If marriage is “only” about the kids, then why aren’t Republicans for polygamy?

A trio of anti-gay activists penned a piece for CNN’s home page in which they argue that if gay marriage advocates are right, and that marriage is about love rather than just child-rearing, then gay marriage advocates must be for polygamy too.

And they wonder why we call them bigots.

But there’s a problem for Robert George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson, the authors of the CNN piece, that goes far beyond why three people are necessary to write an article that’s only 800 words and based on a stale old religious right template of [insert three out-of-context quotes from gay activists here to prove your point that millions of gay people nationwide are all crazy and undeserving of civil rights – it’s a tactic that was effectively used by southern racists to attack African-Americans for centuries].

Religious right advocates George, Girgis and Anderson provide the best argument I’ve ever heard for polygamy.

Before we begin – how f’d up, thinking that marriage isn’t about love.  (Todd Akin, your table is ready.) No wonder divorce is more common among religious right couples when they consider women, let alone marriage overall, nothing more than a baby-factory.  But if marriage is only about procreation and not love, then what better method for taking care of children, following religious right logic, then polygamy?

WARDUJ, AFGHANISTAN - JUNE 4: Three women wearing burqas follow their husband home on June 4, 2010 in Warduj, Afghanistan. They are all married to the same man and live in a conservative village. Tracing Tea / Shutterstock.com

WARDUJ, AFGHANISTAN – JUNE 4: Three women wearing burqas follow their husband home on June 4, 2010 in Warduj, Afghanistan. They are all married to the same man and live in a conservative village. Tracing Tea / Shutterstock.com

Imagine a kid having 3 parents.  That’s potentially three incomes to help that child thrive.  Or even better, two incomes and one full-time parent – what kids gets that?  Or even better, one really good income and two full-time parents – no kid gets that.  And what if a parent gets sick and dies, you’ve still got two left!  Or a parent goes to prison, same thing.  Or one parent divorces and leaves, the kid still has two left.  The list is endless of the benefits to the child, under George, Girgis and Anderson’s reasoning, of having the largest number of polyamorous parents as possible.

And if you have multiple husbands and wives in a heterosexual marriage, you up the chance for childbirth, since the potential for one spouse being infertile is vitiated by the additional spouses of the same gender all mating (and why not use the animal terminology since that is, after all, what George, Girgis and Anderson think of marriage, it’s only about sex).

And why not take their logic one step further.  If we’re really concerned about mankind not disappearing from this earth, which a number of religious right gay haters have argued, because (they say) permitting gay marriage will somehow cause straight people to all become gay and stop procreating, then why not outlaw marriage all together and just encourage everyone to have sex with as many people as possible, so that the maximal numbers of babies are born, thus ensuring that mankind survives?

Let’s face it: What mom hasn’t wished she could be in two places at once?  Now she can!

And what do you know, those very arguments – the same arguments the religious right is now using against gays – have been used to justify polygamy:

by default 2013-03-21 at 12.56.05 PM

Whether or not you’re a fan of polygamy – personally, I don’t get it – polygamy is the natural conclusion from the crazy, and somewhat sexist (because you know who’s really going to be responsible for all of those babies, and it’s not gonna be daddy in these folks’ churches) argument that George, Girgis and Anderson are putting forth about marriage being nothing more than a baby-maker.

It would seem that our friends in the religious right must be friends of polygamy.  Unless, of course, their arguments against gay marriage aren’t sincere at all, and are instead the typical Republican-right smokescreen to hide a visceral hatred of gay people.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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51 Responses to “If marriage is “only” about the kids, then why aren’t Republicans for polygamy?”

  1. rmthunter says:

    Two points: Don’t conflate “polygamy” and “polyamory” — the two are not the same.

    And polygamy is about as Biblical as it gets.

  2. Badgerite says:

    With all due respect, the institution of marriage was not dreamed up by a bunch of academics, no matter how august. Families are formed, at least in modern society, based on the dynamics of the PERSONAL. Unless we are going back to the days of divine right of kings and marriages designed to shore up the interests of the state and produce a male heir. Or maybe we want to emulate the example of “The Artist Formerly Known As Communist China”, where the bride and groom, when asked, would always say that what attracted them to their mate was their ‘political consciousness’ because, obviously marriage was allowed only to produce good future Communists. What the state does in giving legal recognition to marriage is to recognize the building blocks of society (families) which are formed by individuals of their own accord and for their own personal reasons. There are lots of informal relationships going on in society. But when that relationship becomes a marriage, there are all sorts of legal and financial ramifications that flow from that legal recognition of the relationship. Most of these changes in status have nothing to do with children or child rearing. They have to do with benefits, with economics, with legal rights and obligations. These apply whether there are children involved or not. Children can be one aspect of this legally recognized unit (family) but only one aspect. And while we are speaking of children children are reared best by those who care about them. That is the essential part of child rearing, is it not. The caring part. And that is most assuredly not a product of gender. As to polygamy, well that is a whole separate issue really. Whatever some academic somewhere has to say about their particular agenda in supporting the right of same sex marriage, the people who are actually asking to be allowed to marry are clearly not trying to diminish the institution. They are seeking to enjoy the benefits of it, like any body else. To me, it is quite clear, that that is their only ‘agenda’.

  3. Ninong says:

    What if Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are firmly convinced that it was never the original intent of the framers of the Constitution to recognize the union of of same-sex couple as a marriage, entitled to the rights and privileges of marriage?

  4. Ninong says:

    Back when I was an altar boy, in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, there were only altar boys, no girls allowed. In fact, it wasn’t until 1994 that John Paul II put out a memo saying it would now be okay to have altar girls (due mainly to the shortage of altar boy volunteers) but that the decision was up to the local diocese.

  5. Stev84 says:

    Immutability isn’t a requirement for heightened scrutiny. The important points are a history of discrimination and a lack of political power combined with the ability to contribute to society equally.

    Religion, gender and alienage are granted heightened scrutiny. Yet they can be changed.

  6. Sweetie says:

    Polygamy and polyandry would work well for bisexuals, although jealousy is always an issue.

  7. samiinh says:

    The is one other time when sexual activity is ok and not open to procreation in the RCC. That’s when the priest takes the alter boys into the backroom. Or the alter girls. That seems to be ok with the bishops and cardinals. And popes.

  8. Ninong says:

    That’s based strictly on religious dogma, which traces back to the Catholic Church, which holds that all acts of sexual intercourse must be open to procreation. That is still their official position. The exception is that it is up to the individual to decide if very unusual circumstances require them to avoid procreation, and in those cases, the only “birth-control” option sanctioned by the Church is abstinence during those times of the month (rhythm method) when procreation is likely. Condoms and any other form of birth control are not acceptable. Remember when Rick Santorum said he believed it should be up to each individual state if they wanted to ban the sale of condoms and other contraception in their state?

    Catholics don’t actually practice that but that’s what their church teaches.

    Any religion that holds that all acts of sex (any sex) must be “open to procreation” will use that as an excuse for rejecting any form of marriage that is not “open to procreation.” Using that interpretation, any opposite-sex couple can be said to be “open to procreation.” According to the Old Testament women are capable of bearing children when they’re in their ’90’s and that’s the Word of God, so there. The Catholic Church still thinks they run the world. In their view, marriage is still a Holy Sacrament first and foremost and the marriage license stuff is just some nonsense that the state requires for record-keeping purposes. Besides, they keep their own records.

  9. Law 'n order says:

    I am not aware of any place in the WORLD where one must prove ability to procreate to get married; In fact, I have never even heard of any place where a known inability to procreate is a bar to marriage.

  10. Ninong says:

    They even threw in the gratuitous charge of incest with her brother, George Boleyn, which was really absurd.

  11. Ninong says:

    True, except they don’t accept that the characteristic is innate. They insist it’s an “alternative lifestyle” that is a “choice.” That’s why they keeping pushing their bullshit therapies to “cure” homosexuality.

    There are members of the US Supreme Court who positively reject the premise that homosexual orientation is innate and not a choice. Let’s just call them the Opus Dei wing. They won’t vote for anything that is remotely pro-gay rights no matter what evidence is put before them.

  12. samiinh says:

    That is true. Anne Boylin was a conniving wench, plotting against her husband, or at least he was made to think so. Catherine Howard was a little tramp. Off with her head.

  13. BeccaM says:

    Very well put.

  14. Ninong says:

    Yeah, just like Galileo committed heresy, which usually required the death penalty but the Pope felt sorry for him and allowed him to just spend the rest of his life under house arrest. JPII finally proclaimed, some 300+ years after the trial, that the Church had been wrong on Galileo. On the other hand, Pope Emeritus Ratzi, once said that the Church was correct in its original decision on Galileo because he did in fact commit heresy by publishing something that contradicted official Catholic dogma at the time.

    One thing Henry VIII learned from his Catholic upbringing: treason is what you make of it provided you’re the one making the call.

  15. BeccaM says:

    Meanwhile here in New Mexico…

    The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing state officials to recognize same-sex marriage under current New Mexico law. The group announced Thursday that the lawsuit was filed in state district court on behalf of two lesbian couples who sought marriage licenses in Bernalillo County.


    As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, New Mexico marriage law is weird. The main provisions do not mention a required gender, although back in 2004 when some folks here were able to get licenses in the town of Bernalillo from a county clerk who decided to act in solidarity with Mayor Newsom in SF, they quickly stopped them. The Attorney General at the time, Patricia Madrid (D) issued an advisory stating that the statutory regs on the marriage form itself (one man, one woman) overrode everything else. On the other hand, our law is also clear in requiring the state to recognize all legal marriages from other states. The statutory list of prohibited marriages does not include gay and lesbian couples. To hang everything off a law on NM marriage license form content is a very slim reed, indeed.

    Our current state Attorney General Gary King (D) said in 2011 that he felt the state should be recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages and further said there was no rational or legal reason NN shouldn’t and couldn’t issue its own licenses. But he did not go so far as to issue an official directive or advisory.

    Anyway, the upcoming SCOTUS case has raised the visibility of the issue here, and now Santa Fe’s mayor, David Cross, is on the record as urging his local counties (Curry, Doña Ana, and Santa Fe) to issue licenses to same sex couples, although Santa Fe clerk Geraldine Salazar has already said she won’t do it, not without clear orders from the state.

    So now the question is still what AG King will do or say. He’s already signed onto an amicus to the Supremes asking them to strike down DOMA. There’s definite pressure for King to put himself on the line and just give a go-ahead.

    I suspect there will be much more court action before this one sees the light of day though…

  16. Buford says:

    Actually, the only issue with polygamy is that the laws providing/managing civil benefits that we currently provide to married couples… tax codes, inheritance, custody, etc… are not set up to comprehend group marriage. Those laws can, however, be applied directly to gay couples with no fuss whatsoever.

  17. Ninong says:

    Henry VIII, “Defender of the Faith,” beheaded only two of his wives, #2 and #5. It’s easy to remember if just repeat this couple of times: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

    Amazing that British monarchs proudly retain the title, Defender of the Faith, which was bestowed on Henry VIII by Pope Leo X. I think he sort of abdicated the title Fidei Defensor when he started up his own church, demolished the monasteries and stole their property, to say nothing of what he did to any Catholic prelates who refused to recognize him as their spiritual leader. Defensor indeed. Even our “Fearless Advocate” has finally come around and made some belated moves to advocate for the promises he ran on in 2008.

  18. Buford says:

    It’s actually simpler than that. Denying gay people the right to obtain the civil benefits provided to straight married couples represents a discriminatory application of our laws based upon a characteristic or trait that is innate (i.e., sexual attraction to the same sex). Being polyamorous is truly a lifestyle choice, not an innate characteristic… so any attempt to make gay marriage and group marriage analogous is too flawed to even consider worthy of arguing against.

  19. nicho says:

    Which is kind of their stock in trade.

  20. nicho says:

    As I said above, they have an answer for that.

  21. nicho says:


  22. Ninong says:

    Without polygamy there would be no Mitt Romney. He’s a great-grandson of the fourth wife of his great-grandfather.

    On the other hand, polygamy can be hazardous to your health. Mitt’s great-great grandfather, Parley Pratt, who was often called “the Apostle Paul of Mormonism,” had twelve wives. The twelfth wife, Eleanor McLean, was still married to Hector McLean when she was “sealed in celestial marriage” to Apostle Parley Pratt, who was one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On May 13, 1857, Pratt was shot and stabbed by Hector McLean on a farm in Arkansas. The Mormons consider him a martyr and have erected a nice monument in his memory.

    One thing polygamy did do is produce lots and lots of Mormons who are related to each other. As of 2011, it was estimated that there were somewhere between 30,000 – 50,000 living descendants of Parley Pratt.

    Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Steve Young, is a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young. I’m not sure if former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is a descendant of Joseph Smith, the LDS Church founder, but he is a lifelong practicing Mormon, and he did go to college in Utah, so maybe he is.

  23. BeccaM says:

    And infertile men. Which is more of them than one might imagine.

  24. goulo says:

    Good point; if polygamy produced Romney, then that’s kind of an argument against polygamy.

  25. samiinh says:

    Romney is the product of polygamy. His great grandfather had several wives.

  26. samiinh says:

    Well, they had committed treason, which required the death penalty.

  27. samiinh says:

    In what state in the US is one required to (a) procreate (b) wish to procreate (c) to be capable of procreation in order to obtain a state issued marriage license? NONE. They have no case.

  28. nicho says:

    As you might imagine, they have an answer for that. (They have an answer for everything.)

  29. Dawn Vincent says:

    I guess postmenopausal women can just forget about marrying late in life.

  30. nicho says:

    Henry didn’t kill his loved ones. He only killed those he was kind of pissed off at.

  31. nicho says:

    It actually was a societal decision (way back when), not so much the state. Men didn’t want to see the property they had fought for (sometimes literally) divided and subdivided until it was worthless. Women also didn’t want to see their kids screwed out of their inheritance by some other woman’s kids.

  32. Naja pallida says:

    While it is true, property can only be divided so much… but that should be up to the individual(s) who own the property, not the state.

  33. DLRnATL says:

    Methinks those who’d do that would be very Henry VIII and kill their loved ones.

  34. Zorba says:

    Sad, but all too true.
    The word “hypocrites” was invented with just these people in mind.

  35. Indigo says:

    They’re just floundering around spewing nonsense.

  36. nicho says:

    Monogamy is traditionally associated with notions of property. When people are nomads or there is no idea of personal ownership of real estate, polygamy is usually the norm (at least until the meddlesome missionaries show up). Once people have property to divide, monogamy comes into play. After all, you can only divide that farm up so many times.

  37. BeccaM says:

    Nah. All they have to do is fall to their knees, cry a few crocodile tears, and declare that Jeebus has forgiven them their transgressions.

  38. BeccaM says:

    There’s also a difference between ‘traditional’ polygamy — one husband, multiple wives — and group marriage, which can have any number of wives and/or husbands.

    If you want to know the truth, I’m for freedom of association and pin all this on government and religion trying to dictate what is and is not a valid family for the purpose of giving them preferred status in our society and culture. The fact the anti-marriage equality side has latched onto breeding as the key justification for marriage existing at all only proves my point.

  39. Drew2u says:

    There are no words that can describe what I wish would happen to the creatures who think marriage is just about procreation, as several of my heterosexual family members cannot have children.

  40. Stev84 says:

    Urk yeah, I had that term “institution of marriage”. It’s so ridiculous. Unfortunately even some pro-gay people use it.

  41. Stev84 says:

    If everyone freely consents, there is nothing wrong with it. As practiced in most places though it’s always to the detriment of women.

    When it’s common in society it’s even bad for everyone. Logically not everyone can have two or three wives. There aren’t enough women around. So they marry young girls. Or the bride price increases so much that many men can hardly afford to get married. Some argue that the practice also contributes to physical and sexual violence against women.

  42. Zorba says:

    Oh, geez, Becca, you have more patience than I do.
    And don’t give them any ideas about banning divorce and criminalizing adultery! I’m sure there are lots of those kooks who would love to see that happen.
    ( Except, of course, they would only ban divorce for “regular” people and they would only jail “regular” people for adultery. Serial adulterers and divorcees like Newt Gingrich would somehow get a pass.)

  43. Naja pallida says:

    Maybe I’m alone, but I’m for polygamy. As long as it is consenting adults, I don’t care what kind of arrangement anyone wants to have with other consenting adults and call themselves a family. The problem is, polygamy has traditionally involved all manner of non-consenting issues, from child brides and arranged marriages, to outright slavery – most often specifically in the name of patriarchal religion and means of consolidating power over others.

    Marriage is no longer a property arrangement. Marriage is no longer a religious or societal requirement. Modern marriage is absolutely nothing like “traditional” marriage as expressed in the Bible, or pretty much any religious text for that matter. What constitutes a marriage shouldn’t be up to the state at all, and should be reduced to a matter of contract law. If people want to have a church marriage, or a “celestial” marriage, or whatever they want to call it, outside of the civil contractual requirement, that is also their business and should have nothing to do with government.

  44. citizen_spot says:

    Ouch! ; )

  45. BeccaM says:

    Okay… I made myself read their tired little essay. For those who don’t want to bother:

    – Marriage is mainly for breeders. The fact that infertile hetero couples get married is incidental and indeed suspect.
    – They assert without proof that biological children of heterosexual couples are better off than in any other kind of family.
    – Single parents and those who have children without marrying? You’re bad people, according to them, and so are your kids.
    – They believe “widespread divorce” is undermining the institution of marriage…so I guess maybe we should be talking about banning divorce first and criminalizing adultery, no?
    – They make repeated reference to the “institution” of marriage, as if it is this monolithic entity, a social and legal construct that has never changed since humans first started doing the hokey-pokey with each other.

    Taking apart one key sentence toward the end:

    “Redefining marriage (Which has already happened repeatedly throughout human history, most notably by removing the presumed chattel property status of women) would, by further eroding its central norms (Whose ‘norms’? Christian norms? Biblical norms, which included polygamy, and fundamentalist Islam which still does? Polynesian norms, which include polyandry in some cases? Previous European norms which presumed that a man and a woman simply living together long enough were legally ‘married’ through Common Law? Which is it?), weaken an institution (‘Institution.’ You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it does.) that has already been battered by widespread divorce (Uh oh, Newt and BillO — they’re gunning for YOU now!), out-of-wedlock child bearing (Message: Illegitimate children grow up to be storybook villains and you naughty single parents, it’ll be your fault.) and the like (We ran out of things to say — 300 words is hard for bigots to think up together).”

  46. UncleBucky says:

    1000 people capable of telling the neighborhood about the “extent” of your personal “business”. Not a good thing. Not a good thing. ;o)

  47. Ninong says:

    Yes, everyone should have 700 wives and 300 concubines like Solomon.

  48. Ninong says:

    Did they mention goats? Usually they claim that if gay marriage is legalized then there would be nothing wrong with marrying a goat. Republicans are not known for their smarts. Just look at all the data that shows that the better educated the sample polled the more likely they are to be Democrats. That’s why all the college towns poll as more Liberal than the rural areas.

  49. BeccaM says:

    You stole the words right out of my head. ;-)

  50. nicho says:

    What’s wrong with polygamy? It’s very biblical.

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