We Hate to Say We Told You So

Same-Sex Marriage & Polygamy

Rating: 5.00

Claims that legalizing same-sex “marriage” is a slippery slope to polygamy have been met with scoffs. We really hate to say “we told you so...” Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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John Stonestreet

(This commentary is re-aired from April 25, 2013)

In a scene from Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm, the mathematician skeptical about whether the park is a good idea, watches the T-Rex burst out of its enclosure and says, “I hate being right all the time.”

Princeton Professor Robert George and other defenders of traditional marriage understand these sentiments. For years, they’ve warned that redefining marriage beyond the union of one man and one woman wouldn’t—indeed couldn’t—stop with same-sex unions. The same reasoning that extends marriage to same-sex couples would easily be applied to polygamy and polyamory also.

The standard response to these concerns was scoffing and accusations of fear mongering.

Well, the fences are down and the beast is loose.

On Valentines’s Day, the Scientific American published an article claiming that polyamorists could “teach us a thing or two about love,” and the only reason to oppose it was bigotry because of outdated views about love and sexuality. As I said on my Point commentary about the article, the flow of the argument sounded far too familiar.

And now, as if on cue, Slate magazine published an article on April 15 by Jillian Keenan arguing that polygamy should be legalized. As Keenan notes, the arguments about gay marriage being a “slippery slope” that will lead to legalized polygamy is something “we’ve been hearing about for years.” To which she adds, “We can only hope.”

She continues: “While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice.”Daily_Commentary_4_25_13

Keenan adds that legalizing polygamy would help to “protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.” How? By ending the “isolation” where “crime and abuse can flourish unimpeded.” That is, if polygamy is legal, she says, victims of abuse would be more likely to report abuses to the authorities.

Finally, she argues that respect for religious freedom requires legalizing polygamy. It isn’t only fundamentalist Mormons she’s concerned about: she cites “academics” who “suggest” that there may be between 50 and 100,000 Muslims in the U.S. who practice polygamy.

What’s most significant here isn’t the quality of Keenan’s arguments. The quality is poor. The treatment of women in countries where polygamy is legal makes her optimism about the impact of legalizing it seem dangerously naive. And her appeal to religious freedom is—shall we say—selective. There are plenty of law-abiding Americans whose religious freedom is under genuine threat who could benefit from this kind of solicitude.

No, the most significant thing about Keenan’s argument is not, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, that it’s made well, but that it’s made openly.

As Dr. George pointed out in “First Things,” when Christians pointed out the logical link between same-sex marriage and polygamy, proponents of same-sex marriage rejected the connection. They insisted that “no one is arguing for the legal recognition of polygamous or polyamorous relationships as marriages!”Newsletter_Gen_180x180_B

George writes in response, “That was then; this is now.” The “then” he referred to was last week; the now is today.

George predicts that Keenan’s article “will not produce a single serious critique by a major scholar or activist from the same-sex marriage movement.”

Now he would love to be wrong. But defenders of traditional marriage know that the enclosures that kept marriage a “monogamous and exclusive union” are being dismantled. And no one should be surprised by what emerges, least of all those doing the dismantling.

Further Reading and Information

BP-Takeaction_70513We Hate to Say We Told You So: Same-Sex Marriage & Polygamy - Next Steps

In light of the recent Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8, there is even more urgency to defending the traditional one man, one woman understanding of marriage. The debate is still alive, but it will take perseverance and courage, and it will also take knowledge. Start by reading Robert George’s article “Beyond Gay Marriage,” and get a copy of What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Other great resources are listed below.


What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense
Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, Robert George | Encounter Books | December 2012


Beyond Gay Marriage
Robert George | First Things blog | August 2, 2006

Polyamory: from Creepy to Normal
John Stonestreet | The Point | March 6, 2013

Calvin Klein Ad: Are they selling jeans or a polyamorous life-style?
Kim Moreland | BreakPoint.org | July 7, 2009

Domestic Disturbances: The Rising Polyamorous Culture Is Out to Get Your Children
Patrick F. Fagan | Touchstone | January/February 2010

Polygamy Versus Democracy
Stanley Kurtz | The Weekly Standard | June 5, 2006

New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You
Stephanie Pappas and LiveScience | Scientific American | February 14, 2013

Legalize Polygamy!
Jillian Keenan | Slate.com | April 15, 2013



Okay. It's not exactly at the top of the page, it is at the top of the text of the commentary, which I didn't read because I listened to the audio version. I guess that's why I didn't see it. Sorry. But I'm guessing I'm not the only one who didn't see it. Anyway, in the future I'll know where to look.
Which is why we included the line "This commentary is re-aired from April 25, 2013" at the top of the page. :-)
Deja vu all over again
SH refers to "BreakPoint broadcasts in recent months ...". I would add, maybe, "... especially the April 25 commentary (http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/22051), of which this one is a rerun."
I think it needs to be said, though most people probably already think it, the activist groups we're talking about scoff at any reasonable argument because they DON'T CARE. The opposition rationale boils down to: "Morality is irrelevant. Nature is irrelevant. All that matters is whether the expansion of my rights impinges upon yours" and generally that means the same category of rights as well. Any "slippery slopes" are someone else's problem -- they approach their causes with a Saul Alinsky laser-focus and consequent hubris and wearing of blinders.

The connection between something like same-sex "marriage", polygamy, etc. and religious liberty is lost to most people because the links (1) are buried in conceptually and temporally distant legal conflicts and (2) depend on an absolute external moral reference, and (3) most people can't even recognize a logical fallacy when it bites them. They'll fall for cleverly-worded rhetoric in a heartbeat.

Bob Scheiffer didn't know until a couple of weeks ago that there were any lawsuits against businesses refusing to serve same-sex couples. Other people say of the Catholic Church, "well, it's the law now and a majority of people support it, so the Church is just going to have to change and get with the times if it wants to stay relevant." These people get bored with the fall-out: it's just legalese and not entertaining and besides, they don't have time to really think about it before their favorite shows come on TV. They cannot in any capacity understand that the Church cannot change: it is goverened by beliefs and tenants that are universal truths that are not decided by majority vote. A leap of logic is overlooked: a solid argument is easily defeated by an emotionally distracting one. They are lost in the here-and-now. Myopia is epidemic and thus hind-sight is nowhere near 20/20.

I think that the BreakPoint broadcasts in recent months that have encouraged "engaging the cultural imagination" are dead-on (at least while people still have imaginations): it's something the opposition is extremely proficient at doing, and we really don't do all that well. It means re-claiming (assuming we ever had it) the media, living lives that defy rather than echo secular statistics in regard to things we preach against such as divorce rates, and understanding our beliefs in a continuum of argument that connects faith and morals to the material world that non-believers actually experience in everyday life. And as a recent BreakPoint broadcast (I think one of Eric's) mentioned, producing art that doesn't just reflect the Good and the True, but is also Beautiful in itself: that is, for example, a book isn't a good book because it is written by a Christian and echos a Christian worldview -- a book is a good book because it speaks truth AND is well written.

We have to be what the opposition is not while engaging the world on the world's terms. I suspect this is what is meant by being in the world but not part of the world. We are the only light and are sent to be that light to a world that often doesn't even want there to be a light, much less see by it. We can't just shine, we have to shine beautifully.