Discredited, Invalid Arguments Against Full Marriage Equality
...And My Answers to Them
Almost always, bigots trying to justify their prejudice in denying full marriage equality or relationship rights use a few standard arguments that have already been discredited, invalidated, and do not stand up in court. Often, they are very much like the arguments that were used to prevent interracial couples from marrying.
Please feel free to cite this page and the argument number when dealing with those who want to deny full marriage equality. I plan to do that to save myself a lot of time.
Used Against Any Freedom to Marry
1. “It is disgusting.” Also known as the “ick” or “eww” factor, this explains
why the person using the argument would not want to enter into the type
of relationship or marriage or have the kind sex they want banned, but
their own personal disgust is not a justification for preventing other
people from doing something those other people want to do. Don’t want to
have an (adult) intergenerational or interracial or same-gender or polyamorous or
consanguineous marriage? Don’t have one. Some people are disgusted by the idea
of heterosexual sex, or their parents having sex, but obviously this is not a
justification to ban those things. Some people find prejudice and bigotry, a
lack of marriage equality, disgusting. Meanwhile, the people in these
relationships aren’t disgusted. How they love each other should be be up to
2. “It goes against tradition.” or "It goes against the law." So did the abolition of slavery and allowing women to vote. In reality, (adult) intergenerational,
interracial marriages, same-gender marriages, polygamous or polyamorous marriages, and
consanguineous marriages are nothing new. Some of these were entered into by
prominent religious leaders and historical royalty. Regardless, a tradition of
inequality is not a justification for continuing to deny equality. Unjust or outdated traditions or laws need to be removed.
3. “Not a lot of people want to do it” or “I don’t want to do it.” The second one is much like #1 above. The first is not a justification for keeping something illegal. If anything, it is a reason laws against these consensual adult relationships are wasteful and unnecessary. But we don’t deny minorities rights based on majority vote. Also, people would be
surprised to know just how many people around them are in, or want to be
in, or have been in, a relationship that is currently illegal or
otherwise discriminated against.
4. “My religion is against it.” Again, if you don’t want an (adult) intergenerational,
interracial, same-gender, polygamous, or consanguineous relationship or
marriage, then don’t have one. But we should all have the freedoms of religion
and association and in places like the US, we have separation of church and
state, so this can’t be a justification for denying marriage equality or other
5. “It's not natural." Actually, yes, it is. Many people have been embarrassed by making this
argument, because it is so easy to refute by a cursory survey of sexual, mating, and partnering habits of various animals. But invariably, the person
saying that a relationship should not be allowed because they think it is
unnatural constantly enjoys things that aren’t natural, from their smart phones
to their toiletries to their food to their clothing to their transportation to
their housing… on and on it goes. “Hey! You can’t ride a bicycle! It’s not
natural!” See how ridiculous that is?
6. “This will hurt children.” This is usually said by people who
themselves hurt children by denying rights to the parents of those children and
telling the children that their parents are wrong for loving each other,
perpetuating a stigma about the children and their families. Don’t want children
of these relationships to be hurt? Then stop hurting their families
There is no evidence of this and numerous studies show that the only harm is from prejudice and a lack of marriage equality.
Adults having a relationship with each other, adults reproducing together,
and adults raising children together are three different things. Adults can do
any one of those without doing the other two, or any two of those without doing
the third. Or, to put it another way, we’re talking about sex, relationships,
and marriage, not about reproduction or adoption or parenting. Most sex does not result in a
birth. Marriage is not about children as we don’t require people to reproduce, even when they get married, and we allow those who are unable or unwilling to reproduce to marry. Most people do not believe sex or marriage is only for reproduction. Most sex does not result in a birth. We don’t deny people their right to be together because they can’t or won’t
reproduce. We don’t deny people their right to be together because they won’t
be good candidates for adoption. We don’t test people on their parenting skills
before we allow them to marry, but if we did, a lot of the prejudiced people
who want to deny rights to others would fail, while many people who are still
fighting for their relationship rights would pass with flying colors.
But as long as we're talking about children, let's note that many people claim it is better to raise children within marriage. How can we deny that benefit to the children being raised by people currently denied their right to marry? There are children being raised right now by people who want to get married, and yet are denied their right to marry.
Where does this knowing what is best for the children of other people stop? Should single parents lose custody? Should we compel pregnant women to get a specific kind of prenatal care?
7. “What’s next?” “Where do we draw the line?” Freedom for consenting adults. Who has a problem with that? What's wrong with letting consenting adults have the freedom to love each other as they want and agree? Rather than coming up with convoluted schemes for
which groups of people will get which rights, why not support the rights of all adults? It’s really quite simple.
Used Against Polygamous* and Consanguineous** Marriage
Same-gender marriage is still banned in some places, but it is only a matter of time before most of those places catch up with the 21st century. The arguments above have recently failed to justify bans on same-gender marriage just as they failed to justify bans on interracial marriage, and neither they, nor the arguments below, justify banning any marriage (or relationship or sex) involving consenting adults.
8. “It isn’t the same thing as same-gender marriage.” So what? We’re talking about consenting adults who want
to be together, and there’s no good reason to stop them. Some same-gender
relationships and marriages are polygamous and/or consanguineous. A man
should not only be able to marry another man, but two or more other men or his
Strictly speaking, whether a marriage is same-gender or heterosexual is
a different category than whether it is monogamous or polygamous; or exogamous or interracial,
endogamous, or consanguineous. Some heterosexual marriages are monogamous, some
are polygamous. Some same-gender marriages are monogamous, some are polygamous.
Bisexuals may be in monogamous marriages or polygamous marriages. Some
monogamous marriages are consanguineous, some aren’t. That monogamous/polygamous
and exogamous/endogamous/consanguineous are different categories from
heterosexual/same-gender is not a justification to deny the freedom to marry to
consenting adults, or deny them marriage equality. Relationship rights belong to all adults.
should be noted that when there is a poyamorous relationship, whether a
"V" or a triad or more, at least two of the people involved are the
same gender, even if they are no more than metamours to each other.
Something does not have to be immutable or inborn, like sexual orientation, to be
legal. However, there are people (especially with Genetic Sexual Attraction)
who are in consanguineous relationships who would swear to you that they
couldn’t love anyone as much as they love their partner(s). They were
their situations. There are people who are obviously unable to be
to the point of being willing to suffer loss of job, loss of reputation,
of wealth, and figurative and literal loss of life, and they should not
promise monogamy nor be pressured to pretend to be monogamous.
Some people simply are
That these other categories are not the same thing as same-gender marriage
does not explain why there are still laws against them or a lack of relationship protections in the law.
9. “They’re abusive.” These types of relationships are are not inherently abusive. It is the abusive
relationships in general that are more likely to make news, or come to
the attention of therapists or law enforcement. There are many people in
"forbidden" relationships that are lasting, happy, healthy
Abusive people are the cause
of abuse, not a relationship or marriage. There are many same-age, same-race, heterosexual, monogamous,
nonconsanguineous relationships and marriages in which someone is abused. We
have several examples showing that outlawing consensual behavior correlates to
an increase in problems as people try to avoid law enforcement and other
authorities. Marriage equality will most certainly reduce abuse, as
abuse victims can go to the authorities with much less fear. So the solution
isn’t the status quo, it is in bringing the relationships out of the
shadows, allowing them to be protected and made official, and prosecuting abusers. Abuse victims
will be much more forthcoming.
Used Against Polyamorous Relationships or Polygamous* Marriage
10. “Polygamy or polyamory spreads sexually transmitted infections.” Unprotected sex with someone who is infected is how such infections may be transmitted. Twenty people could have group sex and a group marriage for fifty years and if none of them brings an infection into the marriage and they only have sex with each other, none of them will get a sexually transmitted infection. We do not deny people their freedom to marry based on which diseases
they have. In most places, people can legally have sex with multiple partners anyway.
Polyfidelity can be encouraged if polygamy is legalized and polyamory is no longer stigmatized, which would actually
reduce disease transmission. Polyamorous people tend to be more careful about prevention, safer sex, and actually talking about the issues involved.
11. “It will be a legal/paperwork nightmare as our system is set up for couples.”That’s what the bigots said about same-gender marriage and the
Americans With Disabilities Act and just about any civil rights laws. Of course
it is easier for those who already have what they want to keep things as they
are. But what about all of the people who are denied their rights?
Adopting the polygamous freedom to marry under full marriage equality
will take much less adjustment than adopting the Americans With
Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act and many other laws
necessary to for equal protection and civil rights. Contract and
business law already provides adaptable examples of how law can accommodate configurations involving three or more people, including when someone joins an existing relationship or leaves a relationship.
12. “What about child custody and child support?”This is an especially flimsy objection to polyamorous (or polygamous)
relationships. As we have noted before, adult relationships don't
always involve raising children. Even so, nonmonogamous relationships
between adults who are parents have always existed, and in most places,
it isn't criminal to be nonmonogamous. So this issue is already being handled. Notice we could ask the same question about children from one
night stands, donated sperm, surrogate mothers, affairs, brief flings, or
supposedly monogamous relationships and marriages that end. What about children
born to a woman whose husband wasn’t the man who impregnated her? All of these
situations are entirely legal. A mediator, arbitrator, or court
custody and child support disputes that aren’t resolved amicably. That
would still be the case if polyamorous relationships had legal
protections, including marriage.
13. “This will cause inheritance disputes.” This can’t be a reason for the
continued denial of the polyamorous or polygamous
freedom to marry. Again, if we're talking about children, not all
polyamorous marriages will have children. But even with
today’s restriction of monogamy-only for marriage, we see inheritance
all of the time. Widows and widowers who were married only once get in
with their own children, who may fight with each other. Then, in some
there are children born outside of that marriage. There’s divorce and
remarriage with or without stepchildren or making more children, there
people who were never married who have kids, there are childless people
inheritances are disputed, "monogamous" and polyamorous people who had
children with multiple people without having been married to any those
partners, on and on it goes. If anything, legalizing polygamy
would make it easier to sort out inheritance. There can be default rules
in the law, and people can come up with their own documented, legal agreements.
14. “What about insurance/employment benefits?” There are many simple ways to
deal with this. It is dealt with when an employee has more kids than the
isn't it? It is not a good reason to deny the polygamous freedom to
marry or polyamorous relationship rights in general. This is
something the law and/or employers and unions can figure out.
15. “This oppresses women.” Gender equality and the right to be unmarried or to
divorce are necessary components of full marriage equality. Anti-equality
people often point to polygyny in certain cultures, past and present, where
women do not have equal rights. However, this is not proof that polygyny,
much less the larger scope of polygamy or polyamory, oppresses women. Women
would be oppressed in those cultures with or without polygyny. If a woman wants
to marry a man who has other wives rather than another man who is an unmarried
man, and the other wives agree, why deny her that choice? If a woman wants to
marry two men, or a man and a woman, or two women, she should have that right,
too. Some women enjoy polygamy, including polygyny, and they should have the
right to consent to the marriage of their choosing.
law does not prevent a man from having relationships with, and children
with, multiple women, but he can't legally marry all of them even if
they all agree. The law does not prevent a woman from having
relationships with, and children with, multiple men, but she can't
legally marry all of them even if they all agree. Three people can have a
loving, lasting triad, living together for years and years, but can't
legally marry. What kind of sense is that?
against gender discrimination, domestic violence, and child abuse should
be the focus, not preventing consenting adults from marrying. Victims
of abuse would be more likely to work with authorities to stop abusers
if consensual relationships were not criminalized nor discriminated
16. “Some men will be left out as polygyny increases.” This is based on the assumption that in a culture with gender equality, polygyny would still be more plentiful than polyandry. Anti-equality people, based on this assumption, insist that this will result in unmarried men devolving into criminals.
The mistake here is assuming that the second, third, etc. wives in a polygynous marriage would have wanted one of those unmarried men rather than legally sharing the man they did marry, and that the unmarried men would in turn want to marry them. Some of those men may want to marry men, or not marry at all. Why not allow people to marry the person or people of their choice? Why try to force people to settle? Also, the system is not closed. There are billions of people in the world and more and more people are reaching the age and status of eligibility every second.
There was a study attempting to link polygny to criminal behavior in
unmarried/unpartnered men based in part on nineteenth century frontier America. Things have
changed a little since then. And guess what? Married men commit crime, too.
Most of the men in prison have been married, were married or had at least one girlfriend
at the time they were convicted.
Maybe men in the hypothetical polygynous community who don’t get married are
violent people. Is it better that they have a wife to beat instead of
committing crimes on the street? I don’t want to be the one who tells a woman
she can’t marry the man/men or woman/women she wants; rather, she has to marry
a less desirable man so that he can take his aggression out on her.
The warnings that polyamorous or polygamous freedom to marry will result in an increase of violent gangs of
unmarried men committing crimes falls flat when one considers the overwhelming
data revealing both that 1) Men in the US are getting married for the first
time later than ever, and 2) Crime rates in the US have decreased.
17. “This will hurt children.” See #6. The study mentioned in #16 also said that children from polygynous families have "considerably lower" survival rates, but the data is from nineteenth century frontier areas and places in Africa where diseases and genocide are significant problems. The study doesn’t address polyandry, same-gender
polygamy, polygamy consisting or multiple men and women, and other forms of
The other claim is that adolescent boys are driven from polygynous
(again, just polygynous and not any other form of polyamory) societies, but there are many adolescent boys
driven from their heterosexual monogamous homes because they are gay, or boys
who run away for the sake of personal freedom, rather than deal with familial
or peer pressure to adhere to certain rules and expectations. Or they can’t
stand their “monogamous” parent’s new girlfriend or boyfriend.
A polyamorous relationship generally means a child is going to have more
supervision and additional role
in a cooperative environment. How is that supposed to be inferior to
bickering parents and stepparents from supposedly monogamous marriage?
It is legal to reproduce and raise children alone, or with others in the
home who aren't monogamous spouses. A woman can live with both fathers
of her children, but can't legally marry both even though that is what
everyone wants? Why deny polyamorous people protections, including
Used Against Consanguineous** Marriage
18. “This will hurt children.” See #6. Some bigots try to justify their prejudice against consanguineous sex and marriage by being part-time eugenicists and saying that such relationships inevitably lead to “mutant” or “deformed” babies. This argument can be refuted on several fronts. 1. Some consanguineous relationships involve only people of the same gender. 2. Not all mixed-gender relationships birth biological children. In a consanguinamorous relationship, adopted or step-parented children are
not going to suffer in comparison to nonconsanguineous relationships. 3. Most births to consanguineous parents do not produce children with significant birth defects or other genetic problems; while births to other parents do sometimes have birth defects. 4. We don’t prevent other people from marrying or deny them their reproductive rights based on increased odds of passing along a genetic problem or inherited disease. It is entirely legal for people with obvious or hidden serious
genetic diseases to date, have sex, marry, and have children. Why should
healthy consanguineous lovers be denied their rights?
It is true that in general, children born to consanguineous parents have an increased chance of these problems than those born to nonconsanguineous parents, but the odds are still minimal. If a natural talent or gift runs in the family, the children will also be more likely to inherit and manifest that beneficial result as well. But there are increased odds of problems with births to older parents, too. There's no stigma assigned to that. These days, older women having children is actually especially celebrated, at least in the US. There is certainly no law against it.
Unless someone is willing to deny reproductive rights and medical privacy to others and force everyone to take genetic tests and bar carriers and the congenitally disabled and women over 35 from marrying or having children, then equal protection principles prevent this from being a justification to bar this freedom of association and freedom to marry, let alone reproductive rights.
about these things should have genetic testing and
counseling. People who are not close relatives can pass along health
too. But there are people born with problems who have made great
contributions to the world, and genetically healthy people born to close
relatives are common enough that we all know some, whether we know
their true genetic parentage or not, and whether they know it or not. It
is that common. I personally know children from such relationships who
are healthy and bright; adorable children and attractive adults.
19. “It ruins, confuses, or distorts family relationships.” First of all, this
does not apply to adoptees who reunite as adults, or people who resulted from gamete or embryo donation. They already have families.
People only say this about sex and marriage. They don’t say it about
friendships, working together, or any number of additional relationship dimensions
family members might have with each other, or at least this objection is not
enshrined in law, as it is with laws that deny marriage equality. It is as if
these people think sex and marriage are bad things and about doing bad things
to the other person(s). Are those who oppose equality frustrated? Are they
doing sex wrong?
Many people have many relationships that have more than one aspect. Some
women say their sister is their best friend. Why can’t their sister be a wife, too? When someone gets married, nobody from the government asks if this will
ruin their friendship or their business, and it should not ask if it will ruin
their fraternity, either.
Some people do also apply this to same-gender relationships. Friendships,
these people say, become potential sexual relationships; it confuses
relationships because men are supposed to be friends and not lovers, they say.
If that is the limitation people want to place on themselves, they can. They
should not be able to place such limits on other consenting adults.
When people are functioning socially in their biological roles, sex would
create an additional bond. For some who are not functioning socially in those
roles (as is often the case with Genetic Sexual Attraction), that bond may not exist in the
first place and this is a way to form one. It should be up to them what kind of a relationship they're going to have.
People who are related through birth, adoption, or marriage (stepfamily)
may or may not get along. They may be cruel towards each other or they
can be best friends. The law can't force adults to love each other,
regardless of their relation, and it shouldn't stop them from loving
each other however they mutually agree.
20. “There is a power differential.” Power differentials in consanguineous sexual relationships
do not provide a good reason to deny the rights of lovers to be in
these relationships and to marry, if that is what they want. The power
differential allegation applies least of all to siblings or
cousins who are close in age, but even where the power differential
is not a justification for denying this freedom to marry.
is a power
differential in just about any relationship, sometimes an enormous power
differential. One person is more emotionally needy than another. One
than the other. One is more educated than another. One has more friends
family than another. One has more life experience than another. On and
goes. A 21-year-old woman can consent to group sex with three
fighters she just met, or sex with an older man who boarded in her
for most of her life, or the President, or a married billionaire sultan,
her half-brother or her genetic father who she first met a year ago and
been falling in love with? To question if consent is truly possible in
consanguineous relationships is insulting and demeaning. If someone her
age can consent to join the military, operate heavy machinery, or be
sentenced to life in prison or even to death for their actions, how can
we say she can't consent to love another adult the way she wants?
There are sober, functional, healthy adults who consent to consanguineous
sex with an older relative, and many of them want to marry. It shouldn’t be
illegal or questioned, unless you would do the same to any intergenerational relationship between adults.
21. “There are so many people outside of your family. Go marry/have sex with one of them, instead. It creates friendships between families.” There are plenty of
people within one’s own race, too, but that is no reason to ban interracial
marriage. I have many friends outside of my family to whom I’m neither married
nor married to a relative of theirs. On the other hand, don't we all know
unrelated married couples who actually drive their relatives apart from each
other? Let adults marry the consenting adult(s) of her or his choice.
someone who is happy with their lover that they should dump that person
(or even be prosecuted for being with that person) and should be denied
their right to marry because there is someone else they can be with
instead is an arrogant and usually, very much a cruel intrusion into
someone else's life. How would the person who says this like it if
someone told them they had to drop their lover (if they have one) and go
find someone else, even though they are consenting adults who want to
be together and are happy together?
There are people in
consanguinamorous relationships who could never find as much love and
happiness with someone else, and trying to force them to do so isn't
fair to anyone, including the person for whom they "settle."
22. "It is sick! These relationships are dysfunctional!" This is almost always a thinly disguised variation of #1, #3, or #19. There are many mentally healthy people in healthy, functional, consanguinamorous relationships. See here for more.
*Polyamorous relationships that lead to marriage may take several forms that fall under “polygamy,” including group marriage, polygyny (one man, multiple women), and polyandry (one woman, multiple men).
**Marriage between close relatives.
Ten Myths About Sibling Consanguinamory
Updated July 27, 2011 (#16)
Updated throughout September 19, 2013
Updated June 21, 2014 to add #22
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