Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

May 13, 2009

Fox News raises group-marriage hysteria; Jenny Block holds her own

Fox News

Fox News hosts have been on a tear about triad marriages in the last few days: not just Bill O'Reilly and Gretchen Carlson (see previous post) but Glenn Beck and Steve Doocy. The thrust of this mini-jihad is that allowing gay marriage will lead to allowing polygamy and then marrying goats (and/or turtles, ducks, and dogs). The whole Fox circus in the last few days is chronicled here on Media Matters.

In the midst of this, Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, went on yesterday against Carlson and a director of Focus on the Family. Jenny held her own, though I wonder about the wisdom of letting herself be used this way. From the May 12th edition of Fox News's "Fox & Friends":

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Now for a very interesting debate: While gay activists continue to fight for same-sex marriage rights, a new group demanding legal recognition. They call themselves polyamorists, and they want the right to marry into a triad, otherwise known as a threesome.

Is this crossing the line, and how far will we take this? Jenny Block is happily married to her husband -- and her girlfriend doesn't mind at all. She's the author of Open: Love and Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. Also with us, Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family. Good morning to both of you.

...CARLSON: All right, Jenny, so a lot of people are trying to wrap their head around this concept, that the triad concept, I guess in your mind and explanation, this is the new marriage, or is it not?

BLOCK: Well, I think it's one way to do marriage. I mean, I think this conversation is really about honesty and about choice. Marriage as we know it now doesn't have the best success rate, as you know. And so this is just another way of doing this. There are all different kinds of families, and I think that's a good thing.

CARLSON: All right, so help me understand how this works. You are married to your husband. You have a girlfriend on the side. And you want to all be legally recognized together as a triad?

BLOCK: Well, to be honest, in my situation -- I can really only speak to mine -- I'm very happy with being married to my husband and having a girlfriend as well. But a lot of people want the legal protection of having all three people married. And, in my mind, marriage is a civil institution, and so if people want that choice, I feel like they should be allowed that.

CARLSON: Glenn, I know you disagree with this.


CARLSON: Speak from the side of traditional values with regard to marriage and where you think this may be heading as far as a slippery slope.

STANTON: Well, it is a slippery slope. And the idea is, if you think about the argument that these people made for the radical kinds of marriage that they want, they are exactly the same kind of arguments -- justice, equality, things like that -- that the same-sex marriage people have made.

And we have said for a long time that same-sex marriage would open a Pandora's box that would lead us to who knows where. It's not just about triads; it's about four, five, six people. I mean, go on the websites and look at some of these organizations, and you see pictures of five people, six people. So it's not -- I mean, where does this stop?

And it's an amazing thing. And the point is that monogamy is a very, very important social value. We have to understand that cultures that fail to recognize and support the idea of monogamy end up to be cultures where women are things merely to be collected and used and thrown away at the end, not seen --

BLOCK: Gretchen -- Gretchen, I'm sorry. I have to --

STANTON: -- as full citizens. And that's why monogamy --


STANTON: -- that's why monogamy is an important idea, and these people don't like it.

CARLSON: Right, Glenn, and I wish that I had another three hours to discuss this, because it needs it. But Jenny, I'll give you the final word on it.

BLOCK: Well, again, I just don't see any slippery slope. The fact that I could love more than one person does not mean that my neighbor is going to want to marry his dog. I mean, in the end this is about love and choice, and this isn't going anywhere but equality for everyone. And, as far as I'm concerned, equality is a wonderful thing.

CARLSON: All right. No doubt, as I said earlier, people have a variety of opinions on this issue, and it's something that we will continue to revisit.

You can watch the clip here.

Once again: legal marriage of more than two would be extraordinarily complicated and would require many new laws and precedents — unlike same-sex marriage, which maps right onto existing marriage law (at least, it has ever since courts started regarding men and women as marriage equals). Complex new legal regimes, when a changing world requires them, generally take decades to evolve, and the discussions I've heard in the poly community quickly run into the impracticalities. As I've said before:

How would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and responsibilities of marriages that merge into pre-existing marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will, allocating Social Security benefits, it goes on.

And because there are many different basic kinds of poly relationships, compared to only one basic kind of couple marriage, each would need its own legal regime — and we know how good the state is at regulating complicated personal matters.

Moreover, unlike couple marriages, poly relationships can change from one kind to another kind while continuing to exist. An equilateral triad can become a vee or vice versa, or something in between. The flexibility to adapt — to "let your relationships be what they are" — is a core value in the poly groups I know. How would the state keep up with your particular situation?

I've also heard it argued that opportunities would abound for unscrupulous people to game the system in ways that the law couldn't easily address: for people to pretend that their poly relationship is a different kind than it really is, or that they're in poly relationships when they're not.

In poly meetings I've been in, the discussion quickly comes around instead to business-partnership models for poly households, such as subchapter-S corporations or family LLCs or LLPs. These are already well developed to handle a wide variety of contractual agreements between several people.

Looking farther ahead: Good law follows reality rather than precedes it. Fifty or 100 years from now when poly households are commonplace and their issues are well understood, I'm sure an appropriate set of law will have grown up organically to handle the issues that arise. At least that's how it works when civil society is allowed to go about its business, free of religious or ideological compulsion.


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Blogger Barbarian said...

"... cultures where women are things merely to be collected and used and thrown away at the end, not seen [...] as full citizens."

Setting aside the amusement factor of a conservative trying to argue anything from a feminist angle, I'd like to point out that Jenny Block has a husband and a girlfriend. The husband doesn't seem to be involved with the girlfriend, so it's not the stereotypical "one guy / two women" fantasy scenario that is typically pictured.

Can someone please explain to me how Jenny is being reduced to less than "full citizenship" in this situation? If anything it seems to me that she's taking full control of her own destiny!

May 14, 2009 12:28 PM  
Blogger Jessica K said...

"We have to understand that cultures that fail to recognize and support the idea of monogamy end up to be cultures where women are things merely to be collected and used and thrown away at the end, not seen [...] as full citizens."I know of several women, myself included, that are in polyamorous relationships with multiple male partners (in contrast to being one of many female partners for a poly guy).

In addition, from what I've seen, there's a lot of strong, female leaders and role models within the polyamory community (both from what I've seen locally as well as nationally).

While the occasional relationship drama can happen (and it happens in mono relationships too), I don't think that polyamory causes women to be seen as or treated as less than "full citizens".

May 15, 2009 12:36 AM  
OpenID guy_with_hounds said...

I've never really understood why the conservatives still argue the "slippery slope" or "traditional values."

That did not work with giving woman the right to vote, giving blacks and whites the ability to date and marry. Taking the drink out of society....need I go on?

Change is going to happen, it's called progress.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to hump my turle.

June 06, 2009 8:01 AM  

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