Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gay Rights and Polyamory, The Next Front

The rights for same-sex couples to marry has been at the forefront of civil rights in the U.S. and quite a few other nations for the last five or six years.  While many states have voted one way or another, further entrenching each sides commitments to progression or regression, there are many of us out there who've already personally closed the door on this issue and are simply waiting for the rest of the world to play catch up.

Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? Of course.  It's not debatable to me. It's a no-brainer. It's no more a question than, 'should I be allowed to buy an apple at the grocery store and eat it in my own home?'.  Duh.

For those of us who have thoroughly decided this issue though (on either side of the debate) and are ready to move on, we have to face the next issue coming up.  It's one that the religious right has already had nightmares about.  The Family Institute's Laurie Higgins summed it up well, saying, "“Some will take offense at my comparison of homosexuality to polyamory or adult consensual incest because — they argue — those conditions are immoral and homosexuality is not."

There are many hot catch-phrases out there right now.  Things like 'redefining marriage' or 'homosexuality isn't a choice' are repeated ad nauseum on both sides. Both sides have a tool box of verbiage and hyperbole that they use over and over, to little effect on those who are in their hardened moral bunkers.

Interestingly, last week, in Australia, the first real visible crack appeared in the 'left' side of this whole thing.  "Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has come under attack from polyamorists, including some who are members of her party, for insisting that marriage should be between two people of any sex, but no more than two."  In the same article in the Australian National Affairs, "Alex Greenwich, the national convener of Australian Marriage Equality, told The Australian that his lobby group's concept of marriage was "what it's always been" of "two people who rely on each other in a relationship to the exclusion of all others"."

The answer to these quandaries will play out the same way they did with slavery, women's right to vote and every other significant social equality movement in history.  Slowly but surely, a tiny war will be won for a group of people, while still marginalizing another group. What people need to do is step back and see is the larger pattern.  There are only two directions:  more freedoms for all of us or fewer freedoms for all of us.

You only need two words, and an understanding of their meaning to solve this whole problem: Liberty and Consent.  Apply them to any issue, any problem and you have the solution.  Should two men be allowed to marry?  Yes, as it is their liberty to do so, so long as both consent.  Should two men and a woman be allowed to marry? Yes, as it is their liberty to do so, so long as all three consent.  Should a person be allowed to shoot heroine? Yes, as long as he/she consents, it is their liberty.  Should a person be allowed to sell their body for sex? Yes, as long as he she/consents, it is their liberty. (And before some of you out there jump all over me for this - consent, by definition, must be obtained from someone who has all the components of being *able* to consent.)

Of course, this is all great in theory and it's a nice equation on paper.  But what about the realities and practicalities of dealing with this issue when it comes to government and legislation?  There's an ugly truth there and it's one that I'm afraid is going to not be very popular.  The government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all.  It has no business encouraging or promoting its citizens into any kind of social constructs.  It's completely unethical to give massive tax breaks to a married couple with six children while a single person pays massively higher proportional taxes.  A citizen is a citizen is a citizen.  The government should only see a human being.

If government stepped away from marriage, then families could make their own legally binding contracts that worked for them, regarding wills, inheritance, etc.  People could go to whatever church they want to attend and get married by whomever wants to marry them.  If people want their church to change their definition of marriage then it can be up to the members of that faith. Freedom of religion wins too.

So, rather than spend years on gay marriage rights, only to re-entrench ourselves with debates about polyamory and consensual incest, can we just step back and look at the problem from the larger perspective?  People have a right to their own bodies.  People have a right to give consent to others regarding their bodies.  The government needs to recognize the values of *all* of it citizens. It can do so by getting out of the marriage business entirely.

Remember, we need to fight for every person's rights. That means the people we disagree with too.  The only thing we can all agree on is that we want the right to decide for ourselves what's best for us.  So, I'll stick up for your rights to believe whatever you want for yourself.  As Thomas Paine said, "He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

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