Poly and Obama's DOMA decision
Yesterday President Obama announced that the Justice Department will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996 to prevent the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. In the resulting outcry from the right, polyamory is again being cited as the next slippery-slope waystation on the logical greased incline from gay marriage to marrying goats.
This does raise poly awareness! People who listen to the religious right keep hearing about all these folks living happily in successful, marriage-like group relationships where everyone loves one another. Much of what we polys are trying to do is just get people to grasp that successful poly relationships exist at all and can work well all around.
Once this subversive idea is planted, people will remember it if Cupid ever happens to shoot multiple arrows their way. And if their own relatives, friends, or employees ever turn up in such relationships, at least they'll have some concept of what it's actually about.
One of DOMA's architects, law professor Hadley Arkes at Amherst College, just posted a long strategy article on National Review Online acknowledging that polyamory not only exists, but is growing:
...And of course, if marriage has nothing to do with begetting, if it can be entered into by people of the same sex, why is it confined to two people? What would the President say to the growing numbers of the “polyamorous” in the country? Their loves are not confined to a coupling. They are woven together in ensembles of three, four, and more. If marriage is about love, rather than begetting, why should these people not be allowed to have their love expressed in marriage?
Why indeed? Read the whole article (Feb. 24, 2011).
In reality though, as I've said before, multiple marriage would require a vastly more complex and difficult legal regime than gay marriage — which fits exactly into the template that already exists for straight marriage (at least since courts started recognizing husbands and wives as legal equals). 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 that society will have evolved an appropriate body of law to handle the issues that arise.... if free, civil society is allowed to go about its business.
While we're on this topic: If you haven't yet seen the weirdness that is XtraNormal — which generates an animated cartoon from your text dialog — watch Queering Marriage: Why Not Three? acted by teddy bears. I stumbled onto this at a Columbia Law School site (SFW).
And a tip regarding slippery slopes: If you accept this framing you've lost the debate before you open your mouth. Slipping on a slope is a painful accident that leads down. Reframe the scene as a stairway up — in which each step is a deliberately chosen advance toward a better, kinder, freer, more humane world.
Or as Tree (of Polycamp Northwest fame) once put it, awkwardly,
Giving blacks the vote, women the vote, contraception — it's all a slippery slope to a place of better social justice and acceptance.
P.S.: Another counterargument: slippery slopes work both ways (cartoon).
Labels: critics of poly