Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 22:45:36 -0400
From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: Krauthammer column&response
Charles Krauthammer's specious comparison of same-sex marriage to polygamy
and incest should not hold up in court, because precisely the same arguments
have been discredited in overturning state laws forbidding interracial
marriage as "wrong or unnatural or perhaps harmful." If the law forbids John
to marry Sal because John is already married to Jane, John has a choice: he
can divorce Jane and marry Sal. But if the law forbids John to marry Sal
because the couple are of different races or the same sex, John has NO
choice, since John can't change his race, nor can he change his sex and still
be John. Granted, if Sal is John's sister (or brother) John also has no
choice. But, as Krauthammer points out, heterosexual incest can be forbidden
on such grounds as genetic danger; for the law to be applied fairly to all,
it would have to forbid homosexual incest as well (just as it now forbids
incest of persons beyond child-bearing age). A judge would have to be only a
tiny bit less dumb than Charles Krauthammer pretends to be to find a way to
allow same-sex marriages on constitutional grounds while excluding polygamy
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 1:04 PM EDT
Subj: SPECIAL ALERT: TIME Magazine
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July 22, 1996 issue
ESSAY, page 102, by Charles Krauthammer
WHEN JOHN AND JIM SAY "I DO"
* If gay marriages are O.K., then what about polygamy? Or incest?
The House of Representatives may have passed legislation last week
opposing gay marriage, but the people will soon be trumped by the courts. In
September the judges of the Hawaii Supreme Court are expected to legalize gay
marriage. Once done there, gay marriage-like quickie Nevada divorces-will
have to be recognized "under the full faith and credit clause of the
Constitution" throughout the rest of the U.S.
Gay marriage is coming. Should it?
For the time being, marriage is defined as the union 1) of two people 2)
of the opposite sex. Gay-marriage advocates claim that restriction No. 2 is
discriminatory, a product of mere habit or tradition or, worse, prejudice.
But what about restriction No. 1? If it is blind tradition or rank prejudice
to insist that those who marry be of the opposite sex, is it not blind
tradition or rank prejudice to insist that those who marry be just two?
In other words, if marriage is redefined to include two men in love, on
what possible principled grounds can it be denied to three men in love?
This is traditionally called the polygamy challenge, but polygamy-one man
marrying more than one woman-is the wrong way to pose the question.
Polygamy, with its rank inequality and female subservience, is too easy a
target. It invites exploitation of and degrading competition among wives,
mith often baleful social and familial consequences. (For those in doubt on
this question, see Genesis: 26-35 on Joseph and his multimothered brothers.)
The question is better posed by imagining three people of the same sex in
love with one another and wanting their love to be legally recognized and
socially sanctioned by marriage.
Why not? Andrew Sullivan, author of Virtually Normal: An Argument About
Homosexuality, offers this riposte to what he calls the polygamy diversion
(New Republic, June 7): homosexuality is a "state," while polygamy is merely
"an activity." Homosexuality is "morally and psychologically" superior to
polygamy. Thus it deserves the state sanction of marriage, whereas polygamy
But this distinction between state and activity makes no sense for same-sex
love (even if you accept it for opposite-sex love). If John and Jim love
each other, why is this an expression of some kind of existential state,
while if John and Jim and Jack all love each other, this is a mere activity?
And why is the impulse to join with two people "morally and psychologically
inferior" to the impulse to join with one? Because, insists Sullivan,
homosexuality "occupies a deeper level of human consciousness than a
polygamous impulse." Interesting: this is exactly the kind of moral hierarchy
among sexual practices that homosexual advocates decry as arbitrary and
Finding, based on little more than "almost everyone seems to accept," the
moral and psychological inferiority of polygamy, Sullivan would deny the
validity of polygamist marriage. Well, it happens that most Americans,
finding homosexuality morally and psychologically inferior to
heterosexuality, would correspondingly deny the validity of homosexual
marriage. Yet when they do, the gay-marriage advocates charge bigotry and
Or consider another restriction built into the traditional definition of
marriage: that the married couple be unrelated to each other. The Kings and
Queens of Europe defied this taboo, merrily marrying their cousins, with
tragic genetic consequences for their offspring. For gay marriage there are
no such genetic consequences. The child of a gay couple would either be
adopted or the biological product of only one parent. Therefore the
fundamental basis for the incest taboo disappears in gay marriage.
Do gay-marriage advocates propose to permit the marriage of, say, two
brothers, or of a mother and her (adult) daughter? If not, by what reason of
logic or morality?
The problem here is not the slippery slope. It is not that if society allows
gay marriage, society will then allow polygamy or incest. It won't. The
people won't allow polygamy or incest. Even the gay-marriage advocates won't
The point is why they won't allow it. They won't allow it because they
think polygamy and incest wrong or unnatural or perhaps harmful. At bottom,
because they find these practices psychologically or morally abhorrent,
certainly undeserving of society's blessing.
Well, that is how most Americans feel about homosexual marriage, which
constitutes the ultimate societal declaration of the moral equality of
homosexuality and heterosexuality. They don't feel that way, and they don't
want society to say so. They don't want their schools, for example, to teach
their daughters that society is entirely indifferent whether they marry a
woman or a man. Given the choice between what Sullivan calls the virtually
normal (homosexuality) and the normal, they choose for themselves, and hope
for their children, the normal.
They do so because of various considerations: tradition, utility, religion,
moral preference. Not good enough reasons, say the gay activists. No? Then
show me yours for opposing polygamy and incest.