Earlier today, I noted a recent report that several Massachusetts Republicans had called upon the Supreme Court to recognize the compelling arguments in favor of marriage equality. This news is quite interesting in the sense that these Republicans have, in effect, chosen to stand up to right-wing Massachusetts talk radio, long a bastion of anti-marriage equality sentiment.
In the months and years following the November 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision (Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health) establishing the right to marry for same-sex couples, I would hear right-wing Bay State radio hosts constantly make the argument that we could not allow gays to get married because it would, among other things, lead to marriage between more than two parties. According to this argument, the same logic that was used to advance marital rights for same-sex couples–i.e., that the government did not have a compelling interest in preventing two people of the same gender from getting married–could be used by a man wanting to marry two women, or a woman wanting to marry two men. After all, these hosts reasoned, if the government cannot stop two people from getting married, why couldn’t the government stop three people from getting married?
Initially, I couldn’t tell if these hosts were kidding, or if they were serious. However, it soon became obvious that they were dead serious; they legitimately believed that the “evolving paradigm” of marriage (to use a phrase from then-Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall’s majority opinion in the Goodridge case) would eventually lead to the legal definition of marriage being extended to involve more than two parties, something they insisted would lead to the decline and fall of the American empire.
Let’s say the wingnuts are right. Let’s say that if the Supreme Court ultimately recognizes the undisputed right of same-sex couples to marry, it will pave the way for marriages involving more than two parties. Let’s say the courts ultimately determine that the government doesn’t have a compelling interest in barring marriages involving more than two parties.
There are two realities we have to contend with. The first is that, as the Supreme Court ruled in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, marriage is a fundamental right in this country. The second is that polyamory is real, just as homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism are real. If you had a crush on more than one girl or boy in high school, you’re polyamorous.
To that end, is there not a compelling legal case for the recognition of polyamorous marriage? Does the government really have a compelling interest in not recognizing such marriages?
The usual argument is that allowing polyamorous marriage would somehow inflict psychological harm upon children in such marriages. Really? Remember when the opponents of interracial marriages and same-sex marriages would trot that idiotic argument out? There is simply no logical basis for the argument that children would be harmed by polyamorous marriage. Children can surely grasp the concept of Mom and Dad being in love with more than one person equally.
Will the society be harmed by allowing polyamorous marriage? Nonsense. Our society is harmed by wanton gun violence, unrestricted pollution, corruption in politics and media misinformation. Recognizing a fact of human nature–the fact that people are capable of loving and taking care of more than one person–can only benefit the society, not harm it.
Let’s be honest: the only argument against allowing polyamorous marriage is that the concept is “icky” to some people. Well, fifty years ago, the thought of seeing a black actor in bed with a white actress in a movie would have been “icky” to some people; now, Will Smith and Margot Robbie can hook up in Focus and nobody bats an eye. Fifty years ago, the thought of our society embracing an openly gay man or an openly lesbian woman would have been “icky” to some people; now, Americans listen to Elton John and watch Ellen DeGeneres and couldn’t care less about who they love. We grow and rethink, improve and expand.
No, I don’t want to see the “evolving paradigm” of marriage evolve so much that it encompasses incest or bestiality or relationships involving minors. Nobody wants that. However, allowing marriages to take place between more than two adult, consenting parties wouldn’t harm any party–other than busybodies, of course. Frankly, I hope that before I die, American law and custom will evolve to recognize the sanctity and societal benefit of marriages involving more than two parties. After all, what’s not to love?