Same-sex vs. polygamous marriage

William Blent challenged readers in yesterday’s Camera letters to the editor to “give a rational and factual argument against same-sex marriage that is not based on religious beliefs and can’t be equally applied to some opposite-sex marriages.”

Let me give you a hint. He won’t take arguments that marriage is for having children, that children do better with heterosexual parents, and that religions would be forced to accept behavior they consider immoral.

Blent attempted to shoots those down. Likewise, he ignored the fact that centuries of history uphold heterosexual marriage and the resulting family as the most basic building block of strong societies and nations.

I have a counter-challenge for same-sex marriage proponents. Give me rational and factual argument as to why same-sex marriage should be legalized. Also, since it would be the newcomer in history, society deserves an explanation as to its potential effects positive or negative.

Acceptable arguments face constraints, too. Though I believe marriage should be defined as a union between only one man and one woman, I won’t take any arguments that don’t apply equally to polygamous marriage. If you cannot do this, take the next course. Explain why government should recognize same-sex marriage without recognizing polygamous marriage.

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18 Responses to Same-sex vs. polygamous marriage

  1. _Mrs_M_ says:

    THANK YOU. One of my biggest pet peeves is that those who have conservative moral values are often asked to defend their position "rationally" without using religion as their basis. Rarely are those who take the other side asked to defend their position rationally as well. In my experience, many who are anti-religion or whose religion is that of self-gratification, are just as emotionally driven – if not more so – than those who adhere to the standards of an organized religion. I look forward to seeing if anyone attempts to take your challenge.

  2. brainchild says:

    Government has no obligation based on equity to recognize polygamous marriages. This is a complete red herring. A blanket prohibition of polygamy isn't unfair to a class of people whose membership in that class is based on an innate trait (e.g., skin color, sexual orientation, etc.). Being homosexual is not a lifestyle choice. So there is no slippery slope.

    But the moment secular government recognizes marriage between a heterosexual man and woman, but doesn't recognize a marriage for a homosexual couple, it must show that this kind of discrimination is rationally based. If it's not rationally based (like, if it's mere prejudice borne of religious dogma, for imporant instance), then it's unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. End of story.

    The fear of a loving gay couple wanting to partake of the societal benefits of a stable marriage (with or without kids) is essentially irrational. As such, the government (much less anyone else) can't demonstrate the harms that certain people fear.

    If you want to keep government from conferring the same rights for homosexuals as for heterosexuals, you have to show that the harms that you fear occur in homosexual marriage can't occur in heterosexual marriage. But of course you can't. Even the proponents of Prop 8 in the California trial gave up trying to do so, which is why they properly lost.

    The reason same-sex marriage should be legalized isn't because it represents some kind of special new rights for homosexuals. It's because homosexuals already have constitutional rights that are being violated by a government ban upon same-sex marriage at the same time as a non-ban on heterosexual marriage.

    If you really want to constitutionally prohibit gay marriage, get the government out of the marriage business. Either that or repeal the 14th Amendment (Equal Protection). Neither of those of course is going to happen.

  3. Brainchild,

    Your whole argument is based on your belief that homosexuality is an innate characteristic, not a lifestyle choice. Anyone opposing same-sex marriage is simply supposed to accept this? Tell me why, then, can people discover this fact after they've had several children in a heterosexual marriage? People don't discover their skin color after trying out other colors.

    • brainchild says:

      Heterosexuals have been known to get married and have sex and then kids for all the wrong reasons since time immemorial. What makes you think someone who's homosexual can't make the same mistakes? Making homosexual marriage legal, as part and parcel of accepting homosexuality in general, will arguably decrease such family-harmful situations.

      And of course a society that condemns homosexuality as, for instance "a sin", is one that incentivizes homosexuals to hide their innate status, out of simple self-preservation. Just listen to their anguished stories, over and over and over again, the theme is constant. Societal prejudice, whether secular or religious, twists good people in devious, self-negating, and often unconscious ways, which lead to poor, or at least incorrect, choices. People don't kill themselves over their own "lifestyle choices". Read up about gay and lesbian teen suicides in places like Mormon Utah. Watch Angels in America. Etc., etc.

      Besides, your question doesn't refute my example vis-a-vis innateness. One's sexual orientation may remain hidden, even to oneself, much better than skin color; that doesn't imply it's not innate.

      I actually don't care whether some small percentage of homosexuality might be a choice. That by itself is not enough to circumvent the law's requirement of rationality when discriminating. Again, for the law to rationally discriminate, you have to show real harms occur that are completely specific to the situation. This is hard: human beings are notorious for biased perceptions about cause and effect. A perfect example is the "Is Gay Marriage Wrong" poll [sic] that occasionally pops up on this blog page. All such web-based "polls" are devoid of any scientifically legitimate intellectual value, because they are self-selecting. All they do is reinforce prejudices.

      Look, I'm hetero. But when I was a young adult, a very close friend confided to me (before he told anyone else) that he was gay. I will forever feel honored by his trust in me. And it made perfect sense, knowing who he was and the type of person I knew him to be. And I saw what he went through coming out–frightened of his own family's reaction (this was several decades ago)–enough to know completely that his sexual orientation was not a "lifestyle choice". I grew up knowing which of the adults around me was a homosexual too. A cowboy I once knew eventually came out (can you imagine how difficult that must have been?).

      And I know several gay couples whose adopted kids are no more or less well-adjusted than similarly situated kids of the hetero couples I know, a few of whom have families whose kids have tough problems. (Kids adopted by hetero parents encounter plenty of problems, so intellectual care must be taken in any attempt to parse the causes of dysfunction out of these situations.)

      It's all a question of empathy. I know completely that I'm heterosexual. But if that's the case, then it makes perfect sense that a homosexual person can know completely that they are homosexual. The mental, genetic, imprint, or (God forbid) maybe even random mechanisms underlying why shouldn't matter (other than as something to understand). And I really couldn't care less whether two people who are attracted to each other, love each other, and desire to be with each other on life's journey, are the same sex or not; more power to them—we need as many loving couples in this world as possible.

      For all these reasons and lots more, secular society must then confer on homosexual couples the same legal benefits it confers on hetero couples. The world will change for the better, as predictable as progress.

  4. Brainchild (What is your real name for the record? I'm on the record with mine.)

    You write long posts but didn't answer with acceptable arguments as I set it up. You may feel you have given me rational and factual argument as to why same-sex marriage should be legalized though I see it mostly as emotional. And, I'll put aside for now your having to explain potential negative as well as the positive effects on society of same-sex marriage.

    Let me remind you I won’t take arguments that don’t apply equally to polygamous marriage. Do you think one is innate and the other is not? Based on what? Shouldn't people entering into polygamous marriages be rewarded by government and society for marrying whom they love?

    If you cannot give such arguments, take the next course. Explain why government should recognize same-sex marriage without recognizing polygamous marriage. Simply saying the latter is a red herring is a cop out. Both would change the definition of marriage affirmed in the Defense of Marriage Act.


  5. brainchild says:

    The reason polygamy is a red herring is because, well, it's a non-issue being used by overly fearful, slippery-slopers. The (non-existent) polygamy/polyandry lobby hasn't enjoyed any successes in changing the law to their favor that I've noticed. Nor are they going to in the future because of the Prop 8 decision. And, for the sake of argument, if that occurs, we can have a welcome discussion, with solid facts, about the real and/or imagined harms of polygamy.

    Anyway, I did explain, quite succinctly, why the government should recognize same-sex marriage without recognizing polygamous marriage. Here goes again: A ban on polygamous marriage does not violate the requirement under our national constitution that the law provide citizens with Equal Protection. Prohibiting same-sex marriage does because it turns out that from the point of view of the benefits of state-sanctioned marriage (a legal condition), hetero- couples are similarly situated to same-sex couples. To understand the distinction, a law banning man/man/woman polygamy at the same time as permitting man/woman/woman polygamy would (absent a rational basis for that descrimination) also violate equal protection. It's as simple as that.

    Read the judge's non-succinct decision to flesh it all out. It also has a nice summary of how equal protection of the laws works in our society. Here's a succinct summary of the findings of fact in the Prop 8 case:

    And here's Ted Olson's summary of why he, a well-known conservative, fought and won the battle:

    To the extent the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents states from permitting same-sex marriage, it will eventually be ruled unconstitutional also, for all the exact same reasons. it certainly won't be the first time pandering politicians have attempted to ensconce their constituents' prejudices into some temporary bad law. So it goes in the United States, always lurching three steps forward and two steps back.

  6. Brainchild (Your real name is?)

    I can see you're not going to argue with the constraints I gave you. Instead, you'll give me lots of reading.

  7. ARTRP says:


    I am very grateful for what you have said. It is a different point of view and you obviously care deeply about this subject. However the terms have been set on which you have been asked to blog. As a reminder the subject is: Explain why government should recognize same-sex marriage without recognizing polygamous marriage. Thank you. 🙂


  8. brainchild says:

    ARTRP asks: Explain why government should recognize same-sex marriage without recognizing polygamous marriage

    I've tried. Twice now. Perhaps the third time's a charm!

    Implicit in the question is that, regardless of sexual orientation, people in polygamous marriages are similarly situated to people in monogamous marriages. This is, I think, a fallacy.

    If these two types of relational units can be rationally distinguished on the basis of harms and benefits, then the question is no different from asking why the government shouldn't permit children to drive when it permits adults. But of course, children don't have the right to force the government to let them drive just because it's nominally inequitable that adults have that right. It's a rational discrimination supported by good, factual reasons that everyone agrees on: preventing children from driving reduces all manner of societal harms. Children and adults are not similarly situated with respect to the harms and benefits of driving.

    We live in a self-governing society. The government (under our direction) has no obligation to recognize marriage of any sort. It's certainly not a requirement of the US Constitution to do so. So whether government "should" or "should not" do something is up to the populace to decide (yes, that process is dysfunctional, but that's a different issue).

    If as a society we determine that polygamy is a great idea and that the benefits (if any) outweigh the harms (if any), and that a three-or-more-some is similarly situated to a monogamous two-some, we presumably will then tell our government to permit three-or-more-somes to marry in order to receive legal benefits. And guess what: there is nothing in our legal system to prevent that.

    I don't know any polygamists, although when one reads books like Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, the selective picture isn't very pretty. But regardless of publicized horror stories, I doubt that polygamous marriages can ever be considered "similarly situated" to monogamous marriages. I would think there is a symmetric mirroring ability in a couple (regardless of sex) that cannot be achieved, or at least becomes unstable, in a three-some. If that's the factual case, then there is no obligation based on fairness (equal protection) on the part of the government to even think about polygamy, just because the law considers two-somes. In short, no slippery slope, and no obligation ("should") to recognize polygamous marriages.

    More to the point: A polygamist group doesn't need the government to recognize same-sex marriage to argue they deserve the same legal benefits as an opposite-sex couple. Is there any indication that that has been happening anywhere? I'm not aware of it.

    Our society has decided that it's a good idea to confer special legal privileges onto two people whom we call "married" and expect to be monogamous. We say, okay, you two committed lovers can be a legal unit under the law of the land (which is not the same as religious rules, although they can be parallel). You get these benefits, and concomitantly, society's going to make it hard for the two-some to legally uncouple.

    But a constitutional problem arises when the government artificially limits these benefits to just opposite sex couples without some kind of rational underpinnings for the discrimination. Without that rationality, the law is treating similarly situated same-sex couples, who desire those benefits for all the same reasons as opposite-sex couples, as second-class, which is to say … unfairly.

    So it does not follow that because there's a constitutional problem with preventing same-sex marriages, that somehow the government must then recognize polygamous marriages. Certainly not when polygamous groups are not similarly situated to couples (all regardless of sexual orientation).

    If you want the government to prevent same-sex couples from marrying because, for instance, it can rationally be determined that they can't procreate, then the law must also prevent opposite-sex couples who can't procreate from being married. That's not going to happen because there's plenty of other good reasons to support two-somes over and above having biological children.

    The single strongest argument those opposed to same-sex marriage can bring to bear isn't about polygamy, which as I've said is a red herring. It is, rather, to demonstrate, scientifically (which is to say rationally, factually and without bias or regard to individual religious beliefs) that something harmful happens when same-sex couples marry, especially something that can't or doesn't happen when opposite sex couples marry. But in order to really understand if this is true or not, we're going to have to have a big sample size, and a lot of experience with same-sex married couples raising families, especially in a non-prejudiced environment that would otherwise skew the results.

    That in and of itself is an argument for legalizing same-sex marriage, just to be kind and see what happens. All part and parcel of the long-running show we call the "American Experiment."

  9. brainchild says:

    Here's another way to think about the polygamy non-issue.

    When a man and a woman get married, no one goes around like Chicken Little proclaiming, "The state just gave a man and a woman a marriage license! Ohmigod, what's this society coming to? The next thing you know three people are going to want to get married!"

    And yet that's just as inappropriate and illogical a scenario as the same-sex marriage vs. polygamy question raised above. That question is flawed because of the hidden assumption that same-sex marriage and polygamy are properly comparable. Well, no; the proper axis of comparison is polygamy vs. monogamy.

    But monogamy plainly doesn't lead down some slippery slope to polygamy. Isn't there truly something fundamentally different between the two, which is to say that a couple practicing monogamy is not similarly situated to three or more people practicing polygamy.

    Whereas within the confines of monogamy, from the point of view of the legal benefits the law confers, the differences between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are minor and completely overshadowed by the similarities. The law, for instance, does not require anyone getting married to have children. All of which is why raising the polygamy issue (under the supposition that polygamy is generally bad) is a red-herring, fear-mongering argument.

    The same-sex marriage issue is simply about re-examining what's really important in monogamy, so as to prevent secular law from discriminating irrationally against a large minority of citizens in violation of their right under the US Constitution to be treated equitably under the law.

    In sum, if you think that there's a real difference between monogamy and polygamy, then there's no reason to worry that the state is going to start giving (either voluntarily or because of some lawsuit over equal protection) marriage licenses to polygamous groups.

    Gotta go. A lesbian acquaintance and her life-long partner—both of whom deserve to enjoy the legal benefits of monogamous marriage—are coming over for dinner.

  10. brainchild says:

    The coup de grace of all these postings using the word polygamy is that occasionally Google Ads presents a video advertisement for the Mormon Church in the right column entitled … and I'm a Mormon. When I click on the ad, a fleeting Google Ads redirect occurs, sending my web browser to a heart-warming video that has nothing to do with polygamy; it's all about how being a Mormon teaches compassion (though not compassion towards homosexuals).

    If that's not ironic on several levels, nothing is, given the history of this particular religion, its role in the Prop 8 Amendment, and the fact that it has been responsible for nearly all polygamy that's occurred in the United States. Gives new meaning to the word correlation.

    So here's a question: Is the Mormon Church ( remunerating the Daily Camera or Ms. Scoville to automatedly advertise/proselytize on blog pages that discuss polygamy?

    • brainchild says:

      And three hours after the above post, the Mormon ad (which was there for at least a day) is gone, replaced by ads for same-sex weddings in Hawaii or Vermont.

      More irony arising out of the mysterious hidden world of dynamic, content-based, web-advertising.

    • brainchild says:

      And a day later, this page is back to showing the "Is Gay Marriage Wrong" pseudo-poll, which is, regardless of one's opinions, completely BOGUS as a means of determining the (loaded) question, because it's a self-selecting poll.

  11. eastonia says:

    Rarely do I go out of my way to read blogs such as yours, let alone spend time and effort commenting. But I am horrified by a) how uninformed you seem to be, b) by your lack of humility and compassion, c) that the Daily Camera, a news source of a "progressive" town, would provide links to such conservative propagandish junk.

    And for the record, from one queer person's perspective – I don't give a hoot whether you let me marry or not. It's an out-dated, shoddy, elitist establishment, (have you looked at divorce rates anytime recently??). And I support polygamy (as long as women are of a sound age) for the same reason – if they want to join the big, sad club of matrimony, who am I to stop them?

  12. brainchild says:

    Several months after the above discussion, Colorado Senator Bennet has co-sponsored a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the Obama administration now refuses to defend DOMA due to its completely obvious unconstitutionality.


  13. brainchild says:

    And after another six months, California's Prop 8 has been ruled unconstitutional by the federal appellate court.

    Interestingly, the ruling rests much of its logic on the US Supreme Court's ruling on the similar unconstitutionality of Colorado's Amendment 2.

    And there's even something to warm the hearts of those who play the fear-mongering polygamy card. This new decision uses the phrase "bilateral loyalty" to describe one of the benefits of marriage. Precisely what I was trying to get at above, distinguishing monogamy from polygamy. But it actually didn't coin the phrase. It quotes it from one of the cornerstone Supreme Court cases on marriage and the right to privacy, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which decriminalized birth control, and which also (by the way) is prime legal support in Roe v. Wade.

    And, I'm of course happy to say, the court confirms nearly everything I argued above on the subject of equal protection above.


  14. brainchild says:

    And now, as I predicted almost two years ago (see above), the Federal Appeals court in the Second District (NY) has ruled (2 to 1) that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed solely to mollify the religious right, is an unconstitutional violation of … the Equal Protection Clause.


  15. brainchild says:

    Nearly two years after the first posting above under this topic occurred, the US Supreme Court has today (Dec 7, 2012) agreed to decide the constitutionality of DoMA, as well as certain Prop 8 issues (which are more legally arcane).

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