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Stop projecting other ideas onto us!

by Jeremy Hooper

You know what really pisses us off around here? When otherwise reasoned people look at the gay marriage fight as if its righteousness should be debated in terms of what implications its legalization could have for other kinds of situations.

 Img 2007 03 09 Asset60 LouissubNamely, foes of gay marriage tend to make the leap in logic from gay marriage to such other ideas as legalized polygamy and incest, which is exactly what Errol Lewis (pic) does in today's NY Daily News. A sample:

There are disturbing signs all over the country that conservatives were right to predict that proponents of odd and radical sexual practices would try to slip through the political and legal doors opened by the gay rights movement.

In Ohio, a former sheriff's deputy named Paul Lowe has been fighting a fierce legal battle to overturn the state's anti-incest law. Lowe, who pleaded no contest to having sex with his adult stepdaughter, spent 120 days in jail and was designated a sexual offender.

The sentence was upheld by Ohio's highest court, but Lowe is planning an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Time magazine - and he's planning to make an argument based on Lawrence vs. Texas, a key gay-friendly legal precedent that struck down state anti-sodomy laws. In Lawrence, the high court ruled in 2003 that state laws banning gay sex in private were unconstitutional, citing "an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex."

That sounds perfectly fine - but what will happen when this live-and-let-live attitude bumps up against the yuck factor of voluntary incest?

Okay, so we understand what Mr. Lewis is trying to say, which is that once you challenge one attempt to legislate morality, it opens the door for other groups to also challenge bans on other concepts. And he's absolutely right -- proponents of both polygamy and incest likely will try and use gay marriage legalization to gain ground. However, it is COMPLETELY unfair to discredit the right of same-sex couples to get hitched -- a concept supported by more and more Americans every year -- on the basis of other concepts that are widely disdained by the vast majority of society. You simply cannot keep one fight at bay in order to stem the tide of another, entirely unrelated push!

The presented argument is sort of like saying that by once lowering the voting age to 18, we opened the door for advocates of canine or infant suffrage to push for the voting rights of dogs or babies. Or it's like saying that setting term limits on presidential reigns, we have opened the door for the more antsy among us to go to court and fight for those terms to be limited to a span of time no greater than three weeks. EVERY societal change could, in theory, lead others to use the set precedent as a basis for their own challenges! However, it is wholly unjustified to use those potential pushes to refute the legitimacy of the actual proposal on the table.

Gay activists often invoke interracial marriage bans when speaking of the unjust nature of those that prevent gay marriage. In concept, this is exactly the same thing as invoking gay marriage when talking about lifting polygamy or incest bans. However, lifting this nation's anti-miscenegation laws was a righteous act. There was a great injustice plaguing society, and lifting the bans was a correction of such. And in the years since Loving v. Virginia, advocates of every sort of arrangement -- including polygamous and incestual ones -- have had the right to use that historic ruling to leverage their own movement into a credible civil rights push. However, it is only gay marriage that has succeeded in gaining ground, because among the three we are discussing, only same-sex relations have proven to be a concept worthy of government acknowledgment. If proponents of the other ideas wish to make inroads, then they have a VERY long way to go to show Americans that denying them their relationships is discriminatory. We gay activists, however, have more than ably made our case, because our fight is one that is truly righteous! We are succeeding because society is wising up (just as they did with interracial marriage), If polygamists and others want to try and school us on the virtues of their ideas and on why their legalized recognition has a constitutional basis, then America allows them that freedom! The outcome, however, can only be determined by the legitimacy of their claims!

Mr. Lewis closes his piece by saying:

A number of mainstream columnists, academics and the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced support for polygamy, using the same arguments that support gay marriage: that what loving, responsible, consenting adults do is their own business and none of the government's.

I accept the argument, at least in the abstract. And it's obvious that New York's steps toward legalizing gay marriage won't trigger the collapse of civilization.

But advocates of same-sex marriage should recognize that you don't have to be a religious fanatic or a bigot to wonder, with a certain uneasiness, where all of this is heading.

And we actually agree that folks can and even should speculate about other potential fights like those that could be waged by polyamory or incest. However, when such reasoned considerations are used to negate the righteousness of a completely separate fight (as the polygamy claim is often used by our organized opposition), then that is when the analysis starts treading into the realm of bias and bigotry. We, like other academics and organizations, certainly think about the legislation of morality as it applies to other groups that realistically exist in this world. That is because we don't ignore reality and are not scared to think about society in terms of all of its components, no matter how worthy of celebration we may find the particular ideas that some of those components embrace. But those considerations do not connect us with these other movements!

If you have a fear that Bob, Carol, and Joyce will someday have the right to have a legal ceremony, then take that up with the trio! Rally society and lobby lawmakers to keep such an idea at bay. But please just don't put gays in bed with polygamists, simply because they may think (correctly or incorrectly) that they can get some mileage by piggybacking on our fight. After all, their bed is surely crowded enough already!!

Gay marriage victory in Albany stirs valid fears that incest and polygamy could come next [NY Daily News]
(H/t: The Agenda)

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Your thoughts

Assemblyman Hikind said during the gay Marriage debate that we should just go all the way and add incest to the bill. His district is in Brooklyn.

Posted by: Donald | Jun 21, 2007 11:12:54 AM

Yes, Donald -- Mr. Lewis quotes Assemblyman Hikind in his piece.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jun 21, 2007 11:15:04 AM

However, it is only gay marriage that has succeeded in gaining ground, because among the three we are discussing, only same-sex relations have proven to be a concept worthy of government acknowledgment. If proponents of the other ideas wish to make inroads, then they have a VERY long way to go to show Americans that denying them their relationships is discriminatory.

I think what you wrote here sums it up best. Incest became a taboo in prehistoric times because people saw what happened to the children that resulted from these pairings.

I wonder, and I could be wrong here, if Homosexuality became tabbo during these times because it didn't result in children. Back then, survival of our species was hanging by a thread. Which of course today, we don't have to worry about at all....

Anyways, there is still a biological arguement for keeping incest illegal. And there really isn't much of an argument for keeping gay marriage illegal. If you discount the "religious" arguments.

Posted by: Donald | Jun 21, 2007 11:31:44 AM

"Very long way to go."

Yes, just so. The attitude among polys I hear from seems to be: legal gay marriage: yay! Legal poly marriage: pssh, yeah, like that's gonna happen.

You're very right. Just because one thing could lead to another doesn't mean you need to stop the one thing if it's truly righteous. We'll have the discussion again once the other comes knocking on the door, and I don't think that'll happen for some time.

Posted by: williehewes | Jun 22, 2007 4:04:46 AM

"then they have a VERY long way to go to show Americans that denying them their relationships is discriminatory."

ummm... sorry, Jeremy, but denying those relationships *is* discriminatory. The question that remains (and I don't have a firm position on it yet) is whether it is *justifiably* discriminatory.

As Donald so rightly points out, children born of incest tend to have more genetic defects (like a lot of "purebred" dogs have tendancy to genetic disorders - hip dysplasia in Labradors is a well-known example). In this case, morality most likely was born of practicality - a more diverse gene pool means less chance of an infant with deformities, or just plain still-born.

My partner has suggested to me that incestuous relationships could be made legal if it was a requirement that at least one partner be sterile before the state sanctions the union. Note that this is no bearing on their ability to *raise* children - it's the genetic defects we're worried about, nothing more.

I'm not sure I'm as liberal-minded as she is, yet... the very idea of incest makes me feel sick to my stomach. But as she points out to me, this is the exact reasoning being used by straight religious ne'er-do-wells to try to keep *our* relationship from ever being recognised.

It's a tough one.

Tougher still is polygamy - it's an arrangement that I *could* *not* be part of, but I see nothing wrong with it for others as long as they're sure of their 3 (or more) way relationship before they enter into it.

The legalities are a mess, though. How do you make rules which protect all members of a multiple-partnership from abuse and exploitation? I wouldn't even know where to begin...

[Disclaimer (for the benefit of any conservative trying to make a big deal about comments on other people's blogs): These opinions are my own, and do NOT reflect any community as a whole. Most readers of this site would probably disagree with me.]

Posted by: Anon | Jun 22, 2007 6:30:37 PM

"ummm... sorry, Jeremy, but denying those relationships *is* discriminatory. The question that remains (and I don't have a firm position on it yet) is whether it is *justifiably* discriminatory."

Anon: All that I said was that the burden of proving the discrimination is on them. I didn't weigh in either way on my personal feelings about the discrimination involved, as this is not my fight! That's the whole point.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jun 24, 2007 10:22:58 AM

The only problem I have with incest is when the party(ies) continue having children on top of children concieved through incest. It's understandable if one didn't know, but when both individuals know an continue having children back to back. Yes, that's when it becomes a problem for me. Especially when they continue to have the children an the system have to pay for them. So yes I have a problem when it come to incest of knowingly,willingly, an selffish people who do this.

Posted by: jackson | Aug 16, 2009 8:46:42 PM

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