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4.10.05

More Polygamy

I don't mean to turn this into a blog about polygamy, but von at Obsidian Wings has a post that manages to both misunderstand the case for same-sex marriage and make a poor argument against polygamy. Von says that there's no slippery slope between the two because homosexuality is natural, while polyamory is a choice. Based on my acquaintance with a few polyamorous people, I'm inclined to be a bit skeptical of the

But even if polyamory is a choice in the relevant sense, it remains the case that whether an inclination is a choice has little to do with how the law should treat actions that spring from it. Sexual attraction to children is not a choice, but no reasonable person would propose that for that reason we legalize pedophilia. On the other hand, all reasonable people agree that interracial marriage should be allowed -- indeed, von cites it approvingly as an example of when marriage laws have been altered for the better. Yet interracial marriage is the result, not of some innate "heteroracial" sexual orientation, but of a choice. Further, by von's natural/choice standard, we ought to ban (in morality if not in law) bisexuals from entering into same-sex marriage. After all, if you're attracted to the opposite sex, then entering into a same-sex relationship is a choice.

Any argument for why a relationship ought not to be recognized by the law must rest not on claims about whether the desire for it is natural, but on whether its consequences are positive or negative. In a footnote von attempts to add such a consequentialist justification. The best he can come up with, however, is to say that it would be complicated to work out the distribution of rights and duties between the partners -- as if monogamous couples never have vicious battles over child custody and other issues. If all he were doing was using this to argue that it would be premature to pass a law legalizing polygamy before the mechanics of organizing such relationships were worked out and well disseminated into the culture, I would agree. But to claim that such logistical difficulties are a permanent barrier, and that they outweigh the increased happiness of people who desire polygamous unions, is weak.

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