Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Supporting Gay Marriage, Opposing Polyamory?

Some people support the rights of (some) gay and lesbian couples to enter into legally monogamous marriages, but oppose relationship rights for the polyamorous, or the polygamous freedom to marry. Or, they oppose relationship rights or the freedom to marry for those in consanguineous relationships.

This should not be surprising, given human history. Some people did and do fight discrimination against women, but are fine with discrimination against racial minorities. Or they have fought discrimination against racial minorities but support discrimination against women, or discrimination against LGBT people, or people with disabilities... on and on it goes. Some people have different biases and prejudices, or a group they treat like a punching bag while supporting another group that is being discriminated against. Some people have no hesitation in turning around and using the same arguments in denying rights to others that were used to deny rights to them.

Unfortunately, bigotry and prejudice are sometimes enshrined in law, and laws can be arbitrary... some country or division thereof might pass a law limiting marriages to Saturdays in June, if that is what the people in power want. So laws have allowed interracial marriage, but banned marriage for gay couples and lesbian couples, or have allowed gay couples to marry, but banned polygamous marriages. In some countries, polygyny is accepted, but gays and lesbians can’t even come out of the closet. In the US, some states allow (mostly heterosexual, so far) first cousins to marry, but some states don't, and virtually none allow any relatives closer than that to marry.

When someone asks, “Is it bigotry to advocate gay marriage, but oppose polyamory?” The answer is: yes, it is. It is one thing, and a valid one, to explain that gay or lesbian monogamy is not the same thing as any version of polyamory. It is another thing, and bigotry at that, to throw polyamorous people under the bus; that one is not polyamorous does not mean it is okay to stand by while the polyamorous are discriminated against, and it certainly isn’t okay to join in and denounce polyamory as a legitimate sphere of relationships.

“I’m not polyamorous.”
“I think polyamory is disgusting.”
“Polymory goes against tradition.”
“My religion is against it.”
“It’s not natural.”
“It hurts children.”
“It hurts women.”
“It is abusive.”
“It spreads STIs.”
“What’s next?”
“Our laws are set up for monogamy.”

Those are essentially same arguments that were used against allowing monogamous gays and lesbians to marry.

The homophobes, against all gay or lesbian relationships, tout statistics of substance abuse, domestic violence, and the like. But shouldn’t we expect problems like that in a group that has largely been rejected (even by their own family,) systematically discriminated against, even prosecuted for being who they are and loving other adults? Likewise, the negative indicators cited against polygamy as correlating are not caused by polygamy. They can be attributed to the overall subculture which was studied (frontier 19th century US under patriarchal monolithic church, isolated patriarchal theocracies, Arabian and African misogynistic patriarchies, etc.) With gender equality, domestic violence protections, and the freedoms to not marry and to divorce, allowing an adult, regardless of religion, gender, or sexual orientation, their rights to share love, sex, residence, and marriage with any consenting adults will help women, some of whom will choose to marry two or more other women. It will also help children, whose parents will be able to legally cohabitate and marry if that is what they want. It will also help men, too. Legalization will make it more likely that abusers will be caught, because victims and witnesses will not have to fear self-incrimination by informing law enforcement.

This debate has recently been seen in Australia. In Australia, is it not legal to have a different sex partner (or two or more) every night and to have children with multiple different people? But it isn’t legal to marry or be married more than one other person at the same time? What kind of sense is that?

Yes, it is possible for the laws to include gay and lesbian couples in marriage, but not polyamorous relationships (or consanguinamorous relationships.) But that is arbitrary. What is consistent? What is fair? What is justice? What is loving? What is equality? Equality just for some is not equality. Full marriage equality means an adult is free to marry any consenting adults. It doesn’t mean anyone else has to do anything they don’t want. It simply means not treating some adults as second class citizens based on their sexual orientation or which other adults they love.

Do we take the concept of consenting adults seriously or not? Why do we allow a woman to go to war at age 18, operate heavy machinery, vote, and do so many other things, but we don’t allow her to marry another woman? Or marry a man who is already married, even though all are informed and consenting?

These relationships exist, and always have. Some of them are lasting, loving, beautiful relationships. Some people in these relationships are raising children together. Many of these people are good citizens and neighbors. Why deny any of them marriage, if they want it?

While many gay and lesbian relationships are monogamous, most polyamorous relationships include at least one person who can be considered LGBT. Even in strictly heterosexual “V” relationships (M-F-M or F-M-F), the two people of the same gender, even if they are never together, have what is called a metamour relationship. So the rights of polyamorous people should be considered part of the overall “queer” or LGBT civil rights issue.

Stand up for everyone’s right to marry, not just your right to marry or your friend’s right to marry. Whether someone is monogamous or polyamorous, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, or whatever, everyone should have the freedom to marry and everyone should stand up for full marriage equality.

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