Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

November 4, 2006

"The Confession"

National Review Online

Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center is one of the nation's chief anti-gay-marriage writers. A week before the midterm elections, he publishes new proof that gays are conspiring to use polyamory — that's right — to abolish marriage for everyone and destroy western civilization.

The proof that "lets the cat out of the bag" is the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement, issued last July by a large coalition urging recognition for a variety of family and household structures (see our previous report and discussion).

That hundreds of gay-marriage supporters, including big names like Gloria Steinem, Cornel West, Rabbi Michael Lerner (of Tikkun Magazine), and Barbara Ehrenreich have signed onto a statement openly demanding recognition for polyamorous families is important enough. But the really big news is what’s been happening in the months since the release of the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement. The ongoing discussion of that manifesto on popular blogs, and particularly in the gay community’s own press, confirms that even many prominent mainstream advocates of same-sex marriage support a radical family agenda — and plan to push it when the time is right. In other words, a careful look at the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement — and especially at its public reception — indicates that the above “confession” does in fact represent the plans and convictions of the greater part of the movement for same-sex marriage.

...Calls for polyamory and other forms of family radicalism may be nothing new to those already familiar with the history of the gay community’s internal debates, or with the quiet plans of legal academics. Yet a collective and very public declaration of the family-radical platform, endorsed by scores of prominent scholars and other nationally known figures, signals a new phase in the struggle. Once again, as in the early 1990s, the radicals are out in the open, unwilling to silence themselves for the sake of a united front.

In the aftermath of the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement, it was easy to see that the “‘official’ marriage equality line” has served to disguise the views of many same-sex marriage supporters. Numerous reports in the mainstream media, and in the gay community’s own press, described the censorship and self-censorship that has kept the reality of marriage radicalism out of the public eye. The New York Times reported that gay family radicals “say they have muffled their own voice by censoring themselves.” Yet now, said the Times, these radicals “increasingly feel that they have nothing to lose [by speaking out] given ‘that there has been defeat after political defeat.’”

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Kors, a leading California gay-marriage activist, noted that the movement’s silence on polyamory is not necessarily a matter of actual opposition to the practice, but simply about “not allowing the right wing to steer the conversation.” Molly McKay, media director of Marriage Equality USA, spoke of the need to limit some conflicts and conversations to “internal dialogue.”

The real agenda behind the plot, of course, is

to dissolve marriage, not through formal abolition, but by gradually extending the hitherto unique notion of marriage to every conceivable family type.

Read the whole article. And here is Part II.

The key to understanding this mindset, I'm convinced, is the "scarcity model" of marriage, freedom, and human worth in general. In the scarcity model, it's a zero-sum game: for someone to gain value, someone else must lose value. In particular, the validity and worth of a traditional family depends on keeping other kinds of families from having validity and worth. Because if someone new gains validity and worth, someone else has to lose them.

I've said this before. The key fear driving conservatives is "legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless" (as Kurtz put it in an earlier article). This stems from — stick with me now — a core assumption that many conservatives hold: "If everybody is somebody, then nobody is anybody."

This quip began as a snappy comeback to Jesse Jackson leading chants of "I am somebody" among his ghetto constituents. Quite a lot of conservatism is based (either unconsciously or overtly) on the feudal-system assumption that your validity depends on a lesser class of people not having validity.

Seen from this angle, the validity of your marriage really does depend on "undesirable" classes of people being denied marriage. And letting them marry really will invalidate the meaning of your own marriage!

Unless, that is, you adopt another, better, post-feudal idea, one that modern conservatives ought to know: "My freedom is not diminished by your freedom."


On another note: Kurtz and other anti-gay-marriage leaders claim that European countries which recognize nontraditional relations have suffered a measurable collapse in the institution of marriage since they did so. Not true, according to the new book Gay Marriage: For Better or For Worse? What We've Learned From the Evidence by William Eskridge and Darren Spedale (Oxford University Press, 2006). This is from a writeup by Dale Carpenter (on Eugene Volokh's influential blog):

[Eskridge and Spedale] have looked at marriage rates and other evidence of the social effects of recognizing same-sex relationships in the 17 years since Scandinavian countries began doing so.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, (subscriber only) they summarize their findings as follows: Seventeen years after recognizing same-sex relationships in Scandinavia there are higher marriage rates for heterosexuals, lower divorce rates, lower rates for out-of-wedlock births, lower STD rates, more stable and durable gay relationships, more monogamy among gay couples, and so far no slippery slope to polygamy, incestuous marriages, or "man-on-dog" unions. From their op-ed:

"[T]here is no evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry weakens the institution. If anything, the numbers indicate the opposite. A decade after Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed their respective partnership laws, heterosexual marriage rates had risen 10.7% in Denmark; 12.7% in Norway; and a whopping 28.8% in Sweden. In Denmark over the last few years, marriage rates are the highest they've been since the early 1970s. Divorce rates among heterosexual couples, on the other hand, have fallen. A decade after each country passed its partnership law, divorce rates had dropped 13.9% in Denmark; 6% in Norway; and 13.7% in Sweden. On average, divorce rates among heterosexuals remain lower now than in the years before same-sex partnerships were legalized."

In addition, out-of-wedlock birthrates in each of these countries contradict the suggestion by social conservatives that gay marriage will lead to great increases in out-of-wedlock births and therefore less family stability for children....

Eskridge and Spedale also find benefits to gay relationships:

"Our research has also uncovered additional social benefits. In dozens of interviews with partnered couples and through other sources, we found that marriage rights had an important beneficial effect not only on the couples themselves, but on their local and national communities as well. Couples reported that their relationships were stronger and more durable, that relationships with family members had deepened, that co-workers had become more tolerant and supportive, and their children felt greater validation by having married parents. Many couples reported a greater emphasis on monogamy, which may be reflected by the fact that national rates of HIV and STD infections declined in each of the Scandinavian countries in the years after they passed their partnership laws."

Read the whole interesting thing. (And thanks to Polyamorous Percolations webmaster Chias for turning this up.)

P.S. added November 12: If you're mentally filing away good talking points for dealing with Kurtz-type people, note this comment from cunningminx:

My not-terribly-respectful response to Mr. Kurtz in this week's Polyamory Weekly podcast.

My comments, along with Genevieve's (my lover's wife's) are during our "Poly in the Media" segment at about 25:15 in. To summarize, his article basically seems to be saying, "Admit it! You want marriage to change!"

Um... yeah, we do. Just like people wanted to change it being legal to beat your wife or marry someone of a different race. We do think that things should change. My questions to Mr. Kurtz are, "Why is that bad?" and "What exactly are you afraid of?"

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