The calm answer to the question, 'If gay people can get married, what about polygamy?'

Looking for a reasonable response to people who freak out about gay people getting married? Here's one.

I don't know if you heard, but gay people can now get legally married across the entire United States.

As of this moment, weeks after the ruling, with gay people getting married all over the country, I have noticed no change in my straight marriage. My wife has not divorced me because other people are now allowed to copy our totally original idea of legally becoming one entity for tax purposes and celebrating our perfect* love with the world.

(*She would argue that maybe it's not perfect.)

Most people were pretty happy when they learned about it. Some people weren't. Some responded with, "Polygamy is gonna become law now," which seems to me to be a bit of an exaggeration. Who made that argument?


Apparently, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts thought that could happen.

He had this to say in his strongly worded dissent of the ruling.

I was going to show you some really panicky freaked-out mildly insulting tweets here, but then Justice Roberts, in his dissent on the marriage ruling, made the calm, reasonable version of those in his argument.

So how do you respond when someone says, "If gay marriage, why not polygamy?"

John Corvino, chair of the department of philosophy at Wayne State University, is here to address the arguments of those who aren't happy.

They are totally different things to argue about.

People who like to ride down slippery-slope arguments tend to say stuff like: "What about incest? What about bestiality? What about polygamy?"

Let's get the insane ones out of the way first. Incest and bestiality.

GIFs via John Corvino.

Incest and bestiality are forms of abuse. They are perpetrated by people who are straight and gay. Sexual orientation has no relevance to abuse.

And I'm pretty sure you can't get consent from a kitchen appliance.

Which leaves just polygamy.

I didn't know that much about polygamy. So I looked it up. There are actually multiple sub-forms of polygamy.

Polygamy has its own set of issues to deal with and lends itself to abusive practices. It's rarely truly consensual. Polygamy isn't an equal-opportunity thing in the cultures where it's practiced, for the most part. It tends to be something where multiple women are subjugated and married to one man.

As Jon states, polygyny is one man, multiple wives. The vast majority of cultures that allow polygamy act in this way. Women tend to be subjugated, and poor men tend to become unmarriageable. Meanwhile, rich men tend to collect wives as trophies, and this tends to make things worse for society.

When you have one wife and multiple husbands, it's called polyandry. This is exceedingly rare and generally happens in cultures where brothers both marry the same woman because there's a high risk of male death and they want their lineage to continue.

Lastly, there is also group marriage between multiple men and multiple women. This one is the least problematic regarding the persecution of women, but also the least common. They'll have to speak for themselves.

Ergo, polygamy has nothing to do with two consenting adults committing to each other for life.

The next time someone asks you about the slippery slope, you'll know what to respond with.


You're welcome.

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