Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 26, 2005

"Here Come the Brides"

The Weekly Standard

Let's have no more pretending that we can live beneath the radar of the Right. The December 26, 2005, cover story of The Weekly Standard, one of the premier organs of American conservatism, is "Here Come the Brides: Plural marriage is waiting in the wings." Complete with a cover photo of a joyous poly union ceremony.

The author is anti-gay-marriage writer Stanley Kurtz, a fellow of the Hudson Institute, whom readers will recognize as author of a 2003 Weekly Standard article arguing that gay marriage will inevitably lead to poly marriage and societal ruin.

In his new article, Kurtz picks up on the Dutch triad that registered a cohabitation contract last September and held a poly wedding ceremony amid a local media circus. Kurtz warns that lurking behind the gay marriage movement, but keeping itself strategically hidden for now, is a poly marriage movement that is destined to "shatter" the American family. This movement is led by, among others, stealthy activists in liberal churches and legal advocates for bisexuals; he describes bisexuals as a secretive population that's far larger than either the straight or gay worlds acknowledge (probably true). The result will be ever more lost and confused children:

The fundamental purpose of marriage is to encourage mothers and fathers to stay bound as a family for the sake of their children. Our liberalized modern marriage system is far from perfect, and certainly doesn't always succeed in keeping parents together while their children are young. Yet often it does. Unfortunately, once we radically redefine marriage in an effort to solve the problems of adults, the institution is destined to be shattered by a cacophony of grown-up demands.

The De Bruijn trio, Koen Brand, the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, the legal arguments of Elizabeth Emens and Kenji Yoshino, and the bisexual/polyamory movement in general have been launched into action by the successes of the campaign for gay marriage. In a sense, though, these innovators have jumped too soon. They've shown us today — well before same-sex marriage has triumphed nationwide — what would emerge in its aftermath.

Liberals may now put behind-the-scenes pressure on the Dutch government to keep the lid on legalized polyamory for as long as the matter of gay marriage is still unsettled. The Unitarian polyamorists, already conflicted about how much recognition to demand while the gay marriage battle is unresolved, may be driven further underground. But let there be no mistake about what will happen should same-sex marriage be fully legalized in the United States. At that point, if bisexual activists haven't already launched a serious campaign for legalized polyamory, they will go public. It took four years after the full legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands for the first polyamory test case to emerge. With a far larger and more organized polyamory movement in America, it might not take even that long after the nationalization of gay marriage in the United States.

It's easy to imagine that, in a world where gay marriage was common and fully accepted, a serious campaign to legalize polyamorous unions would succeed — especially a campaign spearheaded by an organized bisexual-rights movement. Yet win or lose, the culture of marriage will be battered for years by the debate. Just as we're now continually reminded that not all married couples have children, we'll someday be endlessly told that not all marriages are monogamous (nor all monogamists married). For a second time, the fuzziness and imperfection found in every real-world social institution will be contorted into a rationale for reforming marriage out of existence.

Read the whole article.

In reality, my experience is that when poly activists discuss the possibility of legal group marriages, the discussion immediately runs up on the rocks of how extraordinarily complicated any state recognition/regulation of poly marriages would be. Gay couples fit exactly into the legal mold that exists for straight couples. But how would the law mandate, for instance, property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and benefits of marriages that merge into pre-existing marriages? Setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will... splitting of pension benefits... it goes on. And with so many different basic kinds of poly relationships existing, 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.

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

The discussions quickly come around to business-partnership models instead, such as subchapter-S corporations or LLC's. These are well developed to handle a variety of complex contractual agreements between several people. (So maybe our real agenda is to shatter society's small-business law [grin].)

Of course, the poly awareness movement is actually about something very different: spreading the overwhelming, radical discovery that it is possible to live and love deeply as threesomes and more — given people who have extraordinary hearts, deep honesty, excellent communication skills, self-security, self-sacrifice, kindness... or readiness to work on themselves enough to develop these things. Most of what we are up to is just trying to discover each other. That, and hopefully gaining reasonable understanding from the world at large, decent treatment, and fair application of the law.

The Right clearly sees that we're here, we're growing, and we're not going to go away. Nor are they; so I'd say it's high time we do become a little better organized to defend ourselves.

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