Friday, February 19, 2010
Patrick Lee and I will be publishing a response to Andy Koppelman's paper. Andy is a very smart and very good guy, and a worthy opponent. We believe we can show, however, that his declaration of victory over advocates of traditional norms of sexual morality and the conjugal conception of marriage is no more warranted than Andy's previous declarations of victory. See, for example, Koppelman, Andrew, "Is Marriage Inherently Heterosexual?" American Journal of Jurisprudence, 42:51-95 (1997), and John Finnis's devastating reply in "The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: Some Philosophical and Historical Observations," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 42:97-134 (1997).
One of the many propositions we will set forth and defend (and defy Andy and others who take his line to defeat) is that the redefinition of marriage to remove the element of sexual complementarity perforce eliminates any ground of principle for supposing that marriage is the union of two persons, as opposed to the union of three or more in a polyamorous sexual partnership. On this point, we find ourselves in agreement with many to Andy's left, including Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich, Chai Feldblum (though she had her name removed after she was nominated to serve on the EEOC), Kendall Thomas, Nan Hunter, Judith Butler, Michael Warner, and the more than 300 other self-described "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and allied activists, scholars, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, and community organizers" who believe that the principle on the basis of which marriage should (as they see it) be redefined to accommodate same-sex partnerships entails the like recognition of inter alia polyamorous unions (relationships in which there is "more than one conjugal partner"). See their statement Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships. Professor Lee and I will argue that though their premise (shared with Koppelman) is unsound, their logic is impeccable. So we believe that this debate is really (and unavoidably) about two radically different visions of sexuality and marriage; it is not properly characterized (as Michael P. characterizes it) as a debate about whether to grant or deny "access to civil marriage to the same-sex couples who intend for their unions to be lifelong, monogamous unions of faithful love." Speaking of Michael P., I notice that he was "struck" by Koppelman's conclusion:
Opponents of same-sex marriage today face [an] embarrassment. They are eager to protect their distinctive conception of family. But that conception depends on marginalizing the families of others and denying them legal recognition. In the long run, the invocation of “family” as a reason to beat up on gay people will seem as weird as the invocation of “freedom” did as a defense of the Confederacy.
Laying aside Andy unworthy rhetoric (especially for a guy who, as Rob rightly says, usually "takes his opponents' arguments seriously") about "beating up on people" and the utterly dubious effort to tar defenders of traditional norms of sexual morality and the conjugal conception of marriage as being like those Confederates whose high-minded claims were embarrassed by the fact that the freedom they were fighting for depended on the slavery of others, I would like to know (and perhaps some of the signers of Beyond Same-Sex Marriage might like to know) whether Michael would be equally "struck" by the conclusion if it read as follows: "Opponents of polyamorous relationships and their legal recognition face an embarrassment. They are eager to protect their distinctive conception of family. But that conception depends on marginalizing the families of others---including (Newsweek reports) the more than 500,000 polyamorous families in the United States today---and denying them legal recognition. In the long run, the invocation of 'family' as a reason to beat up on people who find love and fulfillment in multiple partner relationships will seem as weird as the invocation of 'freedom' did as a defense of the Confederacy." I'm "struck" by the question Steinem, Ehrenreich, and their colleagues in effect put to their fellow supporters of same-sex marriage: Do you intend to throw other sexual minorities overboard because they happen to find their fulfillment by living in ways that do not mimic the traditional norm of monogamous and exclusive love?