"The case for polyamory. And while we’re at it, let’s privatize marriage."
My friend Richard Gilmore is the leadoff character in this article that just went up on Slate.
Richard and a partner, by the way, are writing a book on forming line families: the Heinlein-inspired model of a multigenerational group marriage that can, in principle, last for centuries — with new people marrying in as the old die out.
Marry Me. And Me.
The case for polyamory. And while we’re at it, let’s privatize marriage.
Polyamorists engage in “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.” (Photo by Mark Bowden/Thinkstock)
By Jillian Keenan
Twelve years ago, Richard Gilmore walked into a party and laid eyes on Vicki for the first time. It was like a scene from a 1940s Hollywood romance.
“If you were to film it, it would be so sappy and saccharine, you wouldn’t believe it,” recalled Richard, now 60. “There was a crowd of people, but all I could see was her.” Vicki, now 63, noticed Richard too, and began to stare back. The chemistry between them was immediate and irresistible. They say it was love at first sight.
“Oh my God,” Richard thought at the time. “It really happens.”
But this is where the old Hollywood romance ends and another kind of love story begins. A few weeks later, after her magical first date with Richard, Vicki went home — to Jim, her husband of almost 20 years. “Why didn’t you want to come with us tonight?” Vicki asked Jim, after she told him all about the date. “I wanted you to have a chance to get to know Richard one-on-one,” Jim told her.
“Wasn’t that cool of him?” Richard recalled.
So as Richard and Vicki started dating, Jim and Vicki happily continued their marriage. Nine months later, Jim met a woman named Maria. Jim and Maria began to date, and then Richard and Maria started dating, too. Finally, in 2002, as the group of four piled on coats and scarves to go out one chilly evening, Richard stopped at the door and looked back at everyone.
“We’re really a family now, aren’t we?” he asked. They were — and they have been ever since.
...And despite the stereotype of polyamorists as sexual anarchists who wouldn’t be interested in legal marriage anyway, Robyn Trask, the executive director of polyamory support organization Loving More, said the group’s forthcoming survey found that 65 percent of poly families would choose to legalize their unions if they could, and an additional 20 percent would at least consider the option if it were available.
But seriously — is legal recognition of plural marriage just too complicated to ever be realistic?...
So let’s start with the fundamental question: What is marriage — and what do we want it to be? Is marriage a government program, meant to incentivize certain social goods? Is it a religious institution that should be separated from the state entirely? Is it a personal romantic choice?
In response to these questions, an alternative suggestion has emerged from an unlikely alliance between the far right and far left: Why not take the government out of marriage entirely? The list of people who have called for marriage privatization is long....
And they make a compelling case....
“I’m not his dad, I’m his Artie,” said Arthur, a 32-year-old polyamorist who has lived with his girlfriend, her husband, and their son for the past eight years. “But from the outside, you wouldn’t see a difference. When he was born, all three of us were there. When he cries in the middle of the night, all three of us are there. We’re as much of a family as anyone, just without the legal status.”
In either a public or private marital system, extending marriage access to plural families would obviously be very complicated. Why should we even care? Polyamorists are a minority, and they, unlike same-sex couples, arguably choose their lifestyle. It’s easy to ignore or marginalize them. But their families raise fundamental questions about how our government interacts with our sexual and romantic lives....
Read the whole article (June 13, 2013). Comments are flooding in.
Update June 15: The article has been getting reprinted in a lot of places, including in the major news-roundup magazine The Week. (June 13, 2013).
Another article on poly and the idea of separating civil and religious marriage, by Martin Hine, appeared in The Chattanoogan in Tennessee, and an expanded version is printed at ModernPoly.com: Straight, Gay, or Poly - Should Government be in the marriage business?