Politics & Policy

Triple-Dutch Wrong

An off-reply.

Over at The New Republic’s website, Rob Anderson takes a whack at my recent Weekly Standard piece, “Here Come the Brides.”

Anderson claims my use of the slippery-slope argument shows desperation. In effect, says Anderson, resort to the slippery slope proves that my main argument against gay marriage, “the ‘ick’ factor,” is losing ground with the American people. Trouble is, I do not oppose same-sex marriage based on “the ‘ick’ factor.” I’ve always called for tolerance of homosexuality, going back to “The Ashcroft-Logger Alliance” in 2001, where I expressed opposition to sodomy laws.

I’ve used the slippery-slope argument from the beginning, as have other opponents of same-sex marriage. The only difference is that the slippery-slope argument is becoming more obviously true with every passing year. If anyone is prejudiced here, it’s Anderson, who relies on mistaken assumptions about opponents of same-sex marriage.

Anderson betrays a surprising ignorance of arguments against same-sex marriage, leaving out altogether what is arguably the central claim of same-sex-marriage opponents: that gay marriage separates marriage from parenthood, with deleterious consequences for marriage as an institution. Even in “Here Come the Brides,” I make reference to this key point. Yet Anderson acts as though the “ick factor” and the slippery slope are the only extant arguments against same-sex marriage.

Anderson simply repeats the claims of gay-marriage advocates that the triple Dutch wedding is of minor legal significance. He neither acknowledges nor responds to my several points about this. Anderson says nothing of the conflict between marriage law and cohabitation contracts, nothing about Justice Minister Donner’s formal reply to the SGP (a group aiming to protect tradition marriage), which went much further in expressing acceptance of triple unions than he needed to. Nor does Anderson have anything to say about Green-party support for triple unions. Above all, Anderson misses my main point: that what we are seeing here is a new cultural moment, a growing public acceptance of the idea of multiple partner marriage that closely parallels the earliest stages of the gay-marriage movement in Holland.

Anderson defends the media by saying that they were right to cover the advent of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands. But I never dispute that they were right to cover that story. I have simply argued that they missed the significance of even that important story–and wrongly ignored the more recent triple-wedding story, which was also quite important.

We are moving to a new level of public awareness and acceptance of multi-partner unions in the United States. Yes, the process is at the beginning. But that is why it’s significant. This is why BRAVO’s airing of a documentary about a polyamorous family is important. It’s why HBO’s plan to use a series about a polygamous family to replace Sex in the City is also culturally meaningful. I’ve been blogging about the new level of public awareness and acceptance of multi-partner unions all week on The Corner. I invite readers to consider those posts along with the evidence I marshal in “Here Come the Brides” and ask themselves if these are signs of cultural change.

Anderson also gets my argument on bisexuality wrong. I never say that bisexuals are polygamists. But I do claim that there is an important link between bisexuality and polyamory, and Anderson does not address the connections that I do draw.

Finally, Anderson claims that there are good public-policy reasons for banning polygamy. Well, I’ve given a public-policy argument for not redefining marriage away from the union of a man and a woman. Again, Anderson ignores vast sections of the argument that folks like Maggie Gallagher and I offer. And Anderson forgets that same-sex marriage is winning through equal-protection claims. Most of those who favor same-sex marriage give little thought to marriage as an institution and much thought to the analogy from civil rights. Given that fundamental legal-political-cultural fact, there is every reason to fear that the grounds on which we are granting same-sex marriage will someday force us to grant recognition to multiple-partner marriage.


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