Print Story Gay Marriage, and Polygamy.
Marriage
By wiredog (Wed May 21, 2008 at 08:44:10 AM EST) (all tags)
Snippets, reworked and re-organized, from here (basically a bit of creative plagiarism on my part) discussing two questions: Why is the government involved in marriage anyway? Why is polygamy a problem?

Mainly kept here for possible future reference. The assumption is that legalization of gay marriage inevitably leads to legalization of some form of plural marriage.

I should note here that when I lived in Utah I knew several people who left, or were expelled from, the FLDS town on the UT/AZ border. That's not the nastiest polygamist group, but it's certainly not pleasant. One such group, in SLC, horsewhipped a young girl who tried to escape. She re-escaped, went to the hospital, and all hell broke loose. That's when the current crackdown began.



First: Marriage

Suppose you got the government completely out of marriage. What then? Can you replace marriage with simple contracts?

People can enter into all kinds of contracts. But those contracts rarely specify every possible contingency. Thus,the state offers default rules. Marriage is no different. Most people want their spouse to inherit most of their estate, make medical decisions, have a cause of action for wrongful death, etc. Hence: civil marriage, which comes complete with a set of default rules which accord broadly with the wishes of married couples all over.

You could write a contract which set up those rights, without calling it a marriage, but:

It's reasonable to assume that the government is capable of enforcing such a contract. There is, or should be (in order for enforcement to work), a place for the government to register such contracts, so it (and you) knows who is contracted to whom, the way it registers land titles. If you're entering in to such a contract, it would be good to know that, in the event of the person to whom you're contracted winding up in the hospital, you are not going to be surprised by some other person who was also so contracted without your knowing. So government is not out of marriage completely.

A contract of this type is a very serious deal. Hypothetical: A rich elderly man hires a housekeeper, and eventually dies of old age. The housekeeper then shows up with a piece of paper with his and her names to a contract like the above, and she is therefore the next of kin, and inherits the man's millions. The kids say "Are you nuts?"

Because of this the government will have reasons to demand certain standards in signing the contracts, similar to the two witnesses required for wills. This may include requiring witnesses, and perhaps requiring the contract to be signed in front of a judge. This is so that, if the validity of a contract is disputed, there's more to go on than the word of just one interested party. So there's a place for government again.

We now have the government enforcing contracts, and regulating under what conditions the contracts will be signed. If the government is going to regulate under which conditions the contract will be signed, then it has to specify what's different about a contract that requires two witnesses and a judge from a contract that doesn't. Once we've got to the stage of government involvement in enforcing such a contract, and in registering who is who's next-of-kin, and in enforcing certain standards to check that the people involved actually both consented, what's wrong about the government supplying a standard contract?

And, once we have the government supplying a standard contract, perhaps we could permit the government to say that if two people have signed this contract, they are married?


On to the problems with polygamy...

Introduce large-scale polygyny or polyandry, and you have a problem, a large number of "spare" un-partnerable people (the FLDS "lost boys", for example), primarily young men. These young men will be awfully angry. If history is any guide, mobs of pissed off young men rarely have a soothing effect on the society at large.

Some legal questions:

  • Who would retain custody of children at the end of a plural union? The biological parents only? Would co-spouses have visitation rights?
  • Could a group of many people obtain testimonial privilege in court (the right not to testify against one's spouse) simply by entering into a giant plural union?
  • Further on the above. Since polygamy will presumably come after gay marriage is legal, what is to stop the establishment of criminal gangs who intermarry to escape testimony against their spouses?
  • How would we tax members of plural unions? (If you think the "marriage penalty" is complicated now....)
  • If four members of a five-member plural union died, would the remaining survivor be eligible to retain all their Social Security benefits or work pensions? Where would we draw the line?
  • Could I marry ten foreign nationals and bestow citizenship via marriage on all of them?
  • Surviving spouses are entitled to social security survivor benefits on the theory that a woman who has foregone employment in favor of a domestic life is entitled not to starve after the death of her husband. A pension sufficient for one becomes insufficient when split 10 ways.
A few hypotheticals:
  • You’re a woman married to a man who, once polygamy is declared legal, elopes with another woman. This enrages you and you decide to divorce him. Before his second marriage you were entitled to half his estate. How has this changed?
  • You’re a man without a living will who is married to an even number of women, half of whom want to keep you on life support, half of whom want to pull the plug. Who breaks the tie?
  • While driving your car you run over and kill a man with 20 wives. After the wrongful death class action is approved, how is loss of consortium quantified? Is it loss of consortium x 20, or does each wife get 1/20th of the value of the husband’s consortium?

It's not that answers to these questions can't be crafted, it's that a court could not simply declare a right to polygamy without running into a thicket of practical problems. Polygamy would require changes to basically every aspect of marriage under the law -- a hypothetical bill legalizing polygamy would have to be hundreds of pages long. These are not, of course, the only questions that would have to be answered.


From Slate, Marrying your cousin. Which also happens in polygamist groups.
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Gay Marriage, and Polygamy. | 37 comments (37 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Ukian Answers by anonimouse (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed May 21, 2008 at 10:11:20 AM EST
a) Custody of children: Co spouses would be able to argue for visitation rights depending on involvment, using an existing UK House of Lords precedent, where the lesbian partner of the mother was able to argue that she had a substantial role in the childs upbringing. At the Appeal stage, she even won Residency, which was only overturned in the HoL.
b) Yes, but see following answer
c) There is a right to not testify, however if they have the goods on one gang member there is nothing preventing plea bargaining for testimony. It is a right to not testify against your partner, but you are not prevented from doing so.
d) In the UK, whilst polygamy is illegal, polygamous relationships lawfully established in other countries are recognised. Wives are entitled to benefits as single wives. (recent change in law). In general UK taxation no longer has marriage advantages built in, explaining why less people getting married.
e)Yes, where such pensions are tranferrable to the spouses.
f) Yes you could, but proof would be required that a marriage was not a sham and survived for a substantial time.
g) Pensions. The 10 way split thing is again irrelevant. The state provides a basic pension to each widow, any further pensions are a matter of private arrangements.

Hypotheticals
=====
a) all partners in a marriage must give consent for other members to join the marriage; that eliminates hypothetical (1) as W1 has not consented for W2 to join the marriage. M must divorce W1 to marry W2 unless W1 consents.
b) The answer involves swimsuits and mud wrestling. Winner decides.
c) The man has an economic value to the marriage which must be compensated for. Punitive damages are a separate matter.

Also, one notes in passing that you assume 1 man and lots of women. There may be cases with the reverse.


Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
cases with the reverse by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed May 21, 2008 at 10:24:16 AM EST
Even more fun: cases with multiple men and multiple women.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Yes, there's the rub by debacle (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed May 21, 2008 at 11:30:43 AM EST
You can't even attempt to start considering the sort of cf that a many-to-many relationship would cause

IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

[ Parent ]
Other than a few hippy freaks... by NoMoreNicksLeft (3.00 / 3) #7 Wed May 21, 2008 at 12:55:14 PM EST
This wouldn't happen at all. I'd think it'd be rare.

Few polygamist cultures on earth were ever anything other than 1 man, n women.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
If everyone got a guaranteed minimum income by lm (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed May 21, 2008 at 11:42:47 AM EST
Quite a few of the legal entanglements would become irrelevant if the feds gave everyone a guaranteed minimum income. Quite a bit of the financial rigmarole is based on the idea of making certain that a non-working spouse won't starve to death, penniless in the gutter.

Even more of the entanglements would become irrelevant with a 100% death tax which the government could then use to fund the guaranteed minimum income.

The largest remaining problem would then be custody issues.

Oh, and getting enough people to agree on such a drastic change to the way things work. I don't see the political will for such a massive change in the way things work anytime soon. But if I were architecting a state from scratch, I think I'd leave marriage in the hands of the Church/Synagogue/Coven/OrLackThereof and have the government be as little involved as possible.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
guaranteed minimum income.... by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed May 21, 2008 at 11:57:28 AM EST
I assume you also plan to have the government regulate prices, since inflation would immediate make such a thing worthless.

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.
[ Parent ]
Based on what studies? by lm (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu May 22, 2008 at 02:10:48 AM EST
I've heard the same argument about minimum wage legislation but it turns out that in real life, it seldom works that way.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
The reason the minimum wage didn't drive up by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu May 22, 2008 at 06:11:28 AM EST
inflation was because it affects a tiny number of people. Offering to pay all the unemployed, forever, is a rather different kettle of fish.

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.
[ Parent ]
Odd how that works by lm (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu May 22, 2008 at 06:35:23 AM EST
Most studies suggest that raising the minimum wage creates a rise in wages for most workers, not just the ones that get minimum wage.

A guaranteed minimum income isn't all that different. The US already does it for large swaths of the populace: Social Security, ADC, etc.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
You'll have to provide cites on that. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu May 22, 2008 at 07:10:55 AM EST
Why would boosting minimum wage have any affect at all on people who make more?

And, if it does, how could that possible not trigger inflation?

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.

[ Parent ]
Wages are a cost to producers by lm (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:08:51 AM EST
Rising wages only cause inflation when workers (a) don't increase productivity proportionately or (b) the firm is in a market segment where they can pass the increased cost along to consumers without losing market share. The largest effect of increasing the minimum wage is usually to lower net profits. Besides, a guaranteed minimum income wonn't increase costs to employers if it is funded by a death tax.

The last three hikes in the US minimum wage were 1991, 1997 and 2007. The inflation rate of 92-95,  98-01, and in the present year is truly impressive, no?


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Inflation is a function of the money supply. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:21:35 AM EST
It doesn't mater who is providing the money. A broad based increase in wages - whether the funds come from producers or from the government - will increase the money supply, driving up prices.

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.
[ Parent ]
It does matter who is providing the money by lm (2.00 / 0) #33 Thu May 22, 2008 at 11:31:16 AM EST
Decreased profits (or even a government payout) doesn't increase the money supply in the same way that printing new money (or issuing new government bonds or increasing or decreasing the federal funds rate) does. We're talking about the particulars of alternatives with regards to how existing money is being redistributed within the system.

On the face of it, redistributing existing money from the top to the bottom of the consumer chain will only cause inflation in those goods where there is some sort of scarcity. I suppose that in some cases, the equilibrium prices of some goods might shift if more people have more money to spend on discretionary goods, but I think you're overestimating how much more money would actually be out there.

Do you know if increases in the earned income credit in the US were followed by increased inflation? I don't know one way or the other, but I suspect that they weren't.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... I should admit, however... by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:28:38 AM EST
that driving up employer costs does also cause inflation.

Also...

The last three hikes in the US minimum wage were 1991, 1997 and 2007. The inflation rate of 92-95,  98-01, and in the present year is truly impressive, no?

This is completely consistent with my claim that the minimum wage affects a tiny number of people.

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.

[ Parent ]
BTW, according the the dept of labor... by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:50:26 AM EST
Only 2.2% of all workers earn minimum wage. and most of them are in food service, which means they supplement their pay with tips. (Often to the tune of an addition $20-$30 per hour at a typical cheap family restaurant...)

Why would a 0.50 cent raise for 2% of workers affect the over all pay scales?

--
Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.

[ Parent ]
rationale by lm (2.00 / 0) #32 Thu May 22, 2008 at 11:21:39 AM EST
A worker has a choice between working at an above minimum wage job or working at several minimum wage jobs at a lesser wage. The minimum wage goes up. Minimum wage jobs now pay the same rate. The worker now has a more freedom of movement within the labor pool with regards to wages. If the employer wants to keep the worker, something needs to be done to make the present job more attractive than the minimum wage jobs that are available. The end result is that the worker is either offered a wage increase or some other benefit to stay in the present position.

Of course, the above does assume that the average worker who is working near minimum wage is a rational agent in the economic sense of the term. That assumption may not hold.

But the other thing is that the 2% number, correct me if I'm wrong, only tells how many workers are working at minimum wage. It doesn't say how many workers are working at employers where the pay scales are defined by minimum wage + x which is a pretty common corporate policy for low skill jobs.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Ah, polygamy. by NoMoreNicksLeft (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed May 21, 2008 at 12:53:50 PM EST
How the gays hate to hear this mentioned.

Answers:

1. This would require new rules. A better system seems to have its flaws too, as it's difficult to work out without limiting the number of children a person can legally have.

The woman's first child is her own, she always retains custody. Any further children belong to the father. So, if we limit people to the number of children that keeps population (mostly) stable, a couple has two children, and when they split, each gets one.

This still works through divorce and remarriage, as if the new husband has no children, the woman can have another, which becomes his.

But, the system doesn't really work without the limits either... what do you do if they can have more than 2? Alternate back and forth?

  1. Possibly. However, this legal protection is often evaded. Takes work and a sneaky prosecutor, but apparently there are legal openings where testimony can be compelled.
  2. Mostly cultural obstacles. The Crips aren't exactly known for their sexual mores, but still... the idea that the gangleader's wife can be banged by one and all, that just won't work.
  3. We already tax them. Polygamists often have a single legal wife, and subsequent wives are merely adult dependents. No reason to change that other than the labels.
  4. Who knows. Social Security is a hunk of shit anyway, and it'd be amusing to see it fail even more quickly because of something like this.
  5. Presumably, there'd be rules regulating this. Even with one foreign wife, they keep a close watch. Absent a culture where polygamy is the norm, they'd probably (rightly) call it fraud.
  6. Right or wrong, this would probably be interpreted so that all receive full benefits, rather than splitting. If you have one minor child, or twenty, all get the same amount. So there is some sort of precedent.
Hypotheticals:

1. This seems little different than divorce and remarriage. Likely 50% of his pre-2nd-marriage assets.

However, one might make a case that whatever the cultural rules are for this polygamy, supposing there are any, they apply. So a muslim that marries a second wife, should the first divorce him, is entitled to whatever muslim rules permit, and only that.

  1. The judge. I don't see how this scenario changes anything.
  2. I don't see how it could be x20. You only killed one man, not twenty. Otherwise, the value of the man is determined by how many women he persuaded to marry him.
It's not that answers to these questions can't be crafted, it's that a court could not simply declare a right to polygamy without running into a thicket of practical problems. Polygamy would require changes to basically every aspect of marriage under the law -- a hypothetical bill legalizing polygamy would have to be hundreds of pages long. These are not, of course, the only questions that would have to be answered.

And yet, the alternative isn't nice either. It still suggests that the government has the right to limit who are valid marriage partners. I don't see why this is a problem, myself... but if you do see it as a problem, making up reasons why it's good in one place and another another is just dishonest.

Then again, I got modded down to -20 on reddit for suggesting that gays always could marry. So what do I know.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

Eh? by gpig (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu May 22, 2008 at 02:00:37 AM EST
How the gays hate to hear this mentioned.

Why? Do you have evidence that there are more homosexual people than heterosexual that want some kind of plural marriage?
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(,   ,') -- eep

[ Parent ]
It's more a matter by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu May 22, 2008 at 02:49:44 AM EST
of the gays not liking the slippery slopedness of the argument.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Slippery slopedness? by gpig (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu May 22, 2008 at 03:01:20 AM EST
Whether you allow any two people to marry regardless of sex, and whether you allow more than two people to marry, are separate issues. If you believe that one leads to the other, please explain how.

The only connection between the two that I can see is that both are potential reforms to current marriage laws, which is a tenuous connection indeed.
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(,   ,') -- eep

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I believe it. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu May 22, 2008 at 03:04:22 AM EST
But then, I have no problem with polygamy. In theory. As practiced it's a different matter. And the diary lays out some of the practical issues with polygamy, at least in the US.

Nor do I have any problem with gay marriage. But some people like the "If you allow X that inevitably leads to Y" type of argument.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I hear from my conservative mother by garlic (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu May 22, 2008 at 05:32:58 AM EST
that gays marrying leads to people marrying cats, dogs, and inanimate objects more than about how it leads to heterosexual polygamy.


[ Parent ]
cats, dogs, and inanimate objects by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu May 22, 2008 at 05:38:44 AM EST
Can't enter into a contract, which is essentially what marriage (in law) is. At least in the West.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
that doesn't seem to stop by garlic (2.00 / 0) #30 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:57:26 AM EST
right wing talk radio.


[ Parent ]
You have no problem? by NoMoreNicksLeft (4.00 / 1) #26 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:04:19 AM EST
Until there is a significant imbalance in the male/female ratio, this would mean many unmarriageable men in society.

That's never a good thing.

The only fix for that historically, is war. Big wars.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
That assumes that women prefer polygamy. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:09:20 AM EST


Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
No. by NoMoreNicksLeft (4.00 / 1) #34 Thu May 22, 2008 at 01:59:22 PM EST
Just assumes that we won't be able to have the marriage police going around ensuring another Jeffs doesn't force 15 yr olds into polygamous marriages.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
Depends on how you frame the issue by lm (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu May 22, 2008 at 06:59:40 AM EST
There are traditionalists, like Andrew Sullivan, who want to keep traditional marriage a central part of human society but open it up to same sex couples.

But there is also a more libertarian argument, why should the state get involved in any sort of relationship between consenting adults?

The former doesn't have much room for a slippery slope. The latter really only tangentially addresses gay marriages as a side effect of jumping clear down to the end of the slope. Quite a few anti-gay-marriage folks like to conflate the two approaches because the majority of US voters have a problem with the latter and if they can get folks who might be willing to grant the former to conflate it with the latter, the anti crowd wins at the ballet box.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Thanks by gpig (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:23:43 AM EST
Good explanation. I mainly ask because polygamy wasn't mentioned at all here in the debate on civil partnerships (which is what we got instead of "gay marriage").

I suppose it's also more of an issue in the US because you actually have home-grown polygamists ....
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(,   ,') -- eep

[ Parent ]
And our polygamists by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu May 22, 2008 at 08:57:28 AM EST
Tend to have nasty habits.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
There is more opposition to polygamy. by NoMoreNicksLeft (4.00 / 1) #25 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:00:52 AM EST
And polygamy is more demonstrably malignant.

If gay marriage rests on a certain philosophical issue, and if that same issue would then allow polygamy, it's harder to make a strong case for gay marriage.

Basically, if one, why not the other. And in this case, everyone basically agrees, the other is bad.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
The other is bad. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #28 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:10:40 AM EST
As practiced.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
"If one, why not the other?" by gpig (2.00 / 0) #29 Thu May 22, 2008 at 09:21:43 AM EST
The "certain philosophical issue" you're resting gay marriage and polygamy on is individual freedom.

On your other point, polygamy is demonstrably malignant in the US because of cultural attitudes in Mormonism, not because of anything inherent to polygamy.
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(,   ,') -- eep

[ Parent ]
And because it's illegal by lm (2.00 / 0) #31 Thu May 22, 2008 at 11:09:13 AM EST
The necessity of FLDS to keep its marriages underground gives it additional power that it wouldn't have otherwise.

That said, while I think it fair that way polygamy is practiced by the FLDS doesn't necessarily imply anything about the inherent harmfulness of polygamy in general, I'm not so certain that we it might not be the case that there is something about polygamy that was merely exacerbated by the abusive culture of the FLDS.

I think it notable that societies in general seem to have evolved from a state where plural marriages were the norm to a state where they were not. Certainly, Christianity has some effect on this. But even religions that have no prima facie opposition to plural marriages seem to be headed in the direction of such being the exception rather than the rule.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Heh. by NoMoreNicksLeft (4.00 / 1) #35 Thu May 22, 2008 at 02:00:41 PM EST
FLDS isn't the only practitioner. All the other implementations are every bit as bad as FLDS.
--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
I don't know by lm (2.00 / 0) #36 Thu May 22, 2008 at 03:00:00 PM EST
All the cases of polygamy in the US that I'm aware of are pretty bad. But, admittedly, I'm not very well educated on the subject. I'd imagine that most polyamorous groups in the US are not keen on having their status made known due to prejudice. This makes meaningful investigation of the subject quite difficult at best. My opinion on the subject isn't something that I'd argue with any large degree of certainty.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
late to the party as usual by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #37 Wed May 28, 2008 at 02:27:16 PM EST

Heinlein came up with the idea of the contract marriage (applying to polygamous, an and "clan" or "line" marriages, as well). I like the idea, and he may have, once again, predicted the future. (Hey, they're called waldoes.) Anyway, contract marriages could have wills included, sorting out all the legal stuff.

Also, in the early years of the colonies religious ministers were forbidden to solemnize marriages; only the government could do so. That's right. Marriage was considered a legal construct more than a religious one.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Gay Marriage, and Polygamy. | 37 comments (37 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback