More Marriage

July 9th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  4 Comments

Since my entry on it, the comments over on Kathleen’s marriage post have grown a little. Several jumped out:

A commenter named Danni Rae offered:

The personal side of things is how hard it is to watch people you care about, with whom you have felt kindred, with whom you have believed you were building that kind of chosen family, suddenly pull “straight” rank and sign up for the whole kit and heterosexual caboodle. Yea, yea, they’re happy and excited to have taken this step of commitment in their personal, private relationship, and they want everybody to celebrate with them, but it feels like a slap in the face and a denial of the chosen family you thought you were a part of. Now, suddenly, the het couple is the family, and you’re the outsider…..again.

Al approached the issue contra Kathleen’s abolitionism:

I think we all can agree that the public education system discriminates against the poor and people of color. However, we also agree that it’s a useful system to have, even with its faults. […] I’m not saying that we should accept racist/sexist/homophobic institutions as they are. Rather we should critically analyze these institutions and attempt to change them so that all people can equally benefit from participating in them.

Emphasis mine.

A commenter named Carl made comments that addressed a side of things I largely left alone when I was reacting the last time:

I don’t think that the answer lies in denigrating marriage – the whole damn thing would be solved if our society had its priorities in order. Universal health care, intolerance of intolerance, more equitable distribution of wealth, etc.

I chose to get married to protect myself and my kids from the problems that we would have if we weren’t married. I’m not sure that endangering myself and limiting my life based on principles makes the world a better place, or that my marriage makes the world a worse place.

David Ernst also offered some thoughts on his own blog that address what Carl sketched. Sue commented that she felt like David’s observations offered her more room to respond than Amy & Kathleen’s initial post did.

And no transcript exists, but Gretchin stopped by last night on her new bicycle and spent some time with Al & I talking about it all. Not that she was visiting for the express purpose of doing so, but I’m glad it came up.


  1. gl. says:

    July 9th, 2007 at 11:21 pm (#)

    i wrote this 3.5 years ago and it doesn’t seem like my ideas have significantly changed:

    “…what i think i really want is for the government to stop placing limits on marriage at all. the interesting bit is i think a position like that sort of makes polygamy okay. i wouldn’t have guessed i would have believed that 10 years ago.”

    and later:

    “there are several things i want out of a ‘marriage’:

    1. the ability to be recognized as a stakeholder for major decisions, children, businesses and/or assets

    2. the ability to be recognized as a person with a viable medical interest in my beloved

    3. the ability to share in medical, inheiritance, insurance, retirement and other benefits

    whether that happens as part of a “marriage” or “civil union” or “civil contract” or “entanglement” or whatever, if you’re looking for and are at least initially committed to those things, you could get married. period. whether you’re a man and a woman, a man & a man, woman & a woman, a man & a woman & a woman, three women and a man. “

  2. mph says:

    July 10th, 2007 at 12:56 am (#)

    “the interesting bit is i think a position like that sort of makes polygamy okay. i wouldn’t have guessed i would have believed that 10 years ago.”

    I’m at a mild loss on polygamy. Objections I’ve read center around the practice’s potential for abuse, but I don’t know what makes the arrangement itself inherently abusive in any sense the law has an express interest in. Which is to say I don’t know how it’s any more inherently abusive than any other sexist practice we collectively ignore, except that its male practitioners sort of deal wholesale. I’ve heard of complaints about welfare fraud, but I don’t know if the fraud involved is a necessary side effect of living a polygamous lifestyle or if it’s something the current illegality of those arrangements makes a necessity for participants in a plural marriage.

    I tried a cursory search troll just to see how the sides line up on it, but it’s pretty fringey: Most people seem to be squicked by it, and the only other people arguing about it for or against are united both in serial abuse of the font tag and reasoning skills that are … rusty. But like I said, I don’t know much about polygamy except in the abstract, and as an abstraction it’s hard for me to imagine the grounds under which an advocate for the right to form polyamorous group unions could reasonably object to legal recognition for a polygamous configuration. Unless we were to decide “motivation” was a reasonable criteria for privileging one kind of group arrangement over another.

    I mean … if some dude knows enough to quote Adrienne Rich and leave a few Indigo Girls CDs out where his dates can see them, then his string of poly babes is perfectly righteous, and “go him” for being knee deep in chicks who just don’t happen to be interested in bringing another dude into the mix; but if he has some quaint or even retrograde views about women and backs them up with literal readings from the Old Testament, then no civil union for him, or we force him to pick just one he actually gets to marry? I detect a looming legal minefield if the only difference between our two hypothetical lucky dudes is that one remains cock of the yard through manipulation, deceit and super-secret sex tricks and the other stays that way because he’s convinced his wives that God wants it that way.

    Not that poly dudes are inherently deceitful or manipulative … just that there have to be at least a few like that, and it seems difficult to meaningfully sort out the relative righteousness of our hypothetical dudes if they’re both rotten people who exploit their domestic partners, just for different reasons.

    But same here. I think “kinship” should be there for the declaring, and open to whatever family configuration seeks it.

    What might get prickly are cases where more than one partner in a unit steps forward with conflicting information about, say, an incapacitated group member’s medical wishes. Societally, we currently accept a level of lossiness in that particular sorting algorithm, taking it on faith that a spouse of some years’ standing generally won’t capriciously order the plug pulled, or maliciously insist someone be kept alive in great pain despite the absence of any reasonable hope of recovery. What do we do when two spouses step forward and call each other liars? Or do we end up having to up our overall game in that regard and require medical proxy documents be put on file along with a partnership registration, maybe specifically privileging one partner over the others? Even our current system doesn’t handle just one spouse very gracefully if parents get involved with conflicting claims and decide to get nasty about it.

    If someone in a group arrangement dies intestate, is it just a 33/33/33 or 20/20/20/20/20, or 10/(x10) split among survivors? Will the state care to sort out claims that a tertiary partner has less standing than a primary in terms of dividing up the property if the two are legally registered as coequal in the absence of some extra dimension in the registration process? If a group collectively adopts a child and no single member establishes a clear role as the primary parent, or if one does and then dies, how will custody be determined if the group splinters and five of the eight parents have an interest in raising the child independent of each other?

    I’m not asking all this to raise an objection, exactly. If Donald Rumsfeld had said “Democracy is messy” any other time than against the backdrop of a city he helped set on fire, with an attendant orgy of lawlessness he helped breed, I’d say “Good point, Don. Sometimes being free makes stuff tough to sort out.” It seems like expanding domestic partnerships to include the many configurations we know people are capable of conceiving and sustaining creates a new crop of questions we couldn’t completely anticipate during the mere drafting of enabling legislation.

    Or maybe some bright people already have. I wouldn’t know because I’m just broadly in favor of people doing what they need to carve out a happy place for themselves in this world … I’m beyond content with my one wife and so haven’t spend much time worrying about how to overcome the complications a second or third might introduce.

  3. mph says:

    July 10th, 2007 at 1:02 am (#)

    … and I should point out that the hypothetical about our polygamous/polyamorous lotharios wasn’t meant to imply that gl. would somehow disagree.

    I was just arguing with an imaginary, spluttering “but … but … that’s DIFFERENT!” objector of my own devising to better clarify my own initial reaction of indifference to the notion that polygamous people would get the same crack at group happiness a handful of libertines with four year degrees might earn under more permissive domestic partnership law.

    Kisses to all of them, if that’s what they’re into.

  4. gl. says:

    July 12th, 2007 at 1:11 am (#)

    polygamous marriages squick me out because of my preconception that they are so sexist. but a lot of non-polygamous marriages is sexist, too: i don’t like to outlaw something just based on the -potential- for abuse. which is why i support kinship models, including marriage, as long as -everyone- can participate.

    even 2-person disputes are messy; i’d imagine courts would deal with them as they do now: hear testimony and make decisions based on what the judge thinks is the right thing to do (whether we think that’s a good thing is a whole different argument). for instance, how do the assetts of an LLC work themselves out if a partner dies? i’d think the law might be similar for poly peoples, but a default even split unless the will says something different or unless someone contests seems fair to me. children would probably be handled like divorce cases in family court and incapacitation, as far as i can tell, is always heartbreaking (though in texas apparently it doesn’t matter if anyone wants to keep you alive, anyway).

    btw, sven’s father died about 2.5 years ago and his last wife is STILL in court trying to settle the estate claims made by other relatives. it turns out than even as his wife she has no claim on the house they bought together because her name isn’t on the deed. this -infuriates- me and pretty much negates my belief that a formal marriage bestows special property & liability protection/benefits. arrggghhh!

Leave a Response

© Michael Hall, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.