiple-husbands.)  The line-marriage thing is of course not “real” – but in a world where it was legal it would confer very real, and very immediate economic benefits.  You could come up with some other ‘exotic’ arrangements that would beat the stuffing out of traditional marriage in terms of conferring economic advantage as well.

    I’m basically concerned that by having “marriage” at all we’re going to be all but requiring  people of one stripe or another to engage in sexual dynamics they’d rather not engage in order to compete economically.  In other words, at this point, I’m thinking that the “best” solution is to not confer any economic advantages attached to your sex life.

    Oh, and Universal Health Care, since it would solve half a dozen thorny social and economic issues with one fell swoop.

  • Anonymous

    There are apparently 500,000 poly relationships, and about 600,000 gay couples – while there are about 61.8 million straight married couples.  (Which I gleaned from a Newsweek article, and something on HuffPo I can’t find anymore.)

    It doesn’t say how many of those are poly-fi (new word I learned) vs how many are open relationships, with “secondary” relationships, but it said that “primary” / “secondary” relationships are most common.

    Given that, my position that it’s “more important” to secure gay monogamous marriage first doesn’t really hold water.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that trying to paint political opponents as “social radicals” would be a counterproductive strategy for Xians, considering that Jesus himself was a social radical, about as radical as can be done without being certifiably insane.

  • How many people really think like that though? This picture, which earnestly depicts Jesus Christ as being some kind of top corporate executive seems to point to a perception of him as being essentially a Roman era Ronald Reagan or something. It doesn’t quite jibe with what you find in the Gospel, but that’s hardly a concern for the kinds of people who read the Bible and come away with the notion that the main point of the book has to do with banning same-sex marriage and giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

  • Anonymous

     Yeah, but it wasn’t always that way. Even when I was a kid in an evangelical household, we were always talking about how we were the counter-culture, how we were the moral anchor in an ambiguous society. Now, it seems like people prefer the so-called “ambiguous society” after all.

  •  Oh, that’s a good point, too. You can still hear things like that, depending on the specific need for the argument. Sometimes, we’re a righteous, Christian nation that needs to be defended; other times, we’re a godless secular society and Christians are a righteous remnant struggling against evil powers and principalities.

  • Tonio

     

    it creates a sort of permanent underclass of unmarried adult males

    Usually when I hear that argument, I mime playing a violin with a sad face and snort, “Cry me a river!” Why? Because usually it’s the polygynous equivalent of Nice Guy Syndrome. My complaint is not that the argument itself is false, because it may indeed create such an underclass, but that it gives off the powerful stench of male entitlement.

  • Tricksterson

    The cake is a lie.

    I figured someone would say it so it might as well be me.

  •  

    I’m basically concerned that by having “marriage” at all we’re going to
    be all but requiring  people of one stripe or another to engage in
    sexual dynamics they’d rather not engage in order to compete
    economically.

    Personally, the fix to this problem I would prefer is to accept that “marriage” is the mechanism by which individuals come together to form a family, and that families aren’t primarily about sex, they are primarily about mutual love and support.

    Of course, this would still leave the analogous state of affairs wherein the system all-but-requires some people to engage in relationships of mutual love and support (or to pretend to) in order to compete economically.

    Of course, if we don’t have “marriage,” but some people still band together to
    form committed relationships of mutual support that turn out to have
    economic advantages, the exact same thing is true. Removing “marriage” doesn’t help. To fix this problem we either need to forcibly prevent people from cooperating in economically advantageous ways (???) or we need to compensate non-cooperators for this disadvantage. The former seems absurd on the face of it. The latter I guess I can go along with, though to be honest I’m not especially convinced.

  • One thing I could see making it go down a whole lot more easily is a tax credit for single adults who can be proven to be living entirely by themselves. Then all the people whingeing about group marriage creating an unfair advantage wouldn’t really have a leg to stand on.

  • Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I had in mind by “compensate non-cooperators.”

    You could similarly provide a monthly stipend for anyone who can demonstrate that they’re just too unpleasant or socially inept to maintain friendships, to compensate for the demonstrable benefits that networks of friendships provide the rest of us.

    I’m not convinced that calling that sort of advantage “unfair” makes any sense, but regardless of whether it’s fair or sensible or neither I’m probably willing to go along with compensation in cases where it will probably cut the legs out from under my political opposition.

  • I think it probably would be possible to craft a polygamous extension of civil marriage that wouldn’t be inherently sexist or exploitative or a legal/property-rights quagmire.  But it would take a lot of careful work, there would have to be tricky limits defined on the practice, and many, many laws that hinge on the assumption of no more than two people to a marriage would have to be rewritten.  Most likely, *some* poly groups would end up dissatisfied no matter what.  In any event, I’d be in favor if it were carefully done, but I don’t think it’s happening any time soon.

    Enacting same-sex marriage was a breeze by comparison; since marriage had already been gradually redefined to be more or less legally egalitarian, the only thing that had to happen was to remove the stipulation that the two partners be male and female.

  • It’s always seemed to me that bans on same-sex marriage constitute sex discrimination, but for some reason that argument tends not to fly in court, and the reasoning is along the lines of “the law treats men and women the same: they can both marry people of the opposite sex.”

    The thing is, that’s more or less the same as the defense of antimiscegenation laws that was rejected in Loving v. Virginia: “the law treats everyone the same: they can marry people of the same race.”   I’m not a lawyer, but I think the difference may have to do with the differing levels of scrutiny required by civil-rights case law in racial discrimination as opposed to sex discrimination cases.

    In any event, courts in some states *do* seem relatively willing to accept the argument that these restrictions discriminate illegally on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • Anonymous

     

    Why could I not add another adult with whom I don’t have any kind of relationship with (like say my sister, or a close friend and his wife?) 

    I’d be fine with you and your sister and whoever else being in a legal union, personally.  It shouldn’t be the government’s concern whether you guys are actually having sex.

    What is the time split of the children if your relationship breaks up?  Do you wind up with three way custody?  Does the biological parent assume custody?

     

    That’s for the family law court to decide, no?  It’s not like they don’t face equally complicated cases involving step-parents and grandparents and whatnot.

    Offhand, I would think that in a large poly marriage, one or two people would be designated as the child’s primary guardians from birth.  (It’s generally accepted that a kid needs some parenting continuity; a toddler probably shouldn’t be spending 1/87th of its time with each of its 87 poly-parents.)  They’d then have primary custody rights in case of a breakup.

    Are the other TWO parents both obligated to child support?  Doesn’t that make poly relationships economically advantageous over monogamous ones?

    I don’t see why; presumably poly families would be raising more children, so they ought to have more people contributing support.

    I’ve got a problem with that – because I can imagine being “required” to “marry” into the line marriage for economic reasons (our partners are all married, so if you’d like this job…) and then you’re basically at a spot where your job is regulating your sex life.

    Which is a spot we’re at already, and have been for pretty much the entire history of monogamous marriage.  Marry the boss’s kid, inherit the family farm/business.  Marry a Hollywood director/producer, star in their movies.  Marry a politician, get a cushy job in a PAC/nonprofit/think tank associated with their pet issue.  Most people are fine with Mom & Pop corner stores, and it was probably just Pop’s store before he married Mom.

    To the extent that this demands government intervention, I think it can be taken care of with laws against nepotism and sexual harassment and so forth. Any halfway explicit “marry us if you want this job” deal would be quid pro quo harassment.  I don’t see that keeping polygamy illegal does anything to help.

    One of the reasons polygyny is “bad” is because it creates a sort of permanent underclass of unmarried adult males and exacerbates existing economic inequalities. 

    I don’t think women should have their marital options legally constrained for the sake of single men, though.  A big pool of unmarried young men can be a severe social problem, yes, but mostly in societies where marriage is critical to a man’s sexual/economic/social success.  In our society, where half the men are already unmarried, not so much.

    As for exacerbating economic inequalities, the jury’s still out on that.  In societies where the manual labor of women and children is a big factor in a husband’s wealth, polygyny contributes to economic inequality among men, because it helps rich men amass a workforce to make themselves richer.  (That wouldn’t work too well in a society which prohibits child labor and allows women to retain control over their own assets, though.)  On the other hand, it reduces economic inequality among women, because multiple women can benefit from joining a high-status household.  Which is why, historically, laws against polygamy have been most strongly supported by upper-class women and middle-class men.

    I’m basically concerned that by having “marriage” at all we’re going to be all but requiring  people of one stripe or another to engage in sexual dynamics they’d rather not engage in order to compete economically.

    Well, if you want to make sure people aren’t legally compelled to engage in a particular sexual dynamic, you don’t have to erase legal marriage.  Rather, you can eliminate its sexual element.  We’re already halfway there; adultery is rarely prosecuted in Western societies, and wives usually aren’t legally obligated to have sex with their husbands.  In the eyes of the law, marriage is mostly an assets-sharing, child-rearing, health-care-proxy-having thing.

    That doesn’t remove extralegal economic pressures on sexual behavior, of course.  But people don’t have to be married to face those.

  • Lori

    You could similarly provide a monthly stipend for anyone who can demonstrate that they’re just too unpleasant or socially inept to maintain friendships, to compensate for the demonstrable benefits that
    networks of friendships provide the rest of us. 

    Yeah, because introverts don’t have enough problems in US culture we definitely want to frame the argument this way.

    A “network of friendships” is not the same thing as a family/legal unit. The fact that one has not/doesn’t particularly want to create a legal unit doesn’t mean that one is friendless, unpleasant or socially inept.

  •  > A “network of friendships” is not the same thing as a family/legal unit.

    Absolutely true.

    > The fact that one has not/doesn’t particularly want to create a legal
    unit doesn’t mean that one is friendless, unpleasant or socially inept.

    Also absolutely true.

  • Anonymous

    So, I have one thing to add to this conversation, and then I’m going to go think about it.

    I talked to a cultural anthropologist about this – and her reaction was that we were all really, very, very wrong for a few reasons.

    1) Marriage is (or has been for most of time) solely a property arrangement.  In most societies it exists to enrich men – even in societies where women take more than one husband (or sexual parterner) that is to avoid inheritance issues for the men.

    2) The other function of marriage is to clarify paternity. (Which is a subset of property rights, as it relates to inheritance) For most of human history, biological paternity has been unknowable for certain – our current obsession with biological parents is an entirely modern invention.  The Tobrian Islanders practices a form of polyamorous relationship where the man will be away for long periods of time.  The woman is expected to have sex with other men during this time so that her fertile years aren’t “wasted.”  Children resulting from those unions belong to her husband.

    In the past, the personhood of women and children was “closed” by the mans personhood.  They became a “subset” of his personhood.  That’s why ONLY heterosexual marriage makes sense in that context – because there’s NO NEED to marry your homosexual lover to get his property, you just draw up a contract and it’s done – but in order for the plantation to stay in the family, your wife needs to give birth (preferably to a boy child – but if not, you need to marry that little girl off to a man.)

    In our society, marriage has become the answer to the question “who gets” – Who gets the stuff, Who gets the kids, Who gets to pull the plug.  This actually strengthens the case for gay marriage because now that women and children are legal persons – paternity of children adopted by gay couples is legalized by the marriage contract, and the inheritance arrangements are much simpler.  The idea of keeping property in extended families is less important now that most of us are not engaged in agricultural activity.  All of this has exactly nothing to do with who you’re sleeping with – it never has.

    In this case, any multiple marriage like we’re talking about here REALLY DOES undermine and redefine traditional marriage – because it becomes more economically advantageous to be involved in a plural marriage than a dual one.  It confuses paternity, rather than clarifying it (especially in the admittedly ludicrous case of the 87 parents) and make inheritance questions and property arrangements more complex rather than simpler.  Because it doesn’t fit that definition (which really does apparently apply across all cultures) of an arrangement between families to clarify paternity and simplify property arrangements it isn’t marriage.

    That’s not a marriage – it’s a commune or a househould.  Those are all perfectly valid, meaningful ways to live, and lot’s of cultures are structured that way, and they have a lot of advantages over making the household synonymous with the nuclear or extended family (aside: as we’ve done.) but they’re not marriages, at least in an anthropological sense.

  • Tonio

    Most discussions I’ve read about poly marriage seem to assume that poly arrangements would necessarily dislodge mono ones, instead of being alternatives. It’s as though opponents assume that proponents want poly to be the default.

    My own view that by default, both mono and poly marriages should be gender-egalitarian in terms of consent. Even if individual marriages have hierarchies, these must be with the full consent of all spouses.

    Clarifying paternity isn’t necessarily a bad goal, but most arrangements for accomplishing this seem primarily focused on preserving male privilege. Wives and children usually become reduced to husbandly property, with controls placed on female sexuality so that wives don’t bear other men’s children. I’ve heard it claimed that men “naturally” fear raising other men’s children, as if we’re one step away from killing the offspring of rival males to maintain one’s dominance, but that’s most likely gender essentialist rationalization. It should be possible to clarify paternity in a gender-egalitarian manner.

  • Anonymous

    Took me way too long to respond to this and now it’s thread necromancy.  But!

    Marriage is (or has been for most of time) solely a property arrangement. 

    No disrespect to your cultural anthropologist, and I will not be at all surprised if she can disprove everything in this post–but this seems completely wrong to me.  Marriage cannot have been solely a property arrangement for most of time, because for most of time humans didn’t have property.  At least, not the sort of property that lasts long enough to be handed off in bulk to your kids.  And yet, almost all hunter-gatherer societies do have marriage–formal, socially-recognized pair bonds between (usually) a man and one or more women.  (For more on this, PLoS ONE has a nice free article on the topic; see also Menelaos Apostolou’s papers on parental roles in marriage in preindustrial societies.) 

    But their marriages are not about property and inheritance, they’re about alliances and patterns of obligation.  Spouses are expected to share food and otherwise be kind to one another, and wives are (usually) expected to be sexually faithful.  But these bonds also extend to their kin.  When two families are bound by marriage, they will share food in times of want, share their current hunting grounds, and back each other up in case of a violent conflict.

    Most hunter-gatherer marriages are arranged–by kin, usually parents–and marriages that don’t even have parental approval are very rare.  (However, both spouses are usually free to divorce without parental approval.)  Typically, the groom’s family initiates the negotiation, and they offer gifts or service in return for the bride.  The fathers of the families dominate negotiations in the majority of hunter-gatherer societies, although in a significant minority the mothers have equal or greater control, and it’s been argued that the formal “rules” for negotiation in most societies understate the amount of control women actually have.  Polygyny is accepted by most societies, but monogamous marriages are much more common.

    All this is just to say: marriage, and patriarchy, almost certainly predate agriculture and inherited estates by a long, long time.  The kind of “traditional marriage” you’re describing is a special case; it’s dominated much of the world in the recent past, but in terms of human history it’s a blip.  The forms of marriage in liberal Western society, current and proposed, fit pretty comfortably into the full spectrum of marriage practices people have engaged in.  If anything, the weirdest thing about our marriages isn’t the number of people involved in them, but the number of people who aren’t involved; the spouses’ older relatives no longer control and benefit from the whole thing.

    For most of human history, biological paternity has been unknowable for certain – our current obsession with biological parents is an entirely modern invention.

    I’m gonna disagree with this too.  Most societies, and most hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist societies, are obsessed with biological paternity.  Female adultery is punished to some degree almost everywhere, including the Trobriand Islands.  No, Trobriand married women are not expected to have sex with other men when their husbands are gone (although of course they often do).  Quite the contrary–the husband traditionally had the right to beat or kill an adulterous wife.

    In fact, the traditional Trobrianders are an exception that proves the rule on this score.  They disregard biological paternity, because it’s particularly uncertain in their culture.  However, their marriage norms still favor biological descendants.  That’s because Trobriand men don’t focus their investments on their wife and their own legal children, but on the families of their sisters.  Property and social status are inherited not by a man’s son, but by his sister’s son, and men spend much of their time cultivating yams to give to their sisters.  Trobriand men can’t be sure that their legal children are really their own; the closest children whose genetic relationship they can be sure of are their sisters’ (not brothers’) kids.  So their marriage system helps them play the odds in benefiting their own bloodline.

    Also consider how most traditional polyandry involves brother-husbands, and a great deal of polygyny involves sister-wives.  The same norm  holds for serial marriage, as exemplified by Jewish custom; when someone dies, their spouse often remarries their same-sex sibling.  The advantages in terms of biological parentage are obvious; if you have multiple sibling-spouses, they’ll compete less fiercely on behalf of their own kids, because the other kids in the marriage are also their blood relatives.

    In this case, any multiple marriage like we’re talking about here REALLY DOES undermine and redefine traditional marriage – because it becomes more economically advantageous to be involved in a plural marriage than a dual one.

    I”m skeptical of the latter claim, but even if it were correct, the mere existence of a viable alternative hardly redefines monogamous marriage.  Or, if it does, the redefinition is over and done with.  Single life, serial monogamy via divorce, and same-sex marriage are all more economically advantageous than “traditional” marriage for many of us; there’s a reason why half the American adult population is currently unmarried.  Polygamy would be just another option.

    It confuses paternity, rather than clarifying it (especially in the admittedly ludicrous case of the 87 parents) and make inheritance questions and property arrangements more complex rather than simpler. 

    I don’t think that’s true.  When we say that traditional monogamous marriage clarifies paternity and simplifies inheritance, we mean that it does so for the particular sets of people whose interests it matches.  Obviously traditional marriage doesn’t simplify anything for people who don’t want a legal heir and like to live alone!

    So the question is: Would a poly marriage for several people clarify paternity and simplify inheritance, assuming that those several people plan to share property and hospital visitation rights and childrearing anyway, and would otherwise have to do this via a complicated  network of 2-person marriages and additional improvised contracts between marriages?  And I think the answer is clearly yes.
     

  • willic22

    hello folks,

    I’ve written an article about  the comparisons of those fighting for gay rights and those who have and continue to fight for African American rights. If you have time I would like you to read it and leave a comment.  Thank you for your time. Not spam by the way :P enjoy! -Chris W.

    http://willic22.hubpages.com/hub/Gay-Marriage-and-Civil-Rights