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« "Prayers for Bobby" Shows Price of Bible-Bashing | Main | Fear and Love »

January 28, 2009



Clayton, I'm basically in agreement with you and I think your post reflects the kind of self-critique I wish more people in the larger LGBT culture would engage in.

A couple of quick points here ... I am personally very much in favour of the idea that the state should just have nothing to do with marriage and should just give civil unions. The issue of recognizing a relationship as a "marriage" is then just left to various religious institutions.

There is a tricky issue though when the subject of polyamory or plural marriage comes up. Personally I believe monogamy is a good rule of thumb for a society (in particular I think encouraging monogamy has a civilizing effect on male sexuality), but I wouldn't really care if someone had more than one partner and wouldn't want to get in the way of it. However, there are issues with legally recognizing partnerships with more than one partner that make the legalization of polyamorous relationships fraught with legal hassles and confusions. For a good discussion of this, see this link:

It seems to me that the state might legitimately want to stay out of legalizing polyamorous unions. There are two main reasons:

1. It is hard enough to legally recognize and protect a relationship between two people, and the legal hassles increase exponentially for each person added to the mix.

2. There is no universal template for a polyamorous relationship the way there is for a monogamous one. Religious groups want patriarchal polygamy; secular people want gender-egalitarian polyamory; some polyamorists want to treat all partners equally while others designate partners as "primary" and "secondary". Coming up with a legal plan that is flexible enough to meet the needs of all these groups and that can predict the problems that can arise out of such relationships seems pretty difficult if not totally impossible.

These are valid legal arguments, and this is a point that the "Beyond Marriage" petition seems to have overlooked.


clayton, you heard something very different from what i heard from rick warren. he stated catagorically....oh, shoot...we've been down this road before too many times. you do not wish to be confused with the facts, your mind is made up.

it would be fairer if the gov't were to recognize no marriage instead of only select marriage, but as you like to use the word "viable" so comes up here. i do not think we are anywhere close, as a society, to having our government not respect marriage. you are aiming exactly at what the far right accuses us of with so much success, devaluing marriage as an institution. your willingness to dilute marriage as a loving covenant denotes your disrespect for it. you're in a great minority there.

as far as equal rights go....why does it have to be either or? of course mothers and daughters who co-habitate deserve equal rights, and they have them for the most part. your arguement is nonsense. we can and should guarantee all who wish the same civil rights as all others, but marriage is not a normal, garden variety civil right.

read the decision in loving v virgina. marriage is not the gov't's to give or to take away, it is the right of all. if you think for one moment that christans are going to stand for one moment of a gov't that won't recognize their "marriage" then you are so far off base that being picked off is a sure thing...go ahead and hit the dugout.

if the gov't is going to recognize the marriage of my mother and father, which they do and they are going to continue to, then i reserve the right for the same gov't to recognize the same marriage between myself and my "conjugal" partner. non-conjugal relationships can certainly be domestic partnerships, or civil unions...that fine...but that is not what my marriage is.

since there is abslutely no chance of having our gov't withdraw recognition of all marriages they need to recognize mine as well...i'm not second class, i'm first class all the way. just expanding the view of what family is will get us nowhere, as long as we classify them differently.

if annie and pennyjane take their marriage proposal before God in the church of annie and pennyjane and are married by the reverend pennyjane, then the gov't has no right to classify that in any different way then if we are certified in the presbyterian the way...churchs' can't legally marry without a license granted by the state. so if the state is to issue legal license to straight couples, then i want my license too.

or should we, as ned suggests, just go ahead and recognize anything anyone wants to call a marriage...or a civil union or whatever and accept the chaos that will naturally follow? we have to make the decisions, it's our choice in this democracy. we are making choices, let's make good ones and not settle for dilution and more confusion. maybe a day will come when polyamoros marriages will be argued for, or incestual, or beastial...i'll be glad to face that at that time. right now, the arguement is as to whether or not we, as a society, want to equally respect the marriages of same sex couples with those of hetersosexual couples. doing the civil union thing is just relegating us to second class citizenship for the next cycle...avoiding the real issue.

once you begin to give serious consideration to marriage yourself, i think you'll begin to see the bigger picture.

much love and hope, pj


I agree with PJ that expecting marriage and state to become separated, which I think is actually the best option, is quite impractical, especially in America, and would require a complete re-write of the law-books in most states. In other words, not going to happen. But I see it as a theoretical ideal which unfortunately would take a lot of hard work to realize.

"or should we, as ned suggests, just go ahead and recognize anything anyone wants to call a marriage...or a civil union or whatever and accept the chaos that will naturally follow"

But conservatives use slippery-slope reasoning to argue that it is precisely gay marriage that will lead to this chaos. They say that legalizing same-sex marriage is like opening a Pandora's box and allowing virtually anybody to come forward and say they want domestic partner benefits.

I've got my own arguments against this, but it is something the LGBT community needs to think about rationally and coherently. The question of why polyamorous unions should not also be recognized if gay marriage is, is a particular sticking point for most conservatives.


Actually Clayton, I just realized that most of the legal arguments I gave above that get in the way of legalizing polyamorous unions also apply to civil unions for, say, "Senior citizens living together and serving as each other’s caregivers (think Golden Girls)" or "Blended and extended families", to take some terms out of the Beyond Marriage petition. There would be far too many legal complications.

I agree that all these groups should have access to protection and benefits but this has nothing to do with marriage or even with civil unions. Maybe they could just amp up social security services for these groups, or create a new system of benefits for "families" or the elderly in general (there are already senior citizen benefits in America, aren't there?).

So to sum up my own perspective:

* It would be great if the state stopped interfering in people's marriages altogether, and left the "policing" to religious institutions, but this is impractical and not likely to happen.

* Legalizing civil unions between more than two individuals is fraught with lots of legal complications and hassles so at least from a practical standpoint it makes sense for a state to not want to get involved here. I think this would rule out polyamorous unions or domestic partnerships for multiple individuals.

* Which brings us back to the stalemate on same-sex marriage, and I have no good answers here. Given the attitude of conservative Americans, I'm tempted to say queer people should just push for better civil unions for queer couples, and hopefully in the longer term, it will lay the foundation for a transition toward being recognized as marriage. This seems like a reasonable compromise to me.


i hate to be cynical, ned, but i think you are exactly right. i think people like warren are counting on just what you are saying, that we go on and on until the whole idea of marriage is convoluted into obscurity, then they can say..."see, told ya so." maybe it's because i've been around the warren's of this world for so long, but i swear i can see right through him. give us the rope, he thinks, and we'll gladly hang ourselves...might even be right. but, anybody who thinks he's a nice guy, caring for our souls and are being decieved big time. his appraisal of our souls is that they are long since condemned beyond redemption...i give you..."you cannot join our church." all but the enemies of Christ are welcome in the Body...what does that make us in his eyes? it's the black and white simple minded thing it always comes down to in the minds of the arrogant..."you're either with me or against me." me, me, me.

today, in a class i'm taking considering the comparative theologies of bonhoeffer and king, we were talking about why the resistance in nazi germany was so ineffective. it seemed to me that one good cause was that there was so little non-intellectual passion in the movement. there was very little moral indignation. the military was about the only show in town and their concern was for the wehrmacht, their army. the philosophers were banking on nationalist common sense which never materialized. not much passion at the grass roots level. bonhoeffer et-al, while certainly intellectually opposed to nazism, were intellectually inclined, thus not good marks for decision making...and his own socieo-secularist theology didn't speak much to the common man. he was more then willing to accept personal responsibility but wasn't much for persueding others to do the same.

king was a bit different, in my mind. his opposition to segregated america was primarily moral. he had no problem at all generating grass roots outrage, passion and action. of course, he existed in a decocracy of long standing, not the weimar republic which was all of about ten at it's death.

my point is, bonhoeffer's approach was intellectual, let's sit at the table and be rational with these guys, the bafoon will soon pass and we can re-create ourselves. king was all moral, no compromise...not that he wasn't intellectual, but his approach wasn't, it was emotional. i think king's methods would have worked better under either circumstance. we can learn from this as we try to make our movement into something coherent and able to withstand all the convoluted arguments the intellectuals will put before us. we should not allow them to drag us into agruements that are not ours, to distract us from what the point really is. as long as they have us arguing among ourselves about poligomy or incest they are having a good time at our expense, they allow us room to make ourselves look foolish. we'll kill our own movement by engaging all these extrenious platitudes they stick in our face.

when the oj trial was all over the tv i was flat on my back for that whole i got into it. actually, it was quite the comedy if you get distracted from the dead bodies. each day the defense would come into court, run some off the wall concept up the pole just to see what might happen. it got to be predicable...marsha clark would enter the room, see the new flag on the pole, come to attention and present arms. she would then engage whatever was up there, even if it were her own panties. by the end of the trial i'd bet the jury couldn't have found hitler guilty of nazism, they had no idea what was important and what was just out there, marsha treated it all with equal respect.

remind us any of ourselves?

much love and hope, pj


PJ, I see your point and I admire your passion.

How would you respond to the "slippery-slope" arguments of the conservatives though? (My response is primarily a legal one, as given above.)

(FYI: I'm not even American. I'm just following the culture wars here as an outsider. I do plan to immigrate to Canada eventually though.)


hi ned, i know you aren't native american, but these questions aren't ours alone, the whole world is engaged to one degree or another.

the slippery slope is the arguement of choice for those who haven't much faith in their arguement against what's actually being proposed. it's the change the subject thing. rick warren is a perfect example.

i would do just as i have been trying to do here, return to the problem at hand. that is deciding if homosexual relationships should be considered by the state as equal to heterosexual ones. rick warren's answer to that question, when you can pin him down, is no. period. our relationships are sinful and will lead us unquestionably to hell. it's his moral position and as he finds it harder and harder to sell, like all snake oil salesmen, he changes the subject...tries to make himself look more personable and accomodating. it's a lie.

i would not pander to such nonsense. i'd call a spade a spade, a liar a liar and a snake oil salesman a snake oil salemam. then get back to the situation that needs attention.

much love and hope. pj

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