The Corner

Polyamory and Same-Sex Marriage

My friend Walter Olson, of the Cato Institute, objects to my column today. 

He makes two main points, 1) that I didn’t cite examples of opponents of same-sex marriage being branded as bigots, and 2) that concerns about polygamy and polyamory are red herrings. 

Olson is civil, intelligent, and humane, and his post deserves a reply in the same spirit. Here is my reply:

Olson writes that I give no examples of opponents of same-sex marriage being branded as homophobes or bigots, which prompts the question: Where does one begin? Of course the judicious Jonathan Rauch, Andrew Sullivan (when he’s not fulminating against Sarah Palin), and Olson himself do not stoop to name-calling. 

But whether it’s a florist in Washington State who gets sued because she doesn’t wish to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding (she had no problem selling her products to gay customers), or the National Organization for Marriage being denounced as bigots by Daily Kos, the Human Rights Campaign, and New York Times columnists, or just about every opponent of gay marriage characterized as bigoted on an almost daily basis on liberal websites like Huffington Post, it hardly needs elaborating. 

At least advocates of same-sex marriage should grant this much: The anti position requires more courage in 2013 America than the pro position.

Responding to my column, Olson suggests that the constituency for polygamy is small and politically unpopular to boot, which I grant. My point was that once you concede that marriage is only about adult happiness and fulfillment, you’ve lost the moral ground to object that polygamy or polyamory shouldn’t also be called marriages.

Olson writes, “Our side is winning on gay marriage for a very simple reason, which is that millions of mothers think, ‘I didn’t choose for my kid to be gay, but since he is, I hope he settles down with the right person.’ I have never, ever heard a mother say ‘I didn’t choose for my kid to want multiple mates, but since he does, I hope he settles down with the right three or four women.’”

That’s amusing. But, in point of fact, what does it prove? Merely that public opinion has changed. Twenty years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a mother endorsing same-sex marriage for her child. Twenty years from now, it’s possible that some number of mothers will come to believe that if multiple partners are what is required for their child, that’s what they should have. 

The great problem we face as a culture is not that many gays and lesbians will marry and raise families. It’s that in agreeing that children are okay without their fathers or mothers, we’ve undercut the ideal that society should do everything possible to support — the male/female married couple who raise the children they create. If two mothers are just as good for kids, then why not raise a child without a father? 

That is how marriage — already shaky — is further undermined.


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