Additional on Sowing the Wind: Polygamy and Incest as ‘Next Steps’

I’ll be posting another, earlier comment of my own from the aforementioned OT thread, dealing specifically with the polygamy question as raised, a bit breathtakingly, by an apparently entirely (insistently) in earnest commenter speaking up for an end to the incest taboo and for the legalization of polygamy, but first here are those other commenter’s comments, which it may be useful to read in full, as posted:

Well, now that we have opened the door to other non traditional marriages*, I for one await the day that we can hound out of work the people who are against inter-family unions.

As a side note, I totally support poly and incestuous marriages, as I am not a bigot.**

**Not joking in the slightest here.


Well, don’t have a sister, but if [my father] wanted to marry my brother… Why would that be different then two other men getting married?

and (replying to the author of the post):

So, right now, gov’t marriage is blocking inner family and poly marriages. As you support gov’t marriage, I can assume you are OK with that level of bigotry? Removing gov’t from marriage means no matter what the gov’t does you are still married. And I assume that that is the important part, no?

and, last one (for now!), re-assuring another skeptical interlocutor:

I am being sincere, and this is no attack on SSM. I have believed in SSM for a good 20+ years at this point, long before I became a Libertarian. And as I thought more and more about marriage equality, I came to the conclusion that it cannot be some sort of Chinese menu system. No “I want one from menu A and menu B, but nothing from C or D thank you.” At that point you are just playing favorites and really are no better than people who are against SSM. The only logical conclusion is any two or more people who want to be married, should get to do so. I will admit that this has been one (of many, to be sure) reasons I could no longer support Democrats and became a Libertarian. The result I would have most preferred would be to remove Gov’t from marriage altogether, but that seems to cause a bigger shit storm on the left than proposing SSM on the right.

So much for these I think typically exceptional remar: One has to admire the way that the commenter, in taking up the “b”-word yet remaining aware that his statements may inspire incredulity and suspicion, manages to intensify the satirical effect: He persists in asking, “If THAT is bigotry, then why isn’t THIS?” No one on the thread pauses to answer.

In a comment of my own during the side-discussion inspired by those statements, I linked to a thoughtful and concise article by Cathy Young explaining the political and pragmatic differences between legalization of polygamy and adoption of same sex marriage into the prevailing monogamous marriage form. Thought through consequentially, the political and legal difficulties, and more generally the substantive infringement on the self-interest of married couples, will eventually connect up with and replicate the ethical and conceptual problems to which I allude in the comment (I discussed this question in more detail in my post on “The Brady Bunch Annihilated” – also written, as it happens, in relation to an “Ordinary” discussion):

Cathy Young has argued, I think quite persuasively, that any movement towards recognition of polygamy has much higher hurdles before it – in short, based on the self-interest of the vast majority of married couples – than the SSM movement has had. I think the ethical questions are deeper, but she makes a good argument while avoiding discussion that few readers will be prepared for.

Polygamy is Not Next

We can, however, imagine decades or generations of continued erosion in the institution of marriage and of monogamy as recognized and understood ethical concept. I think it’s also true that the basis of the marriage equality victory – a comprehensive reduction of “marriage” to individual choice or transaction, and an obligation of the state and of all citizens to approve of the results without differentiation – would remove the theoretical or conceptual barrier to legalized (meaning state-affirmed and -protected) polygamy, as well as to incest and to other practices and inclinations.

In the past, as soon as anyone said as much – and usually it would fall to one of those evil authoritarian social conservatives to do so – he or she would be laughed off the media stage. It may be hard on the left to maintain that approach, however, when the laughable position is taken seriously as the natural and necessary next step not by Rick Santorum, but, for instance, by pre-OT League alumnus Freddie deBoer or by some of the voices appearing on this thread.

So the movement, such as it is, might have to decide on its position: Is saying that SSM points inexorably to further “widening” or “loosening” of standards an assertion typical of evil bigots or of valued allies in the freedom struggle?

Another possibility is that a decision directly affecting an estimated 0.5% of [adults] is not objectively important enough to sustain a significant social movement over time and that, now that the seemingly nearly costless “feelgood” assent has been offered and received, the larger culture will move on, perhaps while more quietly re-considering the traditional marriage concept in a less politicized manner.

The basis for the figure of “0.5%” of directly affected adults (which I wrongly stated as “marriages” in my comment) would be a Gallup Poll survey from April of this year that describes 0.3% of Americans in same sex marriages, and another 0.5% in committed domestic partnerships. So, the latter group would be potentially affected by the Supreme Court decision, though obviously not all of them will head to the courthouses immediately.

How exactly the true figures will shake out or need to be assessed will be debatable, but the figure in any construal will, I think, support the notion that SSM has been a vicarious or abstract or mainly symbolic concern for the vast majority of citizens.

In this connection also relevant and potentially useful, a series of tweets in response to Charles W Cooke, who had taken the position in the linked National Review post that Young and others discounting polygamy’s prospects were overly optimistic. The amplified twitter “embeds” make following the brief exchange more rather than less difficult. I’ll see about cleaning that up if I decide the exchange deserves further scrutiny or amplification. For now, the main point is to link Cooke’s piece and to use the tweets as a potential jumping off point for further reflection.

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