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The Problem with All Marriage…

May 27th, 2013 Posted in Civil Liberties by

I wrote ‘The Problem with Gay Marriage” because I had questions that I felt need to be answered and, luckily for me, Barry Stocker has attempted to answer them. Barry makes some great points and I do appreciate that ‘free love’ is not everyone’s cup of tea, but…

Perhaps Barry is also right that it probably shouldn’t be the top legislative issue for any government. However, it is relevant to the relationship between the State and consenting adults.  The United Kingdom is incredibly homogenous. Not as homogenous as places like Scandinavia but a great deal more homogeneous than the United States. There is still stigma attached to completely valid romantic relationships simply because they fall outside the norm. Adding ‘monogamous homosexual’ to the list of approved relationships is all very well but what I’m saying is this – let’s rip up that f*cking list. ‘Cause frankly, I’m sick of it. Also, it is absolutely necessary to liberty and equality that there should be no such list. I think it is an absurd anachronism that we validate some adult relationships in this way and not others.

Barry says -

The manner in which ‘marriage equality’ has been established in Britain is flawed. It is not complete equality since divorce for gays cannot be on the grounds of adultery, apparently because of lack of agreement on how to define the relevant sexual acts. Gays can have civil unions and straights cannot. Sorting these issues out is secondary though compared with the issue of whether the state should provide marriages.

But those issues are precisely why the State should not be providing marriages. There is no way I can think of that the State can provide any official sanction flexible enough to encompass all these relationships. This is, in essence, the problem. Our brightest policy boffins can’t even agree on defining the relevant sexual acts. So why do some relationships get State sanctification and others don’t? Why must sexual relationships be defined and by whose authority? What about loving adult relationships that are romantic but not sexual? It is absurdity to even begin. It’s not so much that the State should not – it’s also that the State can’t.

Does this make state provision of marriage unnecessary and even harmful? I have to say no, at least for the foreseeable future. No great harm comes to any couple, because other couples have a state licensed marriage.

Marriage may be popular but the growth of polyamory is in some ways a reaction to the disappointment so many have felt with the monogamous ideal. Enforcing the notion that a monogamous relationship is the only form of relationship the State/Society deems acceptable increases the pressure to conform and the alienation of those whom neither have the ability nor the will to conform to this ideal. Saying to homosexuals, “We’ll tolerate you only if you live exactly like us,” doesn’t sound like such a big victory to me.

Polyamory, or what used to be known as ‘free love’, has been tried at least since utopian communities of the nineteenth century,  has never taken long term, and appears likely to mostly lead to patriarchal dominant males accumulating partners. There appears to be a very strong human inclination towards at least trying to have a long term unique relationship, often with attempts at strict monogamy. Of course such relationships often end, and covert polyamory often creeps in where they do last.

I don’t know what Barry’s evidence is for stating ‘polyamory… has never taken long term,’ since it has consistently existed despite huge official efforts to stamp it out. Societies that profess to valuing monogamy have often officially taken this stance but the patriarchal dominant males have been free to pursue unofficial ‘covert polyamory’ whilst the women have had less opportunity to do so. I will agree that human beings appear to be inclined to monogamy, there appears to be more evidence to suggest that human beings are inclined to a loose monogamy rather than a strict monogamy as is suggested by Barry’s last sentence.

I believe we should discuss contracts suitable for polyamory, as well as those couples who do not find the standard marriage contract satisfactory, but unless polyamory greatly increases in popularity and marriage greatly declines in popularity, I very much doubt that the cause of liberty would be served by attempts to abolish state marriage or put polyamorous relationships on an equal legal basis.

Like I said, there is no way I can think of that the State can provide any official sanction flexible enough to encompass all these relationships. That is the nature of the State. Unyielding, unresponsive and one-size fits all.

One Response to “The Problem with All Marriage…”

  1. Barry Stocker Says:

    Sara, I did maybe over state what I said about polyamory not having long term appeal. I’m happy to agree that it has always existed, will always exist, and should be given more legal recognition. I was thinking of how hippy communes and 19th century utopian communities could not sustain polyamory as a community norm where that was tried, and how powerful men within enclosed communities might use the situation. The lesson there presumably is you cannot sustain a community of any kind of complexity, or variety, around a pure commitment to polyamory.

    I think we have different assumptions about the state and are not going to reach full agreement there. As far as I am concerned where the state provides a popular service, in a form of very recognisable contract universally understood, at little cost, there is little to be gained by eliminating it. Essentially the state provides a model contract for intimate relationships, which many people find very useful. We should certainly consider the state doing the same for polyamorous relationships, but of course as with monogamous relationships, the model may no suit everyone. As with monogamous relationships people should be able to choose between a state licensed model contract and more individually negotiated contracts. Polyamorous relationships by their nature might be more suited to privately negotiated contracts than monogamous relationships, we should let time give us some of the answers.

    If the state model contract declines in popularity over time then it can be disposed of, but I just find it unnecessary from a liberty loving point of view to dispose of state activities which are small in financial cost and more enabling than restrictive. Couples/polyamorous groups can right now choose to make private contracts. Equality may require some legal changes to make sure that such contracts can be enforced, but I am not enough of a lawyer to know. In any case, I think that is the kind of issue to concentrate on for the near future.

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