This morning, I read an article titled Polyamorous marriage: Is there a future for three-way weddings?, which really got my blood boiling. I've read similar articles in the past and my reaction is always the same. The article was shared by an organization titled The New I Do, which claims to offer "outside-the-box, individualized marital models. Your spouse is unique; why have a one-size-fits-all marriage."
I'm all in favor of thinking "outside-the-box" and agree that life is not spandex and therefore there are typically no one-size-fits-all solutions.
That being said, my issue with polyamorous marriage is not about my personal views on polyamorous relationships. I really couldn't care less about what consenting adults do, as long as it doesn't harm others. Furthermore, even if such relationships did harm any of the consenting adults involved (something I don't happen to believe), we live in a free country in which we allow people to engage in many activities in which they may or may not harm themselves.
Certain risky behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and sky diving may affect our insurance rates, assuming we are even insurable. However, unless laws exist that criminalize such behaviors, we're legally entitled to engage in them.
"Hadar Aviram, a professor of law at University of California in the US... believes changing attitudes may be due to wider acceptance of same-sex marriage around the world, making way for new taboos to be broken."
Acceptance of people for who they are is one thing and something about which I'm very passionate. In fact, I published an article on the subject titled Is Teaching Tolerance the Solution or the Problem?. However, accepting people for who they are and giving them civil rights based upon choices they make are two very different things.
This distinction is incredibly important because it explains the ideological split among the Justices of the United States Supreme Court in the marriage equality decision, as well as the controversy over LGBT rights.
Consider the following clause from the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision:
"The petitioners seek marriage for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment."
There are several key words and phrases in that clause, one of which is "immutable nature." Immutable means "unchanging over time or unable to be changed."
That phrase is incredibly important because with the exception of religious beliefs, civil rights are only granted to people based upon their "immutable nature."
The following is an excerpt from my article titled Don't Fall for Political Propaganda:
"Generally speaking, those who take issue with same-sex marriage and support the right to discriminate against members of the LGBT community do so based upon their belief that homosexuality is a 'lifestyle choice.' However, homosexuality is no more a 'lifestyle choice' than is heterosexuality.
'The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the nation's premier civil rights legislation. The Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote. It did not end discrimination, but it did open the door to further progress.'
I’d argue that the only protection against discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based upon 'lifestyle choice' has to do with religion. People can and do change their religion and religious beliefs all the time and doing so is entirely within their discretion. Such choices are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….'
If I wake up tomorrow and decide that I want to become a 'Pastafarian' and affiliate myself with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I am acting within my constitutionally protected rights, since the church is a recognized religion in the United States of America.
Meanwhile, people want to seriously argue based upon their 'sincerely held religious beliefs' that sexual orientation and gender identity are 'lifestyle choices'? Sexual orientation and gender identity are not behavioral choices, unlike the 'sincerely held religious beliefs' claiming such."
Of course, there are people like Marco Rubio who acknowledge that homosexuality is immutable and still oppose marriage equality and the granting of civil rights to homosexuals.
As explained in Things Are Seldom What They Seem, such people "sincerely believe that it is a sin for LGBT people to engage in sexual behavior consistent with who they are. As such, their 'sincerely held religious beliefs' are that LGBT people need to be chaste and celibate for their entire lives because otherwise, they’re sinning. Although most LGBT people have not become Catholic priests or nuns, the Marco Rubios of the world believe that they must live their lives from a sexual aspect, as though they were Catholic priests and nuns."
Irrespective, marriage equality is now the law of the land. However, failing to understand and accept the immutable nature of homosexuality and its importance in the marriage equality decision "undermines past assurances that same-sex marriage would not be a 'slippery slope'". In other words, to the extent that such past assurances are undermined, it's the result of those who fail to understand and accept the immutable nature of homosexuality - not the other way around.
Entering into or desiring to enter into a polyamorous relationship is a choice which is not based upon immutable nature.
I anticipate that some might read Polyamorous marriage: Is there a future for three-way weddings? and understand quotes from individuals included within the article to mean that the desire for polyamorous marriages can be based upon immutable nature. For example, consider the following excerpt from that article:
"Legal marriage may still seem a distant prospect but cases like that in Colombia are giving hope to others in three-way relationships.
'It's really encouraging,' says DeAnna Rivas, a married mother of two from Florida.
The 28-year-old suggested to her husband, Manny, that they start experimenting with another woman in 2014.
'I grew up having crushes on both men and women,' she says. 'But by the time I got married to Manny I had been with him for five years and our relationship was based on me and him.'
But after the birth of their second child, DeAnna was struggling with depression and felt she could not get enough emotional support from her husband alone.
'I was so unhappy I couldn't express my feelings to him. I had another part of me that was missing.
'When we met Melissa it just felt right.'"
Some people might read that excerpt and interpret it to mean that bisexuality is immutable; therefore, polyamorous marriages should become available to bisexuals.
The problem with such thinking is that being bisexual is immutable and means that you are sexually attracted to both men and women. It doesn't mean that you are any less able to commit to one person than anyone else of any other sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, many married individuals feel as though they don't "get enough emotional support" from their spouses. However, that doesn't mean that they are unfaithful to their spouses and it doesn't mean that "their only real path" for resolving that issue is by entering into a polyamorous relationship or marriage.
Furthermore, to the extent that a bisexual individual chooses to fulfill their need for more "emotional support" by entering into a polyamorous relationship, assuming they are truly bisexual, they can enter into such a relationship by adding either a male or a female to their existing relationship. To the extent that they are "struggling with depression", are "so unhappy", and have "another part of [them] that [is] missing" until they meet someone of their same gender, it raises the question as to whether they are actually bisexual or homosexual.
In fact, on April 10, 2015, I attended the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association's monthly lunch meeting. The topic that day was Seeking Reflection: Gay & Lesbian Identity Formation and Clinical Issues and the presenter was Ian Stulberg LCSW.
Among other things, we learned the following:
When a person suffers from depression and denial with regard to their sexual identity, it is the result of external forces and ingrained bias.
Emotional intimacy tends to be more important to lesbians than sexual intimacy and that the opposite is true for gay men. However, overall, women tend to be more relational and men are more sexual.
It also bears mentioning that females are known to be more sexually fluid than males. Many theories exist to try and explain the difference and the validity of any such theories doesn't change the fact that females are known to be more sexually fluid than males.
Regardless, sexual orientation or sexual fluidity doesn't make a person any less able to commit to one person than anyone else.
Returning to the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision, another key phrase from the excerpt included above involves "privileges and responsibilities" of marriage.
Along those lines, "1,138 federal laws apply to Americans who are married."
One such law resulted in Edith Windsor paying $363,053 in estate taxes upon the death of Thea Spyer, whom she wed in Ontario, Canada, in 2007. They lived in the State of New York at the time of Thea's death and New York recognized same-sex marriages at the time. However, as a result of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government didn't recognize their marriage. As such, she owed estate taxes that wouldn't have been owed had their marriage been federally recognized. This was the basis for that aspect of the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2013.
In 2009, the New York Times determined that the lifetime value of civil benefits received by married couples ranged from $41,196 to $467,562.
Many of the conflicts between the political parties stem from concerns over the financial viability of many "entitlement" programs, such as Social Security, an "entitlement" into which everyone eligible pays over the course of their working life.
Depending upon the length of a marriage, a person may be entitled to one-half of the value of their spouse's Social Security benefits upon divorce, and such an entitlement doesn't reduce the amount of the other spouse's Social Security benefits. What do you think would happen to the financial viability of Social Security if more ex-spouses were eligible for such "privileges"? It's also important to note that that is just one example of the consequences from legalizing polyamorous marriage.
The lifetime value of civil benefits received by married couples are paid by the federal government. While you may not take issue with polyamorous relationships, are you ready to incur the cost involved in paying out the lifetime value of civil benefits to polyamorous married couples?
They address this exact point in Polyamorous marriage: Is there a future for three-way weddings? by stating the following:
"Without marriage rights, though, people even in the most committed polyamorous relationships do not have access to the same legal and tax benefits as married couples."
In addition, are employers ready to incur the cost of providing spousal benefits to more than one spouse of any given employee?
These are important questions to consider because legally recognizing polyamorous marriages is a "slippery slope" which could cost many people outside of the relationships a great deal of money, and such relationships are not based upon anyone's immutable nature.
Marriage equality was/is about gays and lesbians having immutable traits (their sexual orientation) and all of the harm caused them and their families by limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. Deciding to enter into polygamous relationships, on the other hand, is a choice.
Problems occur when people's "immutable nature" is confused with "lifestyle choices."
With the exception of religious beliefs, civil rights aren't granted for choices we make, but because of immutable traits. When people confuse "immutable nature" with "lifestyle choices", they work tirelessly to deny certain groups civil rights and equal dignity under the law for their "immutable nature", and then work to provide civil rights to others based upon their "lifestyle choices."
Interestingly enough, much of the confusion between "immutable nature" and "lifestyle choice" is religious based, and religious beliefs happen to be the only basis for civil rights involving "lifestyle choice", something I find incredibly ironic.