With the exciting developments of last week around striking down part of DOMA, and lifting the ban on same sex marriage in California (read lots more in Poly in the News), there’s a lot of discussion about marriage as the vehicle for various rights and privileges. Political pundits on both sides of the aisle are starting to realize that now that pigs have flown, the reality of that slippery slope argument is imminently upon us. In other words now that one group of people have been granted access to marriage rights, what about all the others who still don’t have those rights? Say, for instance, the many un- (or under-)insured children of polyamorous or polygamous relationships? It becomes more and more difficult to maintain (at least with a straight face) that children of one relationship style (heterosexual dyadic marriage) are more deserving of healthcare and other rights than are children of other relationship styles, now that the heterosexual-only barrier has been broken.
That said, it’s unlikely in the extreme that plural marriages will be granted equal marriage rights anytime soon. In legal red tape terms, granting marriage rights to same sex couples is exactly the same as granting them to heterosexual couples. Granting them to multiple spouses, however, is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish indeed. (Those who have been through a divorce are already rolling their eyes even as I type…)
To those who are engaging in hand-wringing and predictions of doom and despair, the best possible response may be, “Yes. So?” Or to put it slightly more completely, “yes, many people in our `country don’t have equal rights even yet. So what is this society going to do about it? Making plural marriage legal (or decriminalizing it) is only one possible option to making sure that millions of children have adequate health care and other benefits. We’re not set on that as the ONLY option. Would you like to talk about some others, such as separating individual human rights from the religious-based institution of marriage?”
No matter what happens in the future, the sad fact is that polyamory is discriminated against in many ways. We are not (yet) protected by the anti-discrimination laws that cover same sex couples for instance, so the spectre of losing jobs (or failing to get them), getting discriminated against in housing matters (including retirement communities), and losing children in a custody dispute is very real indeed. Getting equal access to rights and privileges granted to married couples is certainly one way to gain some protections, but it’s not the only way.
Ken Haslam (retired MD, and curator of the Polyamory Collection at the Kinsey Library) reminded the Poly Leadership Network today of a paper written by Ann Tweedy, discussing the possibility of getting the protections afforded under the anti-discrimination laws I mentioned above, by asserting that polyamory should already be covered as a “sexual orientation.” She makes some excellent and cogent arguments, and I highly recommend reading the abstract, and the whole paper if you can lay your hands on it.
In the meantime, you might want to brush up your responses to the “slippery slope” arguments, including but not limited to “oh, you mean polygamy? I didn’t know you were a Mormon!” You might want to check the handy table I posted recently, for this purpose. 🙂
Remember, no matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK!
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