Thursday, June 30, 2005

Marriage: Is "Poly" the Next Step?

Spain has just joined Belgium and the Netherlands by making same-sex marriages legal. Canada is poised to do the same. In both instances, the arguments are the same, and can be summed up, essentially, as, "fairness" and "equality."

According to the folks in Canada, a "nation of minorities," the legalization of same-sex marriages is necessary, because "a right is a right." (This begs the question of marriage as a right; life, liberty, and marriage? Ask any husband about the first two in light of the third! But we won't go there now...) The anticipated approval of the measure to create this "right" will, according to the national co-ordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, Alex Munter, show Canada to be a nation that is "open, inclusive, and welcoming." Meanwhile, in Spain, Beatriz Gimeno, a longtime leader of the gay rights movement in Spain, said, “Now comes the hardest part, which is changing society’s mentality.”

OK, let me see if I follow this: Marriage is a right which all citizens -- no, wait, all persons -- are entitled to exercise. Any attempt to restrict the application of this right is unfair, and should not be permitted. Minorities, in particular, need to be protected by the state; and this is true even if the preferences and practices of these minority groups do not agree with those held by the "mainstream" of society, and established, historical positions. After all, the members of these minority groups are just as capable as anyone else of entering into stable, fulfilling, long-term relationships -- right? And as for "historic positions," well, there was a time when everyone knew that certain minority groups were inferior to others; and that slavery was an acceptable practice; but now, in this enlightened age, we all know better -- right?

As I have said before in this space, if we make the argument for or against the permitting of same-sex marriages (so-called) without reference to anything beyond, shall we say, constitutional law, we will (ultimately) lose the debate. (We ain't doin' so well now anyway...) Those who, for the most part, oppose the legalization of same-sex marriages tend to do so from a moral, rather than a legal, standpoint. We appeal to the beliefs of our faith groups -- where, remarkably, there is a considerable degree of agreement on the question of recognizing (blessing) the union of a man and a woman, while not extending the same to any other pairing (with one exception: polygamy). Christians, Jews, and Muslims don't agree about the Person of God, or the way to live in accordance with the will of God -- but all three of the world's monotheistic religions agree that the union of a man and a man, or of a woman and a woman, is contrary to the will of God. We cite as well that, in the inability to procreate the species, such unions are against "nature," in that a male-male pairing cannot produce offspring under any circumstances; while a female-female pairing can only do so with "outside help." (This is a family-oriented blog, so we won't go into any details here...) Those who do not share our religious beliefs do not accept the revelation of God as an acceptable line of argumentation; and they have other explanations as to why the "natural vs. unnatural" aspect of human reproduction has no significance when considering the question of allowing two persons of the same gender to enter into a union as "married partners."

Well, let me go ahead and throw caution to the wind (again). As a student of history, I recognize that a significant part of the foundation for the laws of this land is a Biblically-based morality. For two centuries, this foundation was essentially unquestioned: had the phrase existed, the response of "Duh!" would have been heard had someone seriously attempted to raise the question of same-sex marriages before, say, the 1960's. I'm not directly equating these, mind you, but I don't think it is a coincidence that the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's was follwed by the "sexual revolution" that began in the 1960's. Since that time, many, many things have changed -- not always for the better, in my not-so-humble opinion. As the state -- our nation -- has been moving faster and faster to distance itself (not necessarily knowingly or intentionally) from a morality that arises from the country's Puritan/Protestant roots, those who cling to the arguments and "traditions" that are established therein have an increasingly less-effective voice when the topic turns to debating these issues; including same-sex marriages. So, I'll say first, we're going to lose.

While the proponents of same-sex marriages deny that they favor any developments beyond extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples, the "wall" that will be torn down by their efforts will no longer be effectively in place to address any other definitions that may be advanced for marriage. All of the arguments being advanced today to "change society's morality" to gain acceptance of same-sex marriages -- fairness; equality; acceptance of minority (that is, non-mainstream) points of view and practices, and so on -- can be made in favor of the "polys"; polygamy (one husband, many wives), and polyandry (one woman, many husbands). Indeed, here in the "wild, wild west," we have a group with significant money, power, and influence, whose central tenets at one time required its adherents to practice polygamy as the best way to salvation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known to many as the "Mormons") only rescinded this as a principle of belief when required to do so by the federal government as a condition for admitting the territory of Utah as a state. Why would they not return to this practice if the mood of the nation is to change the "traditional" understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to allow same-sex marriages? After all, the proponents of polygamy have Biblical precedent on their side (at least, in the Old Testament), where many of the patriarchs had multiple wives. The practitioners of the Islamic faith also are permitted as many as four wives. Why should either of these groups refrain from entering the fray, and extend the definition of marriage to allow their religious beliefs to be practiced? Granted, part of the problem is that the practice has often been abused, with men marrying girls under the usual state-established age of consent -- girls young enough to be their daughters. But the abuse doesn't abrogate the right; and there's no reason why, with proper documentation, women of legal age to marry should be denied entry into a polygamous marriage if they choose to do so of their own will.

Nor should the legalization be limited to polygamy. After all, that would be unfair to that part of the female population who would prefer instead to have several husbands provifding for their care, comfort, and pleasure. Again, as long as everyone is at or above the age of consent, and enters knowingly into such a union, registered with the state, why should anyone object? And, while there isn't (so far as I know) a "poly" for more complex relationships, there's no need to limit the establishment of some sort of "multiple amrriages," where, say, three men and two women, or three men and four women (or "a" men and "b" women) desire to be joined in marriage and be recognized as each other's spouses. With everyone at the age of consent, and all open and above-board, why not? After all, we can't use Christian morality as an argument against any of the "polys"; that argument is out-of-bounds in the dialogue today. And, after all, just because only a few people, comparatively speaking, will actually want to enter into these forms of union doesn't make them wrong. Even though they are only a small minority, hey, minorities have rights, too -- remember? (See above.)

Well, I guess I'm about ranted out for now...

On a side note: I'm not sure what's going on with my template that's producing this incredible gap between the headline and the body of the most recent posting. Please bear with me while I try to find a solution; and, if any of you blog experts have any suggestions on how to fix this, I'd be grateful to hear about them from you!