• Gay marriage and neo-phobia: Keith Olbermann on Proposition 8

    by  • November 12, 2008 • The Global Picture • 1 Comment

    I think one thing that’s being missed here is that Mormons feel exactly this way about polygamy in many cases. If a man loves a woman, and another woman, and another woman, why are they not free to marry?

    If it is about love…

    I really do understand the practical problems with polygamy in a Mormon context may be mainly issues of power, culture and status – that these are not marriages between equals, perhaps. I’m not going to speak to that here, that is a complex matter in conventional one-on-one hetro-sexual marriages too for some people. I feel, however, that once you decide that love is the issue, it is impossible to argue that two people can love in a way that three cannot and be absolutely sure of the statement in all cases. Muslims, too, who may have multiple spouses in their home country but are not free to marry multiple times here, may well feel oppressed by the status quo.

    Everybody acts as if the LDS has no understanding of the plight of gay people. How could they possibly take this stand against the rights of others to marry as they will. I think, though, they may understand all too well what it is like to have society’s version of marriage pushed on you and there may be more than a little of “well, if they can have their exception to the rules, why cannot we have ours?”

    Suppose both groups get what they want, and we now have a definition of marriage which permits a group of any size (3 can love, but 4 cannot?) with any mix of genders. We have now expanded marriage in a way which could easily generate permutations which are more at home in science fiction, like line marriages.

    I want you to understand that for people who’s parents, grand parents and great-grand parents married, one upon another, with presumed and never questioned perfect faithfulness, in a model passed down from time immemorial at least in this one culture, the idea of a group of sixty marrying over a period of a hundred years, and calling it marriage, and having the same status in society and in relationship to the government… this idea is a little daunting. In fact, it is like a cultural earthquake, shaking the assumptions about what is real and unreal, and about marriage as an act connoting a shared home, children and perhaps even white picket fences.

    They fear it. They fear the change, the loss of a system which is known. They imagine their sons and daughters with funny same-gender ornaments on their wedding cakes, shattering patterns of life which have become mythic. This fear breeds anger, and resentment, and hatred.

    Some people find rules comforting. They like to know that tomorrow and yesterday will be similar because they were OK yesterday, and if tomorrow and yesterday are similar, that probably means they will be OK tomorrow too. This is a reasonable neo-phobia which may well be adaptive at a species level.

    Others, however, are wired to seed boundaries and edges, to push into tomorrow’s territory and claim it as their own.

    Here is my proposed solution.

    I believe America should establish four separate categories of marriage:

    * one-on-one hetrosexual
    * one-on-one same sex
    * polygamy / polyandry (shared spouse)
    * polyamorous (any combination of men/women)

    Those who wish to privilege the older, common form of marriage may do so. Those who wish to lean into evolution’s edge may do so. Marriages are recognized as being typed, and there is space for special case legal forms to evolve to handle tricky cases which may take years to come up in case law to be examined, like disposal of property in partial dissolution of a polyamorous marriage.

    The simple step of leaving the conventional form of marriage alone, but placing it alongside new forms which reflect the perfectly reasonable desires of those who love in other ways seems to resolve most of the sticking points in the current situation. The old can be left unchanged as long as enough room is made for the new beside it.

    This struggle has been going on since the 1960s, and really through all time in one form or another. It’s not my struggle: I’ve tended towards a very conventional serial monogamy, but I fully support those who want more choices in their life, and equal support from their society in those novel choices.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    One Response to Gay marriage and neo-phobia: Keith Olbermann on Proposition 8

    1. November 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

      I’m for letting people do what they want. I’m just not sure how much the government needs to be involved in any of it. I’d be inclined to withdraw government completely from anything to do with marriages.

      Abolishing tax breaks for families might be tricky (after all, if 2 share an income so one can raise a child, why should they be taxed the same as one person?) But there’s more than one way of skinning a cat, and I suspect a new tax structure, probably simpler, could be drawn up that would be better and easier for most, and not to bad for anyone. Inheritance laws could also be an issue, where someone dies without a will, but details such as these don’t, I think, justify giving the government the power to give and withhold labels to show socially approval.

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