Monday, August 3, 2009

Polyamory Targeted in Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

As a result of last week's Newsweek article we polyamorists are being placed front and center as the culture war rages on. In today's Wall Street Journal, Robert P. George has authored an op-ed piece entitled "Gay Marriage, Democracy, and the Courts: The culture war will never end if judges invalidate the choices of voters." in which he first attempts to persuade the reader that if the courts and not the voters are permitted to define marriage, the culture war will worsen and marriage will become abortion's twin issue and yet another never-ending cause of societal discord.

Next he attempts to convince the reader that marriage's only truly important purpose is for procreation. I find this amusing, because I know there are fairly large numbers of stable poly households where children are thriving on the added resources supplied by having more than two parents. I stayed with such a family just a week ago, and their kids are bright, loving, healthy, and happy. Everything parents hope to create and provide to their children is present in greater amounts than any two parents can provide.

George says:

If marriage is redefined, its connection to organic bodily union—and thus to procreation—will be undermined. It will increasingly be understood as an emotional union for the sake of adult satisfaction that is served by mutually agreeable sexual play. But there is no reason that primarily emotional unions like friendships should be permanent, exclusive, limited to two, or legally regulated at all. Thus, there will remain no principled basis for upholding marital norms like monogamy.

A veneer of sentiment may prevent these norms from collapsing—but only temporarily. The marriage culture, already wounded by widespread divorce, nonmarital cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing will fare no better than it has in those European societies that were in the vanguard of sexual “enlightenment.” And the primary victims of a weakened marriage culture are always children and those in the poorest, most vulnerable sectors of society.

Candid and clear-thinking advocates of redefining marriage recognize that doing so entails abandoning norms such as monogamy. In a 2006 statement entitled “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage,” over 300 lesbian, gay, and allied activists, educators, lawyers, and community organizers—including Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich, and prominent Yale, Columbia and Georgetown professors—call for legally recognizing multiple sex partner (“polyamorous”) relationships. Their logic is unassailable once the historic definition of marriage is overthrown.

Is this a red herring? This week’s Newsweek reports more than 500,000 polyamorous households in the U.S. (Emphasis mine.)

So, before judging whether traditional marriage laws should be junked, we must decide what marriage is. It is this crucial and logically prior question that some want to shuffle off stage.

Because marriage has already been deeply wounded, some say that redefining it will do no additional harm. I disagree. We should strengthen, not redefine, marriage.

Mr. George is Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and founder of the American Principles Project. Interestingly, as I read the referenced principles, I was strongly impressed with just how interpretive they are of the Constitution. To the extent he defined those principles - and I gather he is their primary author - it's as though his academic accomplishments entitle him to make such interpretations for the rest of us. Isn't that what he objects to the courts doing???

Sorry, it doesn't matter how smart and accomplished a person is. To me it's about personal integrity, and being willing to admit to one's own biases, at minimum. Here's yet another person people are inclined to believe because of his stellar academic accomplishments. He may be well equipped to understand the issues via his legal background, but it still doesn't make him right.

1 comment:

cognitive dissident said...

Thanks for writing about this WSJ op-ed. I took a few shots at Mr George's argument here, as well the complaints of a few other anti-poly pundits.