Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Concern-trolling over same-sex marriage

Treating polemical slogans like serious arguments is usually a mistake. Although sometimes in practice you can't avoid it.

So I hardly know what to make of these two articles from The American Prospect echoing the arguments of opponents of same-sex marriage equality that legalizing also means we have to legalize polygamy and incest:

Kent Greenfield, The Slippery Slope to Polygamy and Incest The American Prospect 07/15/2013

Paul Waldman, Our Coming Incest Debate The American Prospect 07/15/2013

Whatever their intentions were in these articles, they are both good example of the liberal concern-troll phenomenon. They reinforce the scare arguments of opponents of same-sex marriage equality, a fight that is very much ongoing, claiming they're doing it to make sure the marriage equality side is ready to meet the arguments. But they don't debunk the arguments they claim they oppose.

I don't want to go through their points in detail because that seems like playing their concern-troll game. Basically they offer superficial arguments and then superficially argue that the marriage-equality advocates aren't prepared to counter them. I'll address the two issues very briefly.

Incest among immediate family members is probably the strongest taboo in human civilization. It's well established in American law and those of everywhere else. Arguments for two-person marriage equality will not establish a right to incest. It's a ridiculous argument.

Polygamy and polyandry (multiple husbands for a woman) are very different family arrangements and legal structures than any kind of two-partner legal marriage. The comedy-drama HBO series Big Love was fun. But it also gave an interesting dramatic picture of the polygamy scene, including the cultish aspects of it in the Mormon-heretical context. A formal multi-partner marriage is simply a different and much more complicated legal structure than a two-partner marriage. And two-partner version itself can be very complex.

There are a number of reason that a serious look at polygamy systems where they formally exist, e.g., Saudi Arabia, would have some interesting lessons about family law and other things. But the way both Greenfield and Waldman raise the polygamy issue along the notion of legalizing incest amounts to a concern-troll version of repeating the anti-marriage-equality arguments of conservatives. I don't know what they or The American Prospect was thinking in presenting these two articles.

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