I recently read an article in which the interviewer asked the interviewee “Where is the harm in allowing Gay people to marry?”
The interviewee replied by asking where the harm would be in allowing polygamy. It’s a common ploy, responding with a question that diverts from the responsibility to answer the actual question asked. And, honestly, activists for gay rights should be expecting it by now. The question of polygamy is almost inevitably asked, along with “what would the harm be in allowing a person to marry a dog”.
I will take the time to answer both of those questions.
Aside from the fact that the topic of polygamy makes people uncomfortable, there are other reasons that it’s a bad idea for society. First, let’s look at a society in which polygamy was allowed, a society that most Christians are in fact familiar with. The Isrealites were polygamists. Some of Christianity’s most famous names took several wives. Jacob had both Leah and Rachel, King David had his many wives, including Abigail and Bathsheba, Solomon had his wives as well as his Harem, and a lot of Israelite men found themselves inheriting the wives of dead brothers. Why was polygamy so widespread? Women in those times were not seen as whole beings. They could not own property or legally stand up for themselves. They were wholly dependent on the “kindness of strangers” to get by should they be widowed and they had no one to take them in. And one must also look at the circumstances of the time- the Israelite people went to war often, they were exiled and returned and exiled and returned. This left the men with a shortened lifespan. With men dying young and widows having no recourse, polygamy made sense- give the widow and her children to another man who could use the extra hands to keep his home in order and allow his possessions to grow. Give the woman a man to stand up for her and be sure they are cared for. Polygamy, to say it plainly, served a purpose for such a society.
It doesn’t make sense for ours. Women still have a longer lifespan then men, but our lot in life is radically different. We can own property, seek employment, legally stand up for ourselves. We are just as capable of men in all ways, including being able to vote. There is also the question of the fairness of polygamy in our society. Let’s say that a man can have, oh, fifteen wives. What happens then? Fifteen women marry a rich man, giving him four kids each. Thats sixty kids for Rich Man, all of whom will have a better chance of recieving an education, recieving health care, and finding gainful employment. Poor men, on the other hand, would never be able to support that many kids, or even more than one wife. If we think that the upper class is insulated now- imagine what polygamy would do. Rather than giving billions to charity, a rich man would split his billions among his myriad of progeny. Societal lines would darken.
It could get nasty.
Not to mention the legal rights of the multiple women (or men) involved. Rather than divorce meaning a fair distribution of property, if one of five women were to divorce a man, she may be left with few options. How, exactly, would one decide on a fair distribution of property in a polygamist setting? Would the amount of rights afforded to each woman be equal to the amount of women married to one man? And if that were the case, how many women could we allow each man to have before it would become an unfair burden to each wife involved?
And then let’s talk about the reverse affect- would one woman be able to take multiple husbands? And if that was allowed, how would the burden of siring children be divided? It would be wholly unfair for one husband to father all of the children, leaving the other husbands with no heirs.
I have seen arguments for how gay marriage can improve society- I have seen no such argument for polygamy.
I hardly feel this is worth addressing, but address it I shall. So… if a man can marry a man, isn’t the logical next step that he can marry his best friend? His dog?
Marriage is a legal institution, and it was made a legal institution for the protection of both parties concerned. Marriage affords a married couple many rights, including combining wealth and a fair division of wealth upon the dissolusionment of the marriage, health care, visiting rights, parental rights, and the list goes on and on.
Now, let’s say that Billy marries Fluffy. Will Fluffy then be on his company insurance card? Will Fluffy be able to visit him in the hospital? Should Billy decide to divorce Fluffy, will she have partial custody of Billy’s children? Will Fluffy get half the Estate?
Should Billy suddenly, tragically die, how exactly will Fluffy manage as the executor of the estate and a legal parent to Billy’s children that he adopted with her as his wife?
It reads as ridiculous because it is ridiculous. A dog is not a woman. A dog cannot be given the same legal capacity as a woman. End of story!
This post is long, so I’ll keep it brief. Marriage affords a certain amount of rights and a certain amount of responsibilities. We’ve already discussed some of the rights, rights that I think should be afforded regardless of the gender of the two people involved. Now, let’s talk about the responsibilities. Let’s talk about the fact that if a gay man adopts a child as a single parent, or “gives birth” due to the miracle of surrogates, egg banks and in vitro fertilization, and he starts to raise this child with his partner, both of them acting as a parent, until the relationship dissolves… having allowed that couple to marry will mean that the child is left with both parents in his life. That is good for society.
Imagine a lesbian couple where one gets breast cancer and can no longer work. Her partner supports her for a time but wearies of it and leaves- as these things do happen. Having allowed that couple to marry means that the sick woman is afforded some legal protection, like spousal support or her spouse having to continue to provide medical insurance until the poor sick woman can get some elsewhere. Unmarried partnerships do not carry such responsibility.
Imagine a gay couple where one partner bought a house, furnished it, took care of it, did everything… and one day he simply kicks his partner out. Allowing them to be married means that the “lesser” of the partners is still given some amount of legal recourse, instead of simply being thrown out with no possessions and no roof over his head.
Marriage is not only a right but a responsibility, a responsibility that I think that homosexual couples should be welcome to share. I realize that not all heterosexuals accept this responsibility- but at least they are legally able to should one or both couples desire the protections it affords.
It would be better for society if all willing people were able to engage in marriage, so long as marriage remains between two consenting human adults.
Question, comments, accusations- you know where to put them. (In the comments, silly! :D)