Prop-8 and Polygamy

I brought up to both Russell and Nate the question of whether the Church’s efforts on Prop-8 were related to fears about the reinstitution of polygamy. Neither thought that was a valid worry so maybe I’m simply being silly on this. It seemed (and seems) to me that if gay marriage becomes normative that within 10 years so too will the legalization and recognition of polygamy. And I think the Church is right to fear this.

Now I know that many gay marriage proponents have seen the legalization of polygamy as unlikely. Some even see it as offensive to bring up. (Which always struck me as a double standard with regards to tolerance) I think though that if we take as a fundamental right to marry whom we will then it’s difficult to say people don’t really have that right. That is limiting the number of husbands a woman has seems just as much an infringement as limiting the gender of whom that woman can marry.

Yes folks can make Utilitarian arguments for a difference. I confess I have a hard time seeing them as valid. If marriage provides stability and faithfulness for gays, surely getting polygamous marriages out of hiding and into the light is a positive matter. The main reason polygamist sects are so secretive is because of polygamy. Remove that and you mainstream them which can only be a benefit for the children. Further you stop a lot of welfare abuse.

I’m no lawyer so I won’t make any legal arguments. I’m not sure they are necessary anyway. It seems law tends to follow social trends. Once you liberalize marriage it’s pretty hard to keep limits on it. Eventually someone will find an argument for legalizing polygamy persuasive. (I tend to think that what is seen as persuasive functions a more primordial level than what is strongly reasoned so law tends to follow social change)

Which gets me to my final point. The Church has a compelling interest to stop polygamy. For one the Church doesn’t want to be confused with polygamists. Everyone remember the FLDS confusions last year? Yeah.

But it’s worse than that. If polygamy is legalized you’ll have more people trying to both associate with the polygamist groups and mainstream Mormonism. Yes the Church will, to the degree they find out, excommunicate any polygamist. But when polygamy is out of hiding and it becomes normative it simply will be more attractive to many. Most of the arguments about normalizing gay marriage apply much more to polygamy than gay marriage. Especially if you, like me, agree that homosexual attraction is for most gays not really a matter of a simple choice. Polygamy is in a way gay relations simply aren’t.

So I think the Church is right to worry about the social effects of polygamy.

67 thoughts on “Prop-8 and Polygamy

  1. Clark,

    A couple of thoughts on this.

    First, polygamy is expressly prohibited in the Marriage Cases opinion, in a footnote. (Though I’ve suggested elsewhere that the footnote is not particularly strong reasoning).

    And second, we have _already_ liberalized marriage rules a lot. Was that a bad thing?

    This argument was raised, repeatedly. For instance, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a ban in interracial marriage, in 1872. The court wrote that marriage had always been divided along racial lines, and that it would be wrong to change that. The court suggested that allowing interracial marriage would bring a host of additional harms:

    “Extending the rule to the width asked for by the defendant, and we might have in Tennessee the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with the sister, in lawful wedlock, because they had formed such relations in a State or country where they were not prohibited. The Turk or Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, may establish his harem at the doors of the capitol, and we are without remedy.”

    See State v. Bell, 66 Tenn. 9 (1872).

  2. Clark,

    I think your post and the concerns raised therein are valid. The footnote (#52) to which Kaimi refers states in part:

    We emphasize that our conclusion that the constitutional right to marry properly must be interpreted to apply to gay individuals and gay couples does not mean that this constitutional right similarly must be understood to extend to polygamous or incestuous relationships.

    At best this is dicta, meaning it was explanatory or editorializing and not binding. The marriage cases were decided on whether gays had the right to marry, not polygamists. Given the court’s ruling that a suspect class (sexual orientation) was treated differently than others, the door seems to be open to similar suspect classes, i.e., those based on religious belief. Further, the CA constitution can extend rights beyond what the U.S. Constitution does. It is not a large leap from gay marriage to polygamy, at all.

    If the CA Supreme Court opinion creating a new fundamental right to gay marriage and creating a new suspect class stands, look for future cases expanding marriage based on the CA constitution and polygamous relationships. It’s only a matter of time.

  3. Kaimi, I’m not quite sure where you are going with this. It sounds like you are agreeing with me what would happen. (The fact that polygamy was prohibited says little since once too was gay marriage)

    I take your point to be that liberalized marriage is a good thing. (And I think there is a compelling argument to be made for that along Utilitarian grounds)

    However I’m curious as to how you see normalization of polygamy affecting the Church. Let’s leave out the issue of how non-Mormons view Mormons (they already confuse us afterall). But here in Utah, what do you think the practical consequences (if any) would be?

    As I mentioned many I talk with don’t think polygamy was on the minds of the Brethren when considering Prop-8 at all. Whereas to me it was probably on the forefront.

  4. Just a note Kaimi, I’m not saying you can’t see marriage liberalization as a good thing on its own terms. Rather I’m questioning more whether the Church ought fear polygamy normalization. I take it for granted that regardless of what the Church does marriage liberalization will become the will of the land.

  5. My guess is that divorce lawyers are for SSM. Because more people getting married means more people getting divorced, hence more business for them.

    Aha! That’s it! SSM is a conspiracy put forth by divorce lawyers to drum up business in the wake of declining marriage rates among heterosexuals.

    But seriously, LDS and offshoot religions are not the only ones pushing for (or making apologetics for past) polygamy. The new buzzword is “polyamory” and it has its backers. Do a search for “polyamory’ and see how many web sites/pages are returned.

    Also check out Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness,

    Once homosexuals have opened the door to “marriage-means-whatever-we-want-it-to-mean”, then I believe that the polyamorists will want to go through that door.

    I still assert that SSM isn’t about civil rights. That’s only the cover story. SSM is about gaining societal approval for homosexuality and homosexual behavior. Swingers/polyamorists are likely not far behind. They might say “Hey, we really love each other, and you have no right to say we don’t, and no right to deny us our rights to group marriage.” The precedent or pattern has been set. They will want their awareness, then tolerance, and then approval.

  6. This is an interesting question that I took up on my blog a week ago. I don’t know where the law will go on this, but if marriage is ultimately deemed to be about the rights on consenting adults, I can see some legal challenges coming from traditional polygamists (heterosexuals), and then maybe from gays or bisexuals who see some benefit to a polygamist arrangement. After all, how could you deny bisexuals the right to marry a man AND a woman? I agree that the Church is nervous about legalized polygamy because it would blur the lines between mainstream Mormons and the kooks.

  7. Canadian legal elites are already actively lobbying for legalizing polygamy in Canada:

    It would be humorous if it weren’t so sad: the slippery slope clearly DOES exist. We keep on being told over and over again that it’s just a civil rights issue for a few consenting gay people. But when you look behind the curtain at the real motives of the main proponents of gay marriage, they prove time and time again to want the complete abolition of the “patriarchal” institution of marriage. Once anybody can get married, marriage becomes meaningless.

  8. What exactly constitutes a legal elite, Geoff?

    I teach law for a living. Does that make me a legal elite?

  9. Clark,

    Your post begs the question of why the LDS Church should fear polygamy in the first place. What objections do the LDS have to polygamy that society-at-large does not have?

  10. Kaimi, whenever I think of a legal elite I think of Jim Carrey in that movie “Liar, Liar.” Especially the bathroom scene where he beats himself up. But that’s just me.

  11. Bookslinger:

    I still assert that SSM isn’t about civil rights. That’s only the cover story. SSM is about gaining societal approval for homosexuality and homosexual behavior.

    I think it’s undeniable that they see societal approval as a civil right. The analogy they see is interracial marriage in the 60’s which I think most today see as a civil right issue.

    Geoff, one thing to keep in mind is that most polygamists are from Africa. The legal attacks on banning polygamy may well come from multiculturalists. Certainly I suspect in Canada that is the basis since there is a strong multicultural tradition in Canada.

    Seth, I think I mentioned several reasons why I think the Church fears polygamy. The main one is relationships with apostates. The second one is confusion by the world at large with apostate groups. (Yes, as we saw in the FLDS situation that already happens but would be worse) I think the more interesting issue is that if Wilford Woodruff ended polygamy because of the legal issues then there may be push to reinstate it which may lead to further apostasies.

    Kaimi, yeah as a law professor you’re undoubtedly a legal elite. Now if you were in a small office combing for the crumbs of some large law firm’s corporate lawsuit then you wouldn’t be a legal elite. But professors are pretty much the epitome of legal elites. (grin)

  12. In the context of marriage as a societal mechanism, when I think of the right to marriage, it is inseparably connected to the property rights of divorce. The commitment evinced by the legal marriage arrangement reduces, IMO, to the threat of, or right to, spousal support and community property division upon dissolution.

    The point of that is to say that with two SS partners, their divorce slips into the body of divorce law without strain. However, divorces in a polygamous context will require an entirely new framework from what I can imagine.

    Therefore, I can’t see judicial fiat taking us down that route. Legislation, sure, but not through the courts.

  13. Clark,
    What makes you suppose the church is concerned at all with polygamy becoming legal? Did you hear something? or is this 100% pure speculation on your part? Or are you putting your own angst about the issue onto the brethren?

  14. Clark, I think it’s a little futile for the Church to be worrying about its image on this score.

    I really do think we’d all be better off if we ditched this self-conscious hang-up on public opinion (or should I say conservative public opinion?) and simply “embraced the weirdness.”

  15. MMiles, I have no inside information on this. It’s just my speculation. That’s why I mentioned at the beginning that a lot of people (particularly Nate and Russell who’s views I respect) don’t see this as being the Church’s concern.

    Quandmeme, from what I can see though (and once again I’m no attorney) none of the legal decisions were based upon divorce law. Rather they were based upon civil rights issues. The point is that if you have the right to marry whom you will then shouldn’t divorce law adjust and not the rights adjust to divorce law?

  16. MMiles, I have no inside information on this. It’s just my speculation. That’s why I mentioned at the beginning that a lot of people (particularly Nate and Russell who’s views I respect) don’t see this as being the Church’s concern.

    Quandmeme, from what I can see though (and once again I’m no attorney) none of the legal decisions were based upon divorce law. Rather they were based upon civil rights issues. The point is that if you have the right to marry whom you will then shouldn’t divorce law adjust and not the rights adjust to divorce law?

  17. Clark,

    I agree with you that SSM will lead to legalization of polygamy. I don’t agree that this is necessarily a bad thing. I will limit myself to whether the church out to fear polygamy. It seems you’ve made two arguments:

    1. More people will associate us with polygamy.

    I don’t know why you think we would be more associated with polygamy if it were mainstreamed. It seems to me the opposite would happen. I think by bringing polygamy out in the open, the differences between us and them will be more apparent and there will be less reason to think we are all secretly polygamists if polygamy is not practiced in secret.

    Further, brining polygamy out of hiding would probably make polygamy (as practiced by the folks who do it today) less abusive than it is currently. Modern day polygamists would have good reason to integrate more into society, giving more visibility into their societies, giving their kids more visibility into the mainstream society, etc.

    Further, if polygamy becomes more accepted in society, it means that whatever false association exists would be less harmful.

    2. If polygamy is legalized you’ll have more people trying to both associate with the polygamist groups and mainstream Mormonism.

    Yes, that may be true. However, to associate with both, a person has to keep their polygamy secret (else they will be summarily excommunicated). For the people already trying to associate with both, there is no real change in the situation. The main reason to assume their would be more people trying to associate with both is if there were more polygamists in general. However, they would still need to keep their polygamy secret in order to be members of the church, which means that bringing polygamy out in the open may have less effect than you are supposing.

  18. Perhaps Church leaders are dreading the turmoil within the Church when, legal impediments no longer an obstacle, the Church is required to practice polygamy anew.

  19. Wouldn’t we embrace legalized polygamy? The only reason we gave it up was because it was illegal. Legalizing it would mean we could return to it without any issues, and if it became legal I would think it would become more mainstream just as SSM is. I see no downside for the church, only for the members that would not approve of going back to what the first three Prophets taught was perfectly acceptable.

  20. I’m not sure legalized polygamy will ever be socially acceptable, Jacob, in the way SSM is becoming socially acceptable. There will always be those who see it as too misogynist. (With justification considering the treatment of women by most polygamists, whether LDS breakoffs or from Africa)

    So coming into society will probably make things worse, not better, for confusion. Right now it’s mainly in secret (with both communities). If it is out in the open there will be some backlash just as there is for other legal behaviors.

  21. I’m not sure why a church that still practices sealings of multiple women to a single man in the temple (of course, only serially, when the previous wives die) has something to worry about if polygamy becomes legal.

    That is, unless the Church leadership is concerned enough about the Church’s image at that point as being something that might turn enough people off about the Church so as to negatively affect missionary work. Would that be the problem?

  22. These discussions about polygamy ignore a huge issue, which is that polygamy is seen by society as one of the single most immoral acts possible (almost exactly as immoral as adultery).

    Among Church members in the late 19th century who practiced polygamy, the polygamous act by gentiles who did not have God-sanctioned unions was seen as completely unacceptable morally.

    It is frankly ludicrous to 1)expect society to change its views overnight on the morality of polygamy and 2)compare the morality of polygamy introduced by Joseph Smith with the polygamy that exists today (among Muslims or the FLDS).

  23. I do not see polygamy entering into the equation at all for SLC on this issue. We already successfully operate in many jurisdictions were polygamy is present in Africa. I personally interviewed for baptism Africans that were practcing polygamy. We simply told them to divorce or leave their other spouses or no dice…

    Its simply as Nate Oman puts it that we were afraid of the future of the church if SSM became legal in CA and what the effect would be down the road on society and specifically on our freedom to worship and practice our religion as we as LDS choose.

  24. polygamy is seen by society as one of the single most immoral acts possible

    And yet, other things such as torture and the like get nary a blink from an awful lot of people. If Jack Bauer does it, it must be OK.

  25. I personally interviewed for baptism Africans that were practcing polygamy. We simply told them to divorce or leave their other spouses or no dice…

    That is heartbreaking, I hope they didn’t join the church.

  26. If there is a PR-type worry about legalizing polygamy, I suspect it has more to do with explaining ourselves to the members than with outsiders. If polygamy is legalized, it will be difficult for the church to continue to enforce the manifesto as still in effect when it is not written as a revelation but as an injunction to follow the law.

  27. Clark — I’ve been quite certain that opening the door to SSM would move toward opening the door to legalized plural marriage, and I’ve been quite certain that I’m not the only person brilliant enough to think that. I kinda feel for the leaders of the Church if/when that happens, because we’ve spent so much time and effort trying to distinguish ourselves from the polygamous groups and push the “we don’t do polygamy” line (with complete sincerity), and the basis for that change (as far as I can tell) was the legality of it. The Church has just taken it in the teeth over this issue for so long, with all of the internal strife that has resulted from it — more blood on the ground over this than any other question in the history of the Church. To then have the legality change and throw that question right back at them would just have to be hard.

    I think the option of plural marriage would could have positives for women, even those who do not participate in the practice, particularly Mormon women. It would reduce the premium value of a temple recommend in the Mormon Meat Market, especially those held by jerks.

    I don’t suspect I’d be a guy to want more than one wife at a time, and I’m not advocating the practice one second before it is approved by the First Presidency, but I can see it being a good thing. And I think the (inevitable) eventuality of legalized SSM will bring its legality back.

  28. Polygamy doesn’t bug me ultimately. The Church can’t hide from this issue forever. There has to be a reckoning eventually.

    Of course, I would rather see our religion sort out its stance on religion before having to tackle the polygamy problem head-on, but either way, we can’t run away from it for much longer.

    Now Clark, I can understand that you are uncomfortable with the idea of polygamy. I am much less sympathetic to the idea that your discomfort should have any force on people who are NOT as uncomfortable with it as you are.

  29. Doh!

    That should have read “I would rather see our religion sort out its stance on WOMEN before…”

    Like Priesthood and such.

    I think it would leave us better equipped to address whether we are willing to accept polyandry as well as polygyny.

  30. The definition of polygamy includes polyandry and any discussion of legalized polygamy has to include that fact. Thus, objections such as misogyny are irrelevant. Polygamy wouldn’t be a problem if it was legal and others were doing it for non-religious reasons. The problem for religion is that there is no scriptural(or any other) reasoning as to why additional spouses gives anyone a salvational bump up. If the church considers legalized polygamy they will be more out of step than ever if they do not allow polyandry. To disallow multiple legal sex partners for women while advocating it for men pushes us back to the dark ages. At that point marriage ceases to be a central issue…controlling women is the central issue. I have no doubt that the radical gay movement will push for polygamy as effectively as they have SSM.

  31. Juliann, your assertions seem to be based on the presumption that these decisions come from men, rather than God. If these decisions were merely reflections of the men in charge and not revelation, there are strong arguments against your anti-patriarchal perspective. For example, from a carnal man’s perspective it is much better to have several partners with whom you have children and are not required to be married to, than to be bound to each one and required to provide emotionally, financially, and spiritually for each member of his family. Who is controlling who in a marriage? Why are men usually more reluctant than women to get married (recognizing this rule applies much less among those who are chaste till marriage).

  32. Juliann, if the majority of practitioners are polygynists and there is a strong element of misogyny then I think that’s a fair point.

    Even 19th century Mormon polygamy wasn’t exactly practiced well by any stretch of the imagination.

  33. Heli, I think you’re trying to look at Juliann’s societal/political comments on polygamy through just a religious lens.

    Of course, in the past century’s LDS setting, the control of polygamy was through (supposedly-inspired) church leaders. One was “called” to practiced polygamy. However, once that calling was issued, then the number of wives (and exactly who to marry) was left up to the man, who was also generally expected to receive counsel from his pre-existing wife or wives.

    I want to make it clear, that from what I’ve read, that once a man was “cleared” or “assigned” or “called” to have wife #2, there was no requirement to have an official “calling” for wife #3 and subsequent.

    Some men did consult with pre-existing wife/wives in terms of who to propose to, and some did not, taking on (a) new wife/wives without the knowledge of a pre-existing wife/wives.

    And of course, there were varying degrees of consent among the women entering into marriage, some fully consenting, some reluctantly, and others sometimes due to pressure from church leaders or family/etc making arranged marriages.

    If polygamy were legalized in the US, it would not, and could not, remain solely under the jurisdiction of religious leaders, let alone LDS leaders. Therefore, her societal/political analysis is very appropriate.

    Also, let’s all keep in mind:
    a) polygyny = one man, multiple wives.
    b) polyandry = one woman, multiple husbands.
    c) polygamy = one person (either sex) with multiple opposite-sex spouses.

    I don’t know if a group marriage consisting of multiple men plus multiople women would still qualify under the heading of “polygamy”. But if polygamy were legalized, I would suppose that the legal definition would expand to include the multiple/multiple situation.

  34. Personally, I cannot think of a nonreligioius societal justification for banning either multiple spouse marriages–apart from cultural “disgust” or religious teachings.

    On the other hand, a ban on plural marriage does not discriminate on the basis of sex (both men and women can only have one spouse each) nor on sexual orientation. I am not sure on what basis such a ban would be invalid (unless Reynolds were reversed).

  35. Clark: Even 19th century Mormon polygamy wasn’t exactly practiced well by any stretch of the imagination.

    Me: One thing that concerns me in any discussion of polygamy as a modern practice is that it is inevitably viewed through the 19th century. I am of the opinion that polygyny, as we knew it, requires a culture that denies equal political rights, protection and opportunity to women. That no longer exists. Thus, we end up talking about a situation we really have no experience with. I do not think that plural marriage with women who have no legal or religious need to subject themselves to one man will be a patriarchy. Polyandry would lend itself better to men being in control in our modern society if that version of patriarchy is the point. The church will have to make an even stronger stand against plural marriage when it becomes legal because to not do so requires them to deny a woman’s right to engage in polyandry while allowing men to engage in polygyny without legal, moral or theological justification. (I seriously doubt that the church is going to admit that the fundamentalists had that theology right all along).

  36. I think the problem with 19th century polygamy, was that it was, by and large, a completely ad-hoc affair, as we see continued in the fundamentalist fringe groups. Islam, rather, decrees that if a man take multiple wives, he must treat them equally, or at least give them the same amount of monetary support. Not that I still don’t find it troubling, but a framework for fairness at least theoretically exists.

  37. Seth — Assuming you’re talking about 19th Century marriage, rather than 18th Century marriage, I think your point is a good one. And I think much of the problem is that the expectations of marriage today are so high that almost nobody is able to satisfy them today, knowing what they are. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people who died before those expectations were established didn’t live up to them either.

  38. DavidH: I think a case for marriage among polyamorists ( ) would be the next logical step. They are going to (and some do already) claim “civil rights”. Allegedly, polyamory is different from swinging because they “really do love each other” and “are committed.” And what right does anyone else have to tell them that they don’t “really love” each other?

    Calling to the issues of “civil rights” and “discrimination” etc, are just covers. Redefining marriage is not really about addressing civil rights, or a remedying discrimination.

    Those words have been very much twisted. And it was very wrong and bad of our society to classify homosexuality as a “protected class”. The push for SSM seems to logically follow the protected class status of homosexuality.

    So many false beliefs in regards to the issues of homosexuality have made their way into “common knowledge” of the mainstream, that I don’t see how the tide can be turned.

    But I do predict there will be some degree of backlash in about 15 years when parents note their teenage children starting to choose homosexual behavior in increasing numbers. When homosexual behavior loses all connotation of ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘not normal’, a future generation is then going to see homosexuality and bisexuality as a legitimate option. Homosexual/bisexual experimentation will skyrocket.

  39. I think a surprisingly large number of women would be okay with (participating personally in) polygyny even though they are not interested in polyandry, homosexuality, etc. The number of young women (that I have met) who don’t mind their current boyfriend’s children from previous relationships, who exist in varying states from denial to open acceptance regarding said boyfriends’ other women, and who constantly complain about the total lack of good guys to marry… let’s just say that they already live in a polygyny-without-benefits world. Those of us who are choosing to remain in the single-and-chaste world are left with eHarmony and “well, you could always move to Utah, the odds are better there.”

    The biggest problem I have socially with the practice is that it more or less guarantees a constant supply of war fodder/revolutionary fuel – any society which seriously disadvantages young men in the marriage/family market is asking for trouble.

    The only thing I’ve ever really gotten from church is that you’re only allowed to do it if God says it’s okay. And while I don’t pretend to know a ton about how anyone, let alone Heavenly Father, thinks, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch between “all our young men are dying on the trail and lots of women are widows, and also we need lots and lots of kids because people like killing us and we want to make the desert bloom” and “all the young men have rejected religion and family, lots of women have no eligible marriage partners to pick from, and given how totally messed up society is, it’d be great if we replicated ourselves in a speedy fashion.”

    I mean, it doesn’t seem impossible to me that the church will at some point be okay with polygyny again. Unlikely, especially in this generation, sure. But not impossible.

    Of course it also doesn’t seem impossible for us, meaning western society in general, to so totally mess ourselves up that the entire question will be moot in two hundred years, ala the fall of Rome/the Nephites/etc. A republic is generally doomed a number of decades before the barbarians actually crash through the gates, after all.

  40. And it was very wrong and bad of our society to classify homosexuality as a “protected class”.


    I would be interested to understand exactly what you mean by this. Is it your opinion that landlords should be able to evict homosexual people simply for being homosexual? Should employers be able to dismiss them without cause, simply because they are gay? Because that is the reality right now in many states, including Utah. Homosexuals do not have the same rights that heterosexuals do in most places in the U.S., even when we leave SSM out of the discussion.

    I think a lot of the confusion and ill will that has become evident lately is because gay people feel (correctly) that whatever rights they have are tenuous and could be revoked by majority vote. If we were as zealous in defending their rights to employment and housing as were are in defining marriage, our efforts at defining marriage might be better received. But as it stands now, gay people have precious little reason to believe that we care about any of their rights at all.

  41. I am no defender of polygamy but it does have several thousand years of history and probably tens of millions of adherents. Yeah the camel has its nose in the tent. England pays welfare benefits to polygamist families straight up — no pretense of WIC.

  42. Mark Brown: housing and employment are red herring issues in the debate over SSM. Many, if not most, states are “employment at will (of the employer)” anyway.

    Those who have bought into the SSM issue as one of being under the umbrella of civil rights have already lost sight of what’s really going on.

    Our society has gone from treating homosexuality as the sin that dare not speak its name to something that’s celebrated on popular TV shows.

    SSM is not one isolated issue that stands by itself. It is part of a 40 year trend that had its start in the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. Neither is SSM the end-point of the trend. One must ask “What comes next?”

    Creating a future generation where homosexuality is normative, seems to be a goal. The sexual revolution where sex outside of marriage is acceptable was one step. The bearing of children outside of wedlock becoming acceptable was another step. Getting people to incorrectly believe that the sole cause or orign of homosexuality is that its inborn was a step. Making homosexuality a protected class in terms of civil rights was one step. SSM is another step. Re-writing grade school and high school curricula is another step.

    Where is all this going to? Are there any previous societies where we can look to in order to see a pattern?

  43. Sarah — I think that even a world with plural marriage as a legal option will not be world with widespread plural marriage. Many women are not going to be willing to take part in it for a variety of reasons.

    Also, the taking of multiple wives has (almost always) been a rich man’s game, and they tend to be advantaged even in a nominally monogamous world. Poor, funny looking and socially awkward guys aren’t necessarily going to do a lot worse. The pinch would come in more for guys on the marginal end of the meat-market, the sub-prime material who still are able to find mates because, currently, their potential mates aren’t able to do better.

    But, who are we kidding that our current society is monogamous? It’s not. Rich guys (not all, but many) already have multiple partners — they just aren’t married to more than one of them. And they’re not alone. Multiple partners, lots of children being produced and supported, we’re just not calling them marriages.

  44. housing and employment are red herring issues in the debate over SSM. Many, if not most, states are “employment at will (of the employer)” anyway.


    It is interesting that you think of those issues as red herrings. The only red herring I see here is your point about at will employment. “At will” employment has nothing to do with this. If your employer walked up to you and said that you were being fired because you believe in Mormonism, you could sue and win. If you were evicted because your landlord objected to the picture of the temple on the wall, you could sue and win. I you were refused service in a restaurant because the owner saw you reading a Book of Mormon, you could sue and win. Why would it be such a bad thing if homosexuals had those same rights?

    Here is my question to you: Do you believe a society where gay people have no rights at all is a better society than one in which at least some of their rights are guaranteed?

    If we think homosexuals deserve at least some guaranteed rights, sooner or later we will run into the issue of what rights they should NOT have. I agree with you that homosexual people see SSM as part of a larger bundle of rights. However, I think it is a copout for the rest of us to solve the problem by saying that gays should have no guaranteed rights whatsoever. If we want to draw lines, let’s be clear where the lines are. And if we are going to aggressively keep rights away on one side of the line, we ought to be just as aggressive about defending rights on the other side of the line.

  45. Like others I’m pretty shocked that someone would advocate firing someone for merely being gay. That is wrong pure and simple.

    While I do think there is a lot going on beyond civil rights let’s not kid ourselves that there aren’t real civil rights issues.

    There was on the radio the other day a heartbreaking story of a gay couple, one of whom got into a severe accident. His partner tried to come to see him and was not permitted because he wasn’t a spouse. He had to drive all the way home and find legal documents that cost a pretty penny in attorney fees just to be able to find out what was going on with his companion.

    We married people get those rights by paying $50 at the courthouse.

    Even if you are opposed to gay marriage that huge legal disparity in rights is simply unconscionable. Now I don’t think those rights need necessarily be tied to marriage. However the fact is that the state has tied them to marriage and made them extremely affordable to obtain. Unless similar rights of visitation are granted others I can completely understand the outrage.

    As I said, I don’t think that necessarily deals with the meaning of marriage. But let’s not kid ourselves there aren’t sincere concerns about civil rights.

  46. … To then have the legality change and throw that question [about why the LDS Church gave up on polygamy] right back at them would just have to be hard.

    Well, to quote the old parascripture, “I never said that it wouldn’t be hard, only that it would be worth it.”

  47. Mark Brown: I’m not going to engage you in that line of thinking, because as I’ve said, SSM is not about civil rights. Period.

    It’s said that “He who frames the debate, wins.” Allowing the pro-SSM side to frame the debate as a matter of civil-rights is giving into their game, and it’s a sure course for losing.

  48. Mark B: “However, I think it is a copout for the rest of us to solve the problem by saying that gays should have no guaranteed rights whatsoever.

    There you go with another cheap tactic. No one on the protect-marriage side has said that.

  49. Mark Brown: “At will” employment has nothing to do with this. If your employer walked up to you and said that you were being fired because you believe in Mormonism, you could sue and win.

    BTW, either you don’t understand “at will employment” or you are purposely misrepresenting it.

    “At will employment” means an employer can fire anyone without having to give a reason.

  50. Clark: “As I said, I don’t think that necessarily deals with the meaning of marriage.

    Then why bring it up? Why use it as a point in favor of SSM?

    “But let’s not kid ourselves there aren’t sincere concerns about civil rights.”

    California gays already had hospital visitation rights within civil unions. So who kidded you into thinking they needed SSM in order to achieve hospital visitation rights?

    Let’s turn this around: do you want millions of school children in California taught that homosexual sodomy is normal and socially accdeptable, just so a few hundred hospitalized people can be visited by their registered domestic partners?

    No, wait, hospitalized patients can already be _immediately_ visited by their registered domestic partner in California.

    So tell me, WHY exactly do you want millions of school children taught that homosexual sodomy is normal and socially acceptable?

    And, after 10 or 12 years of teaching school children that homosexual sodomy is normal and socially acceptable, (and factor that in with our society’s current belief that sex outside of any kind of marriage is peachy-keen A-OK), do you honestly think that homosexual sex experimentation among teens won’t skyrocket? After all, it will have been presented to them by their authority figures as being “normal” and “acceptable.”

  51. Bookslinger,

    I apologize if I have misunderstood your position. As I stated, I didn’t understand what you meant so I was asking questions, trying to understand.

    I agree that it is obviously fruitless for us to attempt to engage on this topic.

  52. Bookslinger,

    (Treading very lightly, so as not to be accused of engaging in cheap tactics or misrepresenting you) Do you think it is a good thing that gay people in California have hospital visitation rights? Should we attempt to repeal that?

    A simple yes or no answer will do.

  53. Mark Brown:

    The debate over Prop-8 isn’t about hospital visitation rights in California. So why did Clark (and then you) bring it up?

    I think he brought it up because he (along with you) has been hoodwinked into thinking the SSM issue is about civil rights and visiting one’s domestic partner when they’re in a coma in a hospital.

    But registered domestic partners already have that right in California.

    So please tell me, why do YOU think California school children should be taught that homosexual sodomy is normal and socially acceptable?

    And, if that were taught to your children in your school district, would you attempt to counter that teaching in your home?

    Would you teach your children that homosexual behavior, even within a homosexual marriage, was a sin?

    And, if SSM were legalized in your state, would you be comfortable with the idea that one of your children entered into a same-sex marriage? After all, it would be legal, and socially acceptable.

    Would you feel better knowing that he/she did not engage in any form of sexual contact until _after_ entering into a same-sex marriage? “Don’t worry Dad, we didn’t ‘do it’ until after we were married”.

    And, in 15 or so years, after all the social stigma is removed, homosexual behavior will be a legitimate choice and option for sexual outlet, since there won’t be anything socially or culturally wrong with it.

    So, would you feel any different if your child told you they _chose_ homosexuality (as opposed to deciding/realizing they were born that way) ?

    “Hey dad, get with the times, homosexual, heterosexual, there’s no difference, it’s all legal, it’s all cool, so quit discriminating.”

    “But son, homosexuality isn’t chosen. Homosexuals are born that way.”

    [Rolls eyes.] “Get with the times, old man. That thinking is so old-fashioned. This is the 2020’s. You’re living back in 2000. People can be whatever they want. Wasn’t it YOUR father/grandfather who said back in the 1960’s ‘Do your own thing.’?”

    Mark, you and many others seem to have no idea as to what is behind the door you want to open.

  54. Bookslinger,

    A minor parenthetical threadjack about “employment at will”–the “employment at will” doctrine does not protect an employer who fires an employee on account of their sex, race, national origin or religion. “Employment at will” is a state law doctrine, and federal protections against employment discrimination override state law “at will” rules to the contrary. And, in any event, most, if not all, states with employment at will have statutory exceptions providing that the doctrine does not protect against discrimination claims. Some of those states provide that discrimination on account of sexual orientation is forbidden (even in an employment at will situation), some (most I think) do not protect against discrimination on account of sexual orientation.


    Comment regarding polyamory–I am trying to follow how the California decision would lead to legalization of plural spouse marriage: let me see if I can structure it–1. the California court held that discrimination on account of sexual orientation is prohibited by the state constitution, homosexuality is a sexual orientation, and therefore same sex unions must be sanctioned as “marriages”,

    2. polyamory (as distinct for a “one partner sexual orientation”) is a “sexual orientation”, therefore,

    3. polyamorous relationships should be sanctioned as “marriages.”

  55. DavidH: I understand the nuances you pointed out in regards to employement-at-will. And thanks for the wiki link. The net-effect in real life is that reasons for firing don’t really have to be given under employment-at-will, and when needed, reasons can be contrived. Ask anyone who feels they’ve been fired unfairly.

    Re: polyamory, given the historical trent to expand the definitions of protected classes, and expand the definition of marriage, your reasoning seems a likely scenario of what could happen.

    Another line of reasoning is that the courts have established a precedent of “marriage means/includes whatever we say it means/includes.”

    This morphing of definitions of what is culturally acceptable harkens to the central theme that I’ve harped on: We’ve arrived at this point through a 40 year (at least) cultural process, therefore it is illogical to assume the process is going to end with the step currently under debate. So, what is this cultural process, and where is it headed?

    What have been the fruits/results of this process of “sexual revolution” so far?

    Who would have thought, in the summer of 1969, that “free love” was going to lead to government-recognized same sex marriages? Yet, this is _exactly_ where it has led. SSM is a _direct_ consequence.

    By the way, how do you feel about teaching ____________ (I’m tired of typing it) as normal and socially acceptable to grade-school children?

  56. Bookslinger,

    You are a good man, and I don’t want to argue with you. And there is no point in arguing hypotheticals anyway.

    I will just point out that you have taken a position that is in opposition to the church, which has said that it does not oppose hospital visitation and the other rights gay people in California now enjoy.

  57. Wow. Lots of comments. I’m sending this from my iPhone (I’m in Burley for Thanksgiving). So I apologize in advance for typos.

    Bookslinger (#54), the issue of Prop-8 and gay marriage in California simply is not seen as merely a California only issue. Now you can dispute that and say that it should be. Yet clearly Mormons don’t see it that way (thus the worry from outside of the state) and gays from outside of California don’t either. So saying my point is irrelevant missing that as a civil rights issue the issue of legalized marriage is for gays a big issue as it will help them gain civil rights in places they simply aren’t granted it.

    As to the issue of teaching in school I think despite Blake’s defenses I see this as largely a red herring. I just can’t see it being taught in any substantial form. Further I can approach the issue the same way you do. In some places (i.e. the Bay area) it is already taught. So how exactly does having gay marriage deal with teaching when it is already taught? What gets taught is largely an issue of school boards and frankly you already lost the debate with school boards. Sorry mate.

    I also think it naive to assume kids aren’t going to learn about homosexuality in school. You should already be preparing them and countering false ideas in your home. It’s an important duty for all parents to teach sexuality issues before the kids encounter them. And frankly kids encounter them early. Realize that in the typical classroom you’ll have kids who have been sexually abused. You’ll have kids who do have parents or siblings who are gay. Pretending we can just brush things aside or that what the teacher says is the only encounter kids have is unwise to say the least.

    I do think that as we teach our children we have to be loving to our brothers and sisters who struggle with these issues and not demonize them. Just as we can’t demonize the people who engage in the now rather common lifestyle of living with each other before marriage. Yes we have to say premarital sex of any sort is wrong. But demonizing or not providing the decency of rights is important.

  58. Bookslinger, regarding “free love”, I think lots of people then thought homosexual marriages would eventually come. Others thought marriage as a whole would be destroyed yet the unintended consequences of the overreach of the counterculture movement (especially AIDS) led people to realize why marriage was so important. Which is why gays want it (whereas as many noted at one time it was common for gays to disparage marriage)

    For any choice there will always be unintended consequences. And many ideologies create utopian schemes where rather obvious consequences are denied. I don’t think anyone would doubt that was true of the couter-culture movement of the 60’s and early 70’s.

    I would note that for all it’s negative aspects there were positive aspects to the counterculture movement with respect to sexuality. I think it led to getting rid of the taboos of speaking about sex. I think that then getting some issues out in the open was important and led to better intimacy between couples. It also led to focusing in on sexual abuse and getting that into the open. While we’re far from solving sexual abuse I think the focus on it the past 20 years and taking it out of repression is unarguably a good thing.

    If you buy that sexual orientation in terms of desire isn’t open to a simple choice then I think getting the issue of homosexuality out in the open is also important. I think it brings a psychological good. Now to the degree that homosexual acts are wrong (since marriage in LDS theology is only for heterosexual unions) there is a huge problem. I certainly don’t know the answer to that. It’s above my paygrade. I’ll leave that one to the prophet and God and simply trust in what they request us to do.

  59. Mark, I don’t believe that I said that I oppose hospital visitation. You may have incorrectly inferred that.

  60. Clark, there’s a difference between teaching about homosexuality in the classroom as part of a sexual education curriculum, and teaching homosexuality as normalized by portraying everyday homosexuals in other curricula. I’ve discussed what I think will happen in other recent theads on M*.

    And yes, I’m aware of the difference between a) what kids pick up from other kids, b) what kids get in formal instruction in sex-ed, and c) what kids get from the examples set before them in the narratives of various curricula.

    The bottom line is that there are several other origins of homosexuality other than it being in-born. I’m not saying it is universally or consciously chosen either. “Born gay” homosexuals are likely the minority. A recent FMH post had interesting comments about a spectrum of “hard coding” to “soft coding” in terms of sexual orientation. Many psychologists, most over the age of say 55, still recognize certain things of childhood development and family relations as having a strong influence on sexual orientation.

    Older psychologists/psychiatrists (and many of the conservative ones employed by LDS Family Services) often concur that homosexuals can be made.

    Childhood sexual abuse (by a same-sex adult) also is a big factor of influence. Personally, I’ve known young men who were targeted and steered/groomed into homosexuality by older homosexual men.

    SSM’s net effect that I predict will be an explosion (a tripling or a doubling at least) of the percentage of people who self-identify as homosexuals in 11 to 15 years. Key to that are three things: 1) sexual orientation is not universally entirely in-born; for some it can be influenced and for some it can be chosen; 2) when all social taboo is removed, many people of a future generation will consider homosexuality as an option for exploration/experimentation; 3) first-time sexual experiences are already known to have a huge influence on a person’s sexuality, therefore those who are unfortunate to choose or be led into homosexual sexual experimentation will have a much higher rate of self-identifying as homosexual.

  61. Clark: “So saying my point is irrelevant missing that as a civil rights issue the issue of legalized marriage is for gays a big issue as it will help them gain civil rights in places they simply aren’t granted it.”

    The following 2 facts seems to disprove your statement:

    1. Gays are demanding SSM in a state (CA) where they already had all the civil rights they asked for guaranteed them via civil unions.

    2. Only a very small percentage of gays actually entered, or wanted to personally enter, into civil unions.

    I still contend that the real issue is about gaining approval, and making homosexuality be seen by a future generation as an option that can be legitimately chosen. The idea that homosexuality is universally and exclusively in-born is one of the big lies of this generation.

    And that thing about liberal cities already having pro-gay curricula, with SSM, they will be able to use the power of the state eduction department to force the pro-gay curricula into all school districts.

    Yes, individual books are still up to the local board, but the state is able to enforce over-arching guidelines which all locally-approved curricula must meet.

  62. To add, someone need not take advantage of a civil right in order to see it as bad that they are denied that right.

    Note I never said it was necessarily “born in” (although I personally believe in many that’s the case – it’d be surprising were humans the only species without that). I merely said it wasn’t a matter of a simple choice. Which I think is independent of the nature/nuture issue. Lots of things can happen to develop a brain state in which one is not free to choose. I’d note that I don’t particularly think I choose my own base sexuality regardless of whether that is due to nature of nurture. So the nature/nurture issue is ultimately beside the point.

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