Beautiful Bountiful

Bountiful, BC (image courtesy of National Geographic)

Bountiful is a small rural community in the Kootenay region of southern British Columbia, near the town of Creston. It lies in a sleepy, peaceful, incredibly lush agricultural area, nestled in a ring of sheltering mountain peaks. Nothing much happens in Bountiful, ever. So what has caused this little Canadian backwater to be at the center of a court case presently underway in downtown Vancouver, with 33 black-robed lawyers in attendance representing the provincial and federal governments, and dozens of advocates arguing various social issues?

Girls in Bountiful, BC (Image courtesy of CTV News)

Bountiful is a polygamist community.

It was founded more than half a century ago by Mormons from Utah looking to escape scrutiny of their plural marriage doctrine. The Canadian community has close ties with Warren Jeffs, currently serving ten years to life in Utah State Prison for his participation in this fundamentalist Mormon practice. And Bountiful is now the focal point of a court case that is testing Canada’s marriage laws as well as its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case began on November 22 and is expected to run until the end of January, at which point any ruling will likely be appealed to Canda’s Supreme Court.

This reference case was initiated by British Columbia’s Attorney General, Mike de Jong, to establish a “legal lens” through which to determine and regulate the issue of polygamy. Crown counsel Craig Jones, arguing for the AG, holds that the societal harms and risks of polygamy, particularly to minor children, override the charter of rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion, association, and expression.

Those arguing in favor of polygamy claim the right of all citizens to religious freedom and freedom of sexual expression between consenting adults. Some observers feel the polygamists’ case is strengthened by the fact that same-sex marriage is now fully legal in all Canadian provinces and territories. If the Chief Justice hearing the case can be persuaded to agree with the polygamy supporters and the Supreme Court upholds his decision, Canada may be on its way to scrapping its 150-year-old ban  and becoming the first developed nation to legalize polygamy…ironically, at a time when developing countries in Asia and Africa are moving toward criminalization of multiple marriage. However, even a favorable decision by the Supreme Court could still be set aside by an act of parliament.


About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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57 Responses to Beautiful Bountiful

  1. filistro says:

    When I submitted this article Michael pointed out that I hadn’t given any indication of my own opinion, just reported what is happening in Canada right now. I responded that I don’t yet fully know what my opinion is, and was looking forward to the discussion here at the blog to help me think it through.

    While I certainly feel a knee-jerk distaste for the fundamentalist polygamy practised by some extreme sects on the fringes of Mormonism, that distaste is because of these randy old guys lusting after very young girls, and seeming more interested in accumulating big harems than in establishing families.

    But as a social libertarian, I hesitate to interfere with another’s freedom if it is doing no harm to anybody. If all parties are consenting adults, what harm is done by a man having two wives? Somebody will have to convince me why this should be ILLEGAL.

  2. Bart DePalma says:

    Fili: If all parties are consenting adults, what harm is done by a man having two wives?

    You do not need to be an adult to get married. However, I do not see that the alleged problem of adult men marrying minor women is any worse under polygamy than monogomous marriage.

    Fili: Somebody will have to convince me why this should be ILLEGAL.

    Agreed. Criminalizing human relationships should require some fundamental harm like the risk of disabilities in the children of incest.

    BTW, this is the important distinction I was attempting to make between criminal anti-misegination laws outlawing inter-racial marriage and the state declining to recognize perfectly legal same-sex “marriages.”

  3. filistro says:

    Bart… I am a strong proponent of legalizing same-sex marriage. You talked in a previous post about anti-miscegenation laws being based on nothing more than “the amount of melanin in a person’s skin.” I believe sexual orientation is every bit as physically determined, and wholly inborn… so denying legal marriage to these people is discriminatory and illegal on its face.

    It appears nobody can tell me what harm is caused to anybody by legalizing same-sex marriage.

  4. dcpetterson says:

    filistro:

    My own opinion: I see no reasonable objection to polygamy, assuming polyandry is also legal (otherwise there is a definite sexual bias and discrimination involved). As a practical matter, an intimate relationship involving two people is complex enough, but that’s not my problem.

    Marriage has four components: legal, religious, intimate, and social. The government has legitimate influence only over the first of these. Individual churches decide whether to endorse or refuse marriage in a religious sense. Consenting adults decide for themselves what sorts of intimate relationships they want. Social customs evolve over time. So the last three of these components are (or should be) beyond the scope of a legal or political discussion. (A discussion of social matters yes, but not of legal or political ones.)

    The question is whether to prevent consenting and competent adults from entering into a specific form of legal contract, with the resulting legal and financial obligations and privileges. If a nation is going to allow marriages that involve more than two people, there are implications for existing laws (inheritance, spousal privilege, taxation and dependency, etc. etc.). A great deal of work would need to be done to adjust all these laws in a reasonable way, so it would not be a simple process.

    In point of fact, many people have multiple intimate relationships already. Usually they have to sneak around. It seems to me more honest to accept reality.

    The stories of men who have multiple wives in different cities, each unaware of the others, are examples of fraud, not of legitimate polygamy. That should remain illegal.

    I see no problem with three or more people, irrespective of gender, entering into a contract to tie their lives and finances and legal responsibilities together (which is what a legal marriage does). I can’t imagine why a government would have a legitimate reason to interfere in such a contract.

  5. shortchain says:

    It’s not the issue of marriage that bothers me. It’s the fact that, once married and in one of these “compounds”, the women (and, to some extent, the young men) are, effectively, trapped. Push them into making a decision young, after an early lifetime of indoctrination into a religious doctrine that pushes them into such marriages, then get them with child, then with children — children that, if they leave, they will lose even the privilege of ever seeing again — and how does that equate to “freedom of choice”?

  6. dcpetterson says:

    shortchain, you raise an excellent point. The question of multiple marriage partners should be separated from the issue of isolated religious cult communities. No one should be coerced, especially not through sexual means, or through the despicable method of pregnancy and then using children as hostages.

    But that is (or should be) a separate issue from legalizing marriages with more than two people. It’s unfortunate that some cultists would use legalized multiple-partner marriage as a tool in their coercive techniques. But then, they already use it this way, even with multiple-marriage being illegal, so I hardly think legalization would have an impact there.

  7. filistro says:

    shortchain… you are touching on the very issues that bother and perplex me. The things you describe (entrapment, indoctrination, emotional blackmail) are certainly distasteful… but are they ILLEGAL? And if we legalize one kind of polygamy, can we still disallow the other kind, the one that offends our sensibilities?

    DC, too, brings up practical issues of law, taxation and inheritance… all of which Canada will have to deal with if they decide to legitimize polygamy as a result of this test case (the betting right now runs about 50-50.)

    Here’s an example of the problem…I have a friend here in Canada who is watching the Bountiful case very closely. She’s a devout Muslim, a wise and lovely person, and a well-known writer who travels the world giving speeches and workshops. She and her husband are both in their late 50’s and have been married almost 40 years. They adore each other. Due to surgeries a few years ago, she is unable to be have sex, but her husband retains a strong sex drive. It causes her great distress that she is unable to meet his sexual needs. He will not satisfy himself outside the marriage because his faith absolutely forbids sex with a woman who is not his wife. They would both like very much for him to take another wife… someone to whom he can offer all the protection of legal marriage. They are wealthy and have a lovely home they would be happy to share with a new young family.

    Why should they not be allowed to do this? Who would be harmed?

  8. drfunguy says:

    I agree with the others here that it is wrong to criminalize relationships between consenting adults. The problem is coersion of young women to marry without consent. True this is equally problematic in single marriages, but I believe that it happens much more frequently in fundamentalist Christian polygamy in isolated rural commmunities. There is huge problem of enforcement in Utah’s Dixie.
    I used to live in Kanab Utah, just down the road from Colorado City (the largest polygamist community in the US) and a hotbed of numerous polygamy of several flavors. I would occaisionally perform at a local open mic and often got to jam with one of the sister-wives/widows of Alex Joseph from Bigwater, UT. She was an eloquent spokesperson for polygamy and appropriately serves as a historical interpreter for the National Park Service at Lee’s Ferry. They were not fundamentalist LDS, but some homegrown strain of, for lack of a better term, new age Christianity. All of the wive were in there 20’s when married.
    On the other hand there are regular news articles of young women being forced to marry (sometimes to relatives!) against their will in Colorado City. I never read it, but Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven documents some of this.
    Filistro’s anthropological curiosity may be piqued by the book God’s Brothel about modern polygamy in the US. Apparently there are over 50,000 practicing polygamists, only half in Utah.

  9. Bart DePalma says:

    Filistro:

    The science to date suggests that homosexuality is biological, but not genetic. Homosexuality has been turned on and off with insects.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071210094541.htm

    This science conforms with the common sense observation that homosexuality is not a genetic trait like blue eyes which is given from a parent who possesses the trait to his or her child because homosexuals do not reproduce.

    Science is also discovering that many human biological conditions are established during gestation based upon the psychological condition of the mother or the things she ingests. Very likely, homosexuality is one of those conditions.

    If homosexuality is a condition caused during gestation, then we get to the rather awkward (for homosexuals) issue of whether homosexuality is a birth defect given that homosexuals are unwilling to engage in the human relationship necessary for reproduction, a rather fundamental biological requirement.

    In any case, the fact that homosexuals suffer from a biological condition that makes them unwilling to enter marriage does not require the rest of society to redefine marriage to accommodate this disability.

    I suppose it would be too much to expect politically correct progressives to actually address the science and not immediately engage in name calling. Probably.

    :::sigh:::

    Let the flaming responses begin…

  10. filistro says:

    doc… I read Krakauer’s book. There is an undercurrent there of abuse, coercion, exploitation and brutal sexual excess that really troubles me… especially when it is cloaked in religion… something that REALLY pushes my buttons. (I’m not very tolerant of smarmy, self-serving religion, I fear.)

    But still… can we make something illegal simply because people might abuse it? To me that veers dangerously close to the policing of thought.

    I don’t know the answers… but I do think consenting adults should be legally free to do whatever they want with each other as long as they don’t harm anybody… and GLBT people must be offered every right and sacrament of legal marriage that is available to anybody else, including the right to adopt and form a family.

  11. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro

    Your Muslim friends provide a perfect example of the problem. Our current legal definition of marriage is due to the accident of which religions dominated the West during the period when our present legal systems developed. We should not be afraid to reexamine the unspoken assumptions which underlie these customs.

  12. Monotreme says:

    I’m not going to flame you, Bart, but your summary of the relevant science is both incomplete and incorrect.

    As I.I. Rabi put it, “not even wrong.”

  13. filistro says:

    Bart… you are right about the science. Homosexuality appears to be the result of as- yet-undetermined gestational factors. For example, we now know definitively that the more sons a women bears, the more likely younger sons will be homosexual, which seems to indicate some kind of maternal hormonal depletion affecting teh fetus.

    I am stunned by the fact that you apparently KNOW this, yet still suggest these people should be punished because, due to prenatal factors beyond their control, they are “unwilling” to enter into heterosexual marraiges. I think it is dishonest for a person who recognizes his/her own homosexuality to nevertheless enter into a heterosexual marriage. It is cheating and defrauding the marriage partner.

  14. drfunguy says:

    @Bart
    I wouldn’t base a summary of the science on a single article in Science Digest but I haven’t the time to look into it more, maybe later.
    You say: “that homosexuals suffer from a biological condition that makes them unwilling to enter marriage …”
    A straw man, they do want to enter marriages, you don’t want to acknowledge their marriage as legitimate or of legal consequence. In a plural marriage the womenare marrying each other as much as they are marrying the man (assuming polygamy which is the most frequent sort of plurral marriage), so for you to approve of polygamy you have to concede that its ok for women to marry other women, as long as they’re married to a man as well.

  15. Monotreme says:

    Away from the Bad Science Barted above, there’s a whopper which I cannot let go without comment.

    When my future wife and I met, I was 24 and she was 39. We fell in love not realizing the magnitude of the age difference. Still, after two years of courtship, we loved each other very much and we were married in Fort Bend County, Texas. That was 1985; we will celebrate our 26th anniversary early next year.

    Now I come to find, thanks to Bart, that she and I share a “birth defect”:

    issue of whether marrying someone who is infertile is a birth defect given that infertile couples are unwilling to engage in the human relationship necessary for reproduction, a rather fundamental biological requirement

    I’m just a little bit angry at you right now, Bart. Still, I’ll close now. As luck would have it, I’m attending the wedding of two friends who love each other very much and are getting married at noon today. I hope to God they’re not infertile, as that would invalidate their marriage according to your twisted and fucked-up “science”.

  16. Michael Weiss says:

    filistro,

    The things you describe (entrapment, indoctrination, emotional blackmail) are certainly distasteful… but are they ILLEGAL? And if we legalize one kind of polygamy, can we still disallow the other kind, the one that offends our sensibilities?

    This misses the point. The problem isn’t multiple marriage. It’s entrapment, indoctrination, and emotional blackmail. Should those be illegal? Yes, because they’re designed specifically to prevent one from entering into the contracts of free will.

    The slippery questions arise when one looks at where to draw those lines, though. Advertising is a form of indoctrination. Parenting always involves indoctrination and emotional blackmail, though we prefer not to think of it that way. When does it cross the line into the “bad” territory?

  17. dcpetterson says:

    @Monotreme

    You are correct that Bart’s argument ignores nearly all of the relevant science, and misrepresents what he doesn’t ignore. But in the end, the argument he proposes is irrelevant anyway, because even if his science was accurate, it does not furnish a reason to deny rights to a group of people. Should we deny the right to marry based on the possession of other traits, injuries, or physical conditions, inherited or not?

    It’s a simple question of allowing or forbidding a legal contract and fundamental rights on the basis of irrelevant and discriminatory traits. The right wing desire to use the iron hand of government to limit the rights of individuals is basic totalitarian doctrine and abuse of power.

  18. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart,
    Even if you are correct about the biology, it misses the point entirely. Why does it matter the reasons that two people of the same gender wish to enter into a marriage? If they are both consenting adults, what harm does such a union do to Bart DePalma?

  19. filistro says:

    @MW.. Advertising is a form of indoctrination. Parenting always involves indoctrination and emotional blackmail,

    Exactly… and this is the kind of stuff I puzzle over all the time. We see more of these cases in Canada because (unlike our southern neighbor) Canada is a libertarian secular nation.

    A couple of years ago a first-grader in Winnipeg came to shcool with latrge swastikas neatly drawn on both his arms in black ink. Alerted by teachers, social workers visited the home and found it awash in Nazi, skinhead literature and paraphernalia. There was a younger sister (about 3) and a couple of fervent Aryan parents. The children were reasonably clean and well-fed.

    Child Protection workers seized the children “on suspicion of abuse” and the father argued passionately in court that other people teach their kids about “false religions and worship of money” and he had just as much right to teach his children the things he valued. They got the kids back.

    I think what often clouds our thinking is simply the “ick” factor. Can we deny somebody the rights and freedoms that others have, just because the way they will use those freedoms is something we personally find icky?

    I DON’T KNOW. I’m just asking the questions.

  20. Bart DePalma says:

    If you allege there is alternative science, the next step is to offer it. Please limit this to peer reviewed biology. Anecdotal social science is largely useless.

  21. dcpetterson says:

    Bart, I allege your argument is an irrelevant red herring, and an attempt to misuse science to impose an authoritarian doctrine of unnecessary regulation and totalitarian control.

  22. filistro says:

    Bart.. Michael is now the third person to have asked this. If you are demanding that others produce “peer reviewed biology”, you could at least have the courtesy to produce your own opinion.

    Michael asked:

    Why does it matter the reasons that two people of the same gender wish to enter into a marriage? If they are both consenting adults, what harm does such a union do to Bart DePalma?

    I asked the same thing yesterday. Please respond.

  23. dcpetterson says:

    Junk genetic science was used in the 1800’s to “prove” that blacks were inferior, and should therefore not be treated as people equal to whites. The real issue is that all humans are humans, and need to be treated as such.

    A modern argument that homosexuality is some kind of physical anomaly is completely analogous. To get distracted into an argument over what constitutes junk science is to miss the point entirely — which is why Bart is raising the issue. The only real concern here is whether we will deny equal rights and equal protections to a specific class of people.

  24. Bart DePalma says:

    dcpetterson says: “Should we deny the right to marry based on the possession of other traits, injuries, or physical conditions, inherited or not?”

    No one is denying homosexuals (or anyone else) the right to marry. Homosexuals simply decline to enter marriage.

    Michael Weiss says: “Why does it matter the reasons that two people of the same gender wish to enter into a marriage?”

    Since marriage is not the union of two people of the same gender, the question is moot.

    Michael Weiss says: “If they are both consenting adults, what harm does such a union do to Bart DePalma?”

    None at all. I could care less if two people engage in a homosexual union and pretend its marriage. Where I have a problem is the state redefining marriage into something it is not simply to make homosexuals feel better about themselves.

    Monotreme:

    I cannot tell for sure from your post, but if you or you wife suffer from infertility caused during gestation, I am am sorry to inform you that medicine considers this a birth defect.

  25. Bart DePalma says:

    Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” offers an appropriate skit about the willful denial of simple reality that underlies this debate.

  26. filistro says:

    @Bart.. Where I have a problem is the state redefining marriage into something it is not simply to make homosexuals feel better about themselves.

    I don’t need to ask why you have problem with this. You are, after all, a socially conservative Republican who just pretends to be “libertarian” at various blogs. (Please don’t ever again refer to yourself as a “libertarian” because we will all roll around and howl with laughter.)

    What I DO want to know is why you think something should be illegal simply because you “have a problem” with it.

  27. dcpetterson says:

    As you well know, Bart, the question is not to “make someone feel better about themselves.” It is about legal protections and rights. Or did you get married simply to “feel better about yourself”?

    The condescending and elitist attitude you display is typical of totalitarian regimes, but it has no place in a modern republican democracy. The question is one of human dignity and fundamental human rights. I note you continue to ignore that aspect, because you know it is a loser for you. There isn’t any way you can defend your stance on this as a human rights issue.

  28. filistro says:

    I suspect Bart would have no problem with a paraplegic man who is confined to a wheel chair and unable to have sex, being allowed to legally marry his long-time devoted nurse so she will have all the privileges of marriage including hospital visitation and inheritance rights.

    I think Bart, our famous “libertarian,” is opposed to gay marraige simply because the idea of gay sex makes him feel icky.

    What a basis for denying a basic human right to millions and millions of people.

    The hatred, ignorance and intolerance of your Tea Party makes me feel REALLY icky, Bart… but I would never suggest it should not be legal and fully entitled to all the legal privileges of other political movements.

  29. Bart DePalma says:

    filistro says: What I DO want to know is why you think something should be illegal simply because you “have a problem” with it.

    Because I am a citizen of the United States whose government is allegedly my servant. I elect representatives who believe (at least in part) as I do so my policy preferences are enacted into law or policies that I oppose are not.

    If you can convince a majority of voters that my policy preference concerning marriage is mistaken and civil marriage should be redefined to include homosexual unions, then so be it.

    A suggestion, if I may. Your argument to your fellow citizens to redefine an foundation of civilization might carry more weight if it did not attempt to reduce marriage to a contract for benefits and was not based on a whine that the present law is unfair.

  30. dcpetterson says:

    I’ve got two news stories that may be more appropriate for the Free Forum Fridays thread. But somehow Bart always makes me think of the crazy juice.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/nov/15/3

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_exor7.htm

    They apply here as well, in so far as we are discussing the effect of religious extremism as it applies to marriage.

    One interesting aspect that hasn’t so far been underlined — Consider the concerns filistro expresses about the misuse of a concept like polygamy. This idea can be (and has been) misused by a fundamentalist religious group. Now think of Bart’s arguments against same-sex marriage (that is, his support for discrimination and denial of rights on the basis of sexual orientation). These arguments also stem from fundamentalist religious notions.

    So on the one hand, we have fundamentalist religion opposing same-sex marriage, and on the other we have fundamentalist religion misusing polygamy. I begin to sense a theme. Can it be said that marriage, in whatever form, must be defended from fundamentalist religion?

    This would seem to make sense, as the totalitarian and authoritarian nature of fundamentalist religion has always been a threat to liberty. Our founders knew this well, which is why the separation of church and state is such a vital part of the First Amendment.

    The discussion of polygamy, and of same-sex marriage, should be separated from the issues of religion, and of the abuses of (and by) religion. A real discussion of these issues needs to happen on the grounds of human rights and human dignity (which would also address the abuses noted by shortchain an filistro).

  31. dcpetterson says:

    @Bart
    A suggestion, if I may. Your argument to your fellow citizens to redefine an foundation of civilization might carry more weight if it did not attempt to reduce marriage to a contract for benefits and was not based on a whine that the present law is unfair.

    A suggestion, if I may. Your argument that people you disapprove of should have their rights abridged might carry more weight if you did not attempt to reduce marriage to making people “feel better about themselves” and a whine that you personally “have a problem with it.”

    If you can convince a majority of voters that my policy preference concerning marriage is mistaken and civil marriage should be redefined to include homosexual unions, then so be it.

    Thankfully, we live in a nation of laws rather than under the Chinese cultural revolution style lynch mobs you fantasize about.

    I am a citizen of the United States whose government is allegedly my servant.

    No, Bart. You are completely wrong. Government is not your servant. It is the servant of all the people and that includes minorities whom you, in your elitist authoritarian mentality, disapprove of. Just because you’re a member of the ruling class, that does not give you the right to crush others under your heel.

  32. shortchain says:

    I had already seen the piece in Science Daily that Bart refers to. Of course, he gets it wrong in fundamental ways. What it indicates is that there is likely a genetic component which causes a predisposition to homosexuality in fruit flies (it’s a bit of a stretch to make the jump to humanity, but hey, if you already think of humans as “ants”, perhaps not) which can be switched off by genetic manipulation.

    I’ll be impressed with the science when the fruit flies have their sexual preferences switched by attending one of those “make you straight” sessions the fundamentalists used to point to or having a gay researcher. Maybe if they show them the right kind of pictures?

    Until then, the bottom line is that the study did apparently show a genetic predisposition towards homosexuality (in fruit flies!) and a treatment of same based on genetic therapy. This is yet more evidence that homosexuality is not “learned” behavior, nor is it a “life style choice.” Not voluntary, in other words.

    Now, it may be that some homosexuals would volunteer to have their genes therapied, with or without teratological chemicals, but unless and until they choose that course, they should be treated the same as all the rest of us poor, genetically-programmed folks, whether we are sterile or not.

  33. filistro says:

    @Bart… Your argument to your fellow citizens to redefine an foundation of civilization might carry more weight if it did not attempt to reduce marriage to a contract for benefits and was not based on a whine that the present law is unfair.

    Actually, I don’t need to make any argument to my “fellow citizens.” Gay marriage and adoption have been fully legal in all parts of Canada for years now, and the military has been welcoming openly gay soldiers for two decades.

    We’ve had many joyful, loving gay weddings (I’ve attended a few) and lots of little kids given stable homes, and openly gay soldiers giving their lives for their country (and yours) in Afghanistan. We’ve also had lots and lots of heterosexual marriages, just like always. Nothing has changed except the country feels better, stronger and more inclusive. People who were opposed have largely come round. And far from “damaging traditional marriage”… divorce rates among heterosexuals have declined quite dramatically since Canada first began legalizing homosexual marriage… from 362.3 per 100,000 population in 1987 to 220.7/100,000 in 2005.

    So again I have to ask, Bart… WHO IS HARMED?

    Why can’t you answer such a simple question? You’re supposed to be a lawyer. This is the question that lies at the very root of most civil and criminal law.

  34. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro
    So again I have to ask, Bart… WHO IS HARMED?

    Bart has already told us that the only purpose of marriage is to make people “feel better about themselves.” This being the case, if gays are allowed to marry, Bart would feel less special. He would see no purpose to his own marriage, because it would no longer make him better than gays. He would be harmed because his elitist perch would be undone.

  35. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart,

    filistro says: What I DO want to know is why you think something should be illegal simply because you “have a problem” with it.

    Because I am a citizen of the United States whose government is allegedly my servant. I elect representatives who believe (at least in part) as I do so my policy preferences are enacted into law or policies that I oppose are not.

    This was precisely the argument used in favor of miscegenation and segregation laws. Your task now, Bart, is to explain to us why that argument is unacceptable for miscegenation and segregation, but acceptable for gay marriage.

    Alternatively, you can conclude that miscegenation and segregation laws should never have been struck down, or you can conclude that laws against gay marriage are unacceptable.

    Your move.

  36. Todd Dugdale says:

    BDP wrote:
    In any case, the fact that homosexuals suffer from a biological condition that makes them unwilling to enter marriage does not require the rest of society to redefine marriage to accommodate this disability.

    As far as the State is concerned, marriage is simply a legal contract that binds the property and money of both parties together. Procreation is not a requirement. If it were, fertility tests would be required to get a marriage licence. It’s entirely legal for an infertile couple to marry. It’s entirely legal for a couple to marry and never see each other again, for that matter. It’s also entirely legal to procreate outside of marriage.

    In fact, the two parties can be completely penniless and still get married. So there does not even have to be property or money in existence to form a contract binding their property and money. In theory, they could spend the remainder of their married lives penniless and the contract would still be in effect. You could make a stronger legal case for banning the marriage of bankrupt people than you could for banning same-sex couples from marrying – as far as the interests of the State are concerned.

    Would you object to two men (or two women) entering into a legal contract tying their finances together? Because, as far as the State’s interests are concerned, that’s all marriage is.

    Even if you consider a marriage licence as a licence to procreate (which it isn’t), that doesn’t require procreation any more than having a driver’s licence requires me to drive.

    And, since the marriage contract binds the couple’s property and money together, you could make a stronger legal case for banning pre-nuptial agreements than banning same-sex couples from marrying. Isn’t a pre-nuptial agreement “re-defining” marriage, from the perspective of the State’s interests? If a couple signs a pre-nuptial agreement separating their property and money, doesn’t that directly undermine the legal binding implicit in the marriage licence?

    If anything, the State restricts procreation in the licence by forbidding someone from marrying their first cousin. Simply being male and female are not enough to qualify for a marriage licence, so the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman is false.

    Homosexuals do not “suffer from a biological condition that makes them unwilling to enter marriage”. They are willing to enter into the contract, just not on the terms that most people do. You are mixing the interests of a religious institution with the interests of the State.
    For example, Southern Baptists are forbidden by their religion to dance. If I were to contract with a Southern Baptist for dance lessons, however, the State could not intervene and nullify the contract. Likewise, they could not bar the Southern Baptist from obtaining a business licence to open a dance school.

    Simply because most Southern Baptists would not apply for a business licence to open a dance school, such a thing happening would not “re-define” the words “business licence”.

    The issue with polygamy is that this contract is generally an exclusive one.
    If I sign an exclusive contract with one person to shovel my sidewalk, I can’t sign a contract with someone else to shovel my sidewalk. That isn’t to say that four people couldn’t form a contract to bind their property together.

  37. Bart DePalma says:

    DC: “These arguments also stem from fundamentalist religious notions.”

    Apart from the science and complete absence of citation to any religion, that must be it.

  38. dcpetterson says:

    Apart from the science and complete absence of citation to any religion, that must be it.

    Since your “science” is both cherry-picked and misrepresented in service to your prejudices, yes.

  39. Mr. Universe says:

    Reluctantly weighing in on this topic.

    I might point out another possibility. Why is any of this relevant?

    I was in involved in a shotgun wedding. That’s just what you’re expected to do in the south when you knock up a girl on prom night. The bitter result of that ‘marriage’ and ensuing legal carnage of the divorce pretty much cured me of ever needing to be married again. I got screwed harder by Alabama’s legal system than I ever did on prom night.

    Which brings me to my point; what is the point of marriage? It is a political and legal statement of property ownership. That’s what the wedding ring was initially meant to represent, ownership of the wife. It’s simply contract law.

    I decided that it wasn’t necessary for me to notify my government or the church to signify my love for another person. I realize there are problems with this involving wills, medical stuff, etc, but aren’t these arbitrary constructs? Can’t I just declare that, say, filistro has power of attorney over my estate? Doesn’t my daughter automatically get that right? And what do I care about my property when I’m dead?

    The only other entity that should be concerned about this is the person I choose to love and commit to. How we do that is nobody else’s business. I am one of the ‘4 out of 10’ who no longer think the institution of marriage is useful.

    Or, if you’re Bart, I’m out to destroy heterosexual marrige. Whatever. You can marry a turnip for all I care. Just don’t expect me to follow the 10,000 year old construct of property ownership. Very libertarian of me, don’t you think?

  40. Mr. Universe says:

    Regarding polygamy or polyandry, it’s none of my business if you want to do that, but I think there are some intrinsic emotional problems if you go down that road, particularly with children involved. But I’m the kind of guy who eats one thing at a time off my plate. I don’t multi-task very well.

  41. dcpetterson says:

    @Todd Dugdale

    Your entire comment is amazingly insightful. You cut through the BS with a laser. There simply is no coherent right-wing answer to your reasoning. Thank you.

  42. dcpetterson says:

    Let it be noted that Bart still has not told us how he is harmed by allowing same-sex marriage.

    Nor has he told us why pre-nuptial agreements should be legal, since their entire purpose is to re-define the contract of marriage.

    Bart withdraws from the field, having acknowledged defeat.

  43. filistro says:

    Bart has left the building because he recognizes, all too well, the legal fallacy/impossibility of challenging same-sex marriage.

    Nobody can challenge a court ruling unless they have standing in the case. To have standing, you must show how you personally have been harmed by the ruling in question. People who are forbidden to marry because of their orientation have, of course, ample demonstration of personal injury.

    But since nobody can ever show how they, personally, have been harmed by the legalization of somebody else’s marriage (because Bart’s argument of “I don’t like it, it’s really icky” is not considered “harm” by the courts) there is nobody with legal standing to bring the challenge… which is why same-sex marriage will inevitably become the law of the land.

    I have lawyer friends who think the same thing might apply to the “Bountiful” case. If the court rules polygamy is legal, who would have standing to claim they have been harmed by a plural marriage among consenting adults?

  44. Todd Dugdale says:

    BDP wrote:
    Your argument to your fellow citizens to redefine an foundation of civilization

    Please explain how the State does anything to determine if applicants for a marriage licence are fit to fulfil the role of being a “foundation of civilisation”.

    If the State countenances the marriage of a man and a woman who never see each other again after the civil ceremony is concluded, how does that further the mystical goal of a “foundation of civilisation”?
    How would these mystical interests be enforced?
    Why aren’t marriages subject to some kind of review periodically to see if they are truly advancing the mystical goal of providing a “foundation of civilisation”?
    If marriage is essentially a religious ritual, then why does the State provide for a civil alternative that could potentially undermine or obviate the requirements of a particular religion?

    Having seen civil ceremonies performed, I find it odd that providing a “foundation of civilisation” was never mentioned, nor was anyone required to take an oath to advance such a goal. If anything, the process seems to exist to merely confirm mutual consent.

    I’m sure there’s some kind of “goal” when someone gets a business licence that they will make a profit, but there is no test that must be passed or a business plan presented to the State to ensure that such a thing happens.

    might carry more weight if it did not attempt to reduce marriage to a contract for benefits and was not based on a whine that the present law is unfair.

    Carry more weight with whom? With those who mix the interests of religious institutions with the interests of the State? If these interests are intertwined, then why not permit same-sex marriages if the religious institution allows it? Or are you seriously going to propose that you know which religious institutions advance the mystical goal of providing a “foundation of civilisation”? Talk about government picking winners and losers! Essentially you are saying that the government should decide which religious institution is “good” or “bad”.

    When the State begins demanding moral/financial tests or religious oaths before issuing a marriage licence, you may have a leg to stand on. As it is, it would seem that the State is issuing marriage licences with little more than a vague hope and a fond wish that society will be advanced.
    The State goes to greater lengths to ensure that the person who cuts your hair is qualified than it does to ensure that those whom it entrusts with a “foundation of civilisation” are up to the job. So maybe it isn’t a “foundation of civilisation”. Maybe is just a foundation of religious institutions.

  45. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro
    If the court rules polygamy is legal, who would have standing to claim they have been harmed by a plural marriage among consenting adults?

    I would think the only people who have standing are 1) a young person who was coerced into the marriage, or 2) a child who was conceived and raised in such a marriage.

    In the first case, it would be very hard to show that one was coerced, even if in the cases where it is true, because the whole point of entering into a marriage contract is that it must be of one’s free will. And if the case is won, it would probably apply to that particular instance, not to the concept of multiple spouses.

    In the case of a child, again, it would become a case of child abuse, not a question of the institution itself. In the same way, if a child is abused by one parent of a mixed-gender two-parent family, the abuse would not “prove” that mixed-gender two-parent families should be outlawed, but only that one (or both) parent(s) were abusive.

    Once the laws recognize the right to marry, this right will not be rescinded. And another piece of the right-wing totalitarian control over The People will crumble. That is what the far right is afraid of. They are losing their autocratic rule over the most intimate aspects of the lives of The People.

  46. filistro says:

    @DC.. That is what the far right is afraid of. They are losing their autocratic rule over the most intimate aspects of the lives of The People.

    You are absolutely correct. And as the “old order” gets chipped away, bit by bit (because it turns out the “good old days” were really only good for well-off white males, and not so much for anybody else…) people like Bart will panic because they lack the flexibility and creativity to envision any world other than some kind of Norman Rockwell ersatz reality that never really existed at all, but for which they still feel a bizarre, misplaced nostalgia.

    It occurs to me the best analogy for the opposition to SSM is neither miscegenation or civil rights, but women’s suffrage… where the power group sought to deny a basic human right to a whole class of people based on their gender… because keeping women “in their place” was a “foundation of society.” But they were ultimately forced to yield because nobody could validly show how they personally would be harmed if this group was given the rights it sought.

  47. Todd Dugdale says:

    filistro wrote:
    But they were ultimately forced to yield because nobody could validly show how they personally would be harmed if this group was given the rights it sought.

    That was part of it. There was also a general outrage over the brutal treatment that the suffragists received from the authorities, and cold political calculation by politicians as to how this could work to their advantage.

    It was a different solution, too. The courts didn’t grant them suffrage; a Constitutional Amendment had to be passed. Marriage is a State issue. They are both human rights issues, though. Suffrage was a more egregious case because it was difficult to maintain that a technical majority should be disenfranchised by a minority.

    There were also similar frightening scenarios spun of what a world in which women could vote would look like. One example that leaps to mind is Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” (which is extremely different from the movie) and the “Awful Rebellion” in which men are made slaves while the women stand around and chat all day.

    There is a glaring contradiction on the Right among those who vehemently criticise countries like Saudi Arabia for denying women basic rights because of their ‘cultural foundations’, and those who simultaneously invoke ‘cultural foundations’ as a defence against denying a domestic minority basic rights.

    In countries where SSM is legal, heterosexual couples continue to marry and raise children. The ‘”foundation of civilisation” remains intact. No one is marrying goats.
    Here, though, we have married men “hiking the Appalachian trail”, which somehow does not demean marriage in any way in the minds of those on the Right.

    The mere fact that Bart concedes that SSM would be okay if laws permitting it were passed proves that his “foundation of civilisation” premise is not even taken seriously by him. Apparently, the real “threat” of SSM is that it is illegal, not that is fundamentally immoral or destructive.

    You see a parallel with women’s suffrage; I see one with marijuana legalisation.
    With ML, the argument begins and ends with “it’s illegal” — as if one should only try to legalise something that is already legal. In both cases, behaviour that one day is morally reprehensible and destructive of the foundation of our civilisation is suddenly okay because a legislature would have passed a law. How does that work?

  48. Monotreme says:

    Here ya go, Bart. Have fun with it.

    These studies, of course, are in the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus in humans (and other animals). Not in fruit flies. Mate selection in fruit flies has about as much to do with mate selection in humans as the food preferences of fruit flies do with the food preferences of humans.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=interstitial+nucleus+of+the+anterior+hypothalamus&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=20000000000001&as_sdtp=on

    There is a preponderance of peer-reviewed science on my side of the ledger. It’s so well established that you’ll find it in textbooks, or you can read the books The Sexual Brain, The Science of Desire, The Emotional Brain, Why We Love, or just about any damn book on the subject and get yourself educated. I have read all these, and they’re on my bookshelf, and I’ll be happy to loan them to you if you want to learn something about human behavior and neuroscience, which just happens to be my area of expertise.

    You’re just wrong, is all.

    Thanks for playing. Here’s a copy of our home game.

  49. Realist says:

    I think he gave up on the discussion.

  50. Monotreme says:

    @Realist:

    I know. I had other things to do with my life, and I needed to cool off a bit after hearing him call my marriage invalid because of a “birth defect”. Somehow, I always get heated when people do that.

  51. mostlyilurk says:

    Does Bart have children?

  52. Just Sayin' says:

    To Mostlyilurk: Does Bart Have children? Probably not, The “ick factor” probably got to him and rendered him useless!

  53. Emerson Schwartzkopf says:

    Perhaps we’re forgetting that, at least in the United States, we deter polygamy via the granting of marriage licenses, which is a contract decree that, in this day, is poorly named. While this seems quaint, it does offer a deterrence to incest and also establishes a nice bit of legality that allows a host of laws to fit together in a framework to determine custody, property and care rights. Under your religion or creed, you can determine what’s a marriage under your rites and teachings, but legally it’s a one-to-a-current-customer contract as a civil union. As far as anything of the material world, you can set things up legally for community possession of property (joint tenancy) or survivorship (a will) to support whatever relationship you want.

    We’re also not beating on people in polygamy cases like the one in Bountiful because they happen to have multiple spouses with soap-opera problems, as if they were additional cast members of HBO’s “Big Love.” This has a lot more to do with allegations of coersion, abuse of minors, tax evasion, welfare fraud and other activities to game the society-at-large for financial support while disdaining its laws and seeking constitutional protection under freedoms that are likely not extant in their own sectarian beliefs.

  54. Mr. Universe says:

    @Monotreme;

    I needed to cool off a bit

    Bart has a tendency to infuriate people with his ‘take what I say as fact’ responses. Must be a lawyer thing. I can only assume he is parroting Limbaugh talking points since I too get hot under the collar listening to Beck, Rush, et al. It’s why I don’t really engage Bart on a one to one basis anymore over climate change. You may as well piss off the back of a moving pick-up truck. You’ll only do it once before you realize it was a pretty dunb thing to do.

  55. Monotreme says:

    Thanks, Emerson. I appreciate you coming around. We need more comments like these.

  56. filistro says:

    I agree with Monotreme… Emerson’s is a thought-provoking comment. In fact, I’ve been musing over it ever since I read it.

    My conclusion… I think what probably gets us into trouble is our penchant for injecting religious views into legal matters. At all times, the issue of religion must be rigorously peeled away and set aside so the legality is all that’s being considered. But our laws are so polluted with religious overtones that this can be difficult.

    It’s generally easier in Canada, however, where the national mindset is much more secular… which is going to make this particular case so fascinating to watch.

  57. filistro says:

    @Monotreme… I needed to cool off a bit after hearing him call my marriage invalid

    I know that Bart made you very angry, and I’m sure that even now, he has absolutely no idea what he said that offended you.

    That’s the thing about Bart… he puts rigid adherence to dogma ahead of individual people. In fact, Bart doesn’t even really SEE those with whom he disagrees as “people”… he just sees them as obstacles.

    At core, though, I really don’t think Bart is a “bad” or “heartless” person. Rather he exhibits an odd absence of affect, something akin to high-functioning Asperger’s. I think his participation in a blog like this is probably very good for him, because he’s no dummy and this forces him to see and recognize us as human beings and individuals, even though we disagree with him.

    Perhaps our whole raison d’etre is to humanize Bart? ‘Tis a noble… albeit difficult and thankless… mission. 😉

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