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Per the AP, July 14, 2011, the Sister Wives of TLC have filled suit in Utah challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s anti-polygamy law. More specifically, they have challenged he state’s authority to dictate what can and cannot occur in the bedrooms of consenting adults. They have not challenged the anti-bigamy facets of the law. Here’s my question, “Why not?”
Before going farther, I’d like to disclose a fact and share an opinion. Fact: I voted in favor of Washington State’s expanded Domestic Partnership law which gave equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. Opinion: The word “marriage” should be reserved for unions between one man and one woman.
Theodore B. Olsen, provided an elegant and extensive argument in, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” Newsweek, Jan. 9, 2010. Andrew Sullivan contributed a very personal perspective, “Why Gay Marriage Is Good for Straight America” in the July 25, 2011, Newsweek, and Cynthia Nixon added, “Our Sweet Triumph” as commentary on the approval of gay marriage by the State of New York. My arguments will be much more simple and straightforward. I’ll address the opinion first. Keep the definition of “marriage” as a union between one man and one woman, period. The gay and lesbian community can adopt some other term for their unions. I agree that both “civil union” and “domestic partnership” lack a romantic element; both sound a bit legal. Maybe there’s a French or Latin phrase that sounds more romantic and could be used. Actually everything sounds more romantic in French. That’s the compromise I offer, in exchange for appropriating the word “gay” to mean homosexual, “marriage” remains one man, one woman. This is not trivial semantics. I believe use of the word “marriage” is one of the big sticking points for a lot of folks who would otherwise support the gay and lesbian community in their quest for equality. While we’re looking at meanings of specific words, does “gay” just apply to males? It seems more times than not an event or cause will be labeled, “Gay AND Lesbian…”
On to more important issues. Should gay couples (using the term generically) be given equality with straight couples under the law? YES. The primary argument against accepting gay couples is religious. People will quote certain passages from the Bible as stating that God opposes to homosexuality. I’ll counter with a cliché, “God don’t make junk.” Back when I thought that gays were made not born (nurture not nature) it made sense that this was a choice, and they could be “cured.” The scientific and anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that people are born straight or gay. So if I believe in God, then I have to accept that he intended for some people to be gay; that’s how he “made” them. Ergo, the religious argument drops out.
What about the argument that it’s not “natural”? Obviously natural selection doesn’t support something that’s a genetic dead-end, but I’ll leave that one to the biologists and geneticists. “What genes drive this condition” and “How has it persisted over the generations” are not relevant to “What rights should gays have under the law”. With respect to families I admit that I’m not comfortable with gay couple adopting kids or having them through surrogates. The best homes for kids include a Mom and Dad. Why intentionally bring kids into less than ideal homes? However my daughter, who is much more knowledgeable on the subject than I, says studies show kids do just fine in “gay families.” A request, I’m not ready to be comfortable with seeing a gay couple snuggling at the park, please keep the PDAs to a minimum. I’ll close the argument in favor of gay rights with a comment that I believe humorist Dave Barry made, “Why shouldn’t gays be afforded the same opportunities for acrimonious and legally messy break-ups as straights”.
Now for the even more controversial idea/question: If we accept gay partnerships, how is polygamy so different? Sullivan dismisses this question, “…the red herring of polygamy…” but it is a valid and logical “if…then” question. Again the primary grounds against it are religious arguments. However, the Old Testament is heavily populated with patriarchs who had multiple wives. Granted, by the time of Christ the practice of multiple wives had ended for the Jews and the “Western World” in general. But aside from tradition, is there a compelling legal argument against multiple partners? Are you and I being harmed?
I can see many business and financial complexities that would have to be worked out. Examples: 1) A person could only have one partner listed on their medical insurance, or have significantly increased contributions for additional dependents to keep insurance finances balanced and equitable. 2) In those states and businesses that provide New Parent Leave for Dads, there would have to be limits such as each Dad gets two total leaves, or six weeks total leave, etc.
One can argue that the U. S. laws are based on Christian beliefs (not Old Testament Jewish beliefs) even while our Constitution grants all people religious freedom. So, one man, one woman, end of argument.? Agree Christian belief, but here’s the slippery slope: who draws the line in the sand on which Christian beliefs to codify? Whose Christian beliefs are the yardstick? Some very conservative Christian sects don’t allow dancing, others the consumption of alcohol. I’m not ready to discontinue either practice.
It will be interesting to see how the Sister Wives case plays out in court. It will be just as interesting to see how it plays in the “Media Court”.