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Opening Arguments

Beyond gay marriage

OK, who didn't see this coming?

Recently, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council reintroduced a tired refrain: Legalized gay marriage could lead to other legal forms of marriage disaster, such as polygamy. Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and other social conservatives have made similar claims. It’s hardly a new prediction—we’ve been hearing it for years. Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?

We can only hope.

Yes, really. While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.

[. . .]

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

In the first sentence of that last paragraph, I'm not sure if the writer really meant "plastic" as in "artificial" or really meant to say "elastic," as in "meant to be stretched." But the point is clear. If you remove the boundaries that have defined marriage since the beginning of time, it's hard to put new boundaries in -- the movement will always be toward having no boundaries at all. That is what many have warned against, and it turns out that some people actually want that kind of deconstruction. An advocate for polygamy -- on equal rights grounds, naturally --might seem like an outlier today, but so did preaching gay marriage once upon a time. Reading an essay like this, it doesn't seem so crazy to think arguments in favor of marrying an animal or an inanimate object or a child will start coming our way.

So this debate is not just about gay marriage. If you think it is -- if you think we aren't going to be having those other arguments -- I'm afraid you're going to be bitterly disappointed.