Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Moral Issue

I like to think that my views on moral issues are informed by an internally consistent set of rules. In this vein I've always argued that gay marriage is perfectly fine with me because, well, why shouldn't they? I’ve always argued that grown-ups who are not hurting anyone should be allowed to pretty much do as they please (yes, yes, there are exceptions, but I think you know what I'm getting at). After all, they are consenting adults, and their marriage really has nothing to do with me or Pat Robertson. What gives me the right or authority to tell a gay person they can't get married? More than that, why would I want to tell a gay person they can't get married?

However, I've recently found myself in a bit of a conundrum over this line of reasoning. The problem is the idea of multiple marriage. The new TV show Big Love has everyone talking about polygamy, and some people are starting to draw parallels between gay and polygamous marriages. After all, they argue, if adults should be allowed sole control of their marital choices then why shouldn't multiples be allowed? Well crap. According to my own logic I should agree with them, and yet I really emphatically don't. In fact, the idea of polygamy is completely unacceptable to me. But why? Why should I care about who other adults marry? Why should these two issues be so completely different for me?

All the people I've polled on this one happen to agree (at least in general terms) with me on these two issues (i.e. gay marriage perfectly fine, polygamy perfectly icky) but the reasoning varies greatly from person to person. Some people talk about feminism and the abusive caste of so many polygamous unions. Other people say it has to do with monogamy, and still more talk about jealousy leading to ruin. R even says that he can't stand the idea of how it would alter the tax code (knowing him, this is probably the truth). The only thing that everyone seems in a hurry to say is that the two issues are not the same. This article from Slate summed up many of the main points beautifully.

I wish I could say that I had some sort of good conclusion for this whole thing, but the truth is that I don't. I have not budged even slightly on views of each situation, but I am still not happy with how I arrived at them. Most all of the arguments people have proposed for the difference between the two make a lot of sense. However, accepting any of them means changing my basic belief that adults should make their own private choices. In my little world, most things of importance are pretty black and white, and this issue creates an uncomfortable shade of gray.

1 comment:

::Wendy:: said...

I believe that marriage serves two purposes
1) a legal agreement determined by the state
2) a public declaration of a committment intended to support both celebration and public recognition that the people are no longer available to make that sort of commitment to others.

The legal part is determined by 'state' that clarifies inheretance and sharing things like health benefits, making the status of children clearer etc. This generally makes marriage valuable because it reduces beurocracy (sp). It is on this level that I would question polygymy - how does it fit to the legal financial support infrastructure. If taxes paid to the state by individuals are drawn disporopritionately by polygymous families - then I'd question the 'fairness' of the contributions made. For example are non-polygymnous people subsidising this belief disproportionately? As far as celebration and public declaration of commitment belief - I have not problem with that. Apologies for all the spelling atrocities. ;-)