Ann Althouse and Gay Marriage
Charles Krauthammer says legalizing gay marriage paves the way to legalizing polygamy:It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Althouse that giving economic benefits to couples that are likely to produce children is good public policy.If Krauthammer has been writing about this subject for 10 years, it boggles the mind that the obvious distinction has not yet dawned on him.
In an essay 10 years ago, I pointed out that it is utterly logical for polygamy rights to follow gay rights. After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as gay marriage advocates insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one’s autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement — the number restriction (two and only two) — is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice...
To simplify the logic, take out the complicating factor of gender mixing. Posit a union of, say, three gay women all deeply devoted to each other. On what grounds would gay activists dismiss their union as mere activity rather than authentic love and self-expression? On what grounds do they insist upon the traditional, arbitrary and exclusionary number of two?
Legal marriage isn’t just about love, it’s an economic arrangement. Having the state authorize your union is not the same thing as having your friends and neighbors approve of you and your religious leaders bless you. It affects taxes and employee benefits — huge amounts of money. A gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can’t file a joint tax return. That’s not fair. A polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn’t appeal to our sense of fairness.
The tax exemption for children (which happens to be available to homosexuals who have custody of children) is just one example.
One might object that we give the benefits of marriage to couples that are not (by choice or inability) going to have children. Yet Althouse inadvertently provides the definitive refutation of that argument:
The law doesn’t assess how much two people love each other. Two persons of opposite sexes can marry for all sorts of reasons. If there were a device that could look into their souls and measure their love, we wouldn’t accept the outrageous invasion of privacy it would take for the government to use it.Yet it would also be an outrageous invasion of privacy for government to demand of heterosexual couples that, to have the benefits of marriage, they have to prove their ability to procreate, and also swear to their intention to procreate.
Given that fact, simply assuming that heterosexual marriage involves procreation is more than justified.
Althouse thinks it’s unfair for a homosexual to be denied benefits that would be available to a heterosexual spouse, but draws the line at having more than one heterosexual partner get benefits.
But it’s absolutely normal for health insurance to cover however many children one might happen to have. A yuppie couple that doesn’t want children gets no benefit while a devout Catholic couple that has a dozen children gets a very large benefit.
And of course, nothing prevents a man having a wife and also a mistress or two or three. But under the current marital regime none of the extra women have any legally defined protections nor claim to benefits.
How About Incest?
Consider the following, from Jeff Jacoby:
So incest is “fundamentally disordered” but homosexuality isn’t?
Allen and Pat were lovers, but a Wisconsin statute enacted in 1849 made their sexual relationship a felony. The law was sometimes used to nail predators who had molested children, but using it to prosecute consenting adults — Allen was 45; Pat, 30 — was virtually unheard of. That didn’t deter Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher. Nor did the fact that the couple didn’t understand why their relationship should be a crime. Allen and Pat didn’t “have to be bright,” the judge growled, to know that having sex with each other was wrong.
He threw the book at them: eight years for Allen, five for Pat, served in separate maximum-security prisons, 25 miles apart.
If this had happened to a gay couple, the case would have become a cause celebre. Hard time as punishment for a private, consensual, adult relationship? Activists would have been outraged. Editorial pages would have thundered.
But Allen and Patricia Muth are not gay. They were convicted of incest. Although they didn’t meet until Patricia was 18 — she had been raised from infancy in foster care — they were brother and sister, children of the same biological parents. They were also strongly attracted to each other, emotionally and physically. And so, disregarding the taboo against incest, they became a couple and had four children.
When Wisconsin officials learned of the Muths’ relationship, they moved to strip them of their parental rights. The state’s position, upheld in court, was that their “fundamentally disordered” lifestyle made them unfit for parenthood by definition. Allen and Patricia’s children were taken from them. Then they were prosecuted for incest and sent to prison.
By what criteria?
Having a large and vocal lobby on most college campuses isn’t a suitable criterion.
It’s probably true that Nature prefers exogamy, for good genetic reasons.
But then Nature prefers heterosexuality, since Nature wants procreation.
And invoking genetics against incest smacks of eugenics, which after all is defined as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.”
Certainly, Althouse’s argument that one should be allowed benefits for one partner and no more has no force against the Muth’s claim.
Ann Althouse is far from being your standard leftie academic yahoo, but on this issue she seems to be engaged in the politically correct project of legitimating deviant sexual patterns that happen to be politically correct, while failing to apply her logic in a consistent way.