Several recent developments have me thinking again about the consequences of legalized gay — I mean "same-sex" — marriage.
First, in the battle to redefine marriage, almost certainly the next step after gay marriage is polygamy. As I noted in 2008, with the attention received by then fugitive Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, polygamy was declared "the next civil rights battle."
"Reality TV" last year gave us TLC's "Sister Wives." The show documents the lives of polygamist Kody Brown, his four wives, and their 16 children. Upon receiving strong ratings, the show was renewed for a second season. The emboldened cast recently declared that they were suing Utah's governor over the state's long-standing law against polygamy.
The lawsuit says that, "By criminalizing religious-based plural families and intimate relationships under the criminal bigamy law, Utah officials prosecute private conduct between consenting adults." (Never mind that laws often govern the behavior between "consenting adults.")
In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 ruling, overturned the Texas anti-sodomy law, and thus invalidated similar laws in the 12 states that still had them on their books. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of ... laws based on moral choices."
As late as 1986, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens declared that "the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice."
Given that from the Georgia to the Texas ruling the Court reversed itself and embraced Stevens' conclusions on law and morality, Scalia declared that the Court had effectively decreed "the end of all morals legislation."
Thus, as Scalia feared, in the U.S. today, "private conduct between consenting adults" often trumps traditional (especially Christian) morality. Never mind that all laws (and behaviors) are governed by some morality.
Secondly, in what seems to be an attempt to stake out a more moderate position on same-sex marriage, potential GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry said of the recent events in New York, "Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me."
The problem with the "states' rights" approach is that doesn't prevent the federal government, especially via the courts, from stepping in, as it has before, when it deems states to be "discriminating" against its own citizens. The states' rights argument also fails to address how the law should handle same-sex couples who are legally married in one state but then move (or travel) to a state where same-sex marriage is illegal.
Finally, there is this interesting scenario posed by an American Thinker blogger: "Indeed, ‘gay marriage' does roll more trippingly off the tongue (than ‘same-sex marriage'), but it's really not ‘gay marriage' at all. When applying for a marriage license, there is no box to check, no oath to take, no questions about a person's sexual proclivity. Ironically, the very heart of the ‘gay marriage' movement — homosexuality — gets nary a mention on the marriage application."
Thus, concludes Fred Kopp, "In several states, it's now legal for any two people to get married, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual preference. I'm not saying that two straight women or two straight guys are going to rush right out and get married just because they can. I'm sure that would be extremely rare (at first), but the point is that they can, and to leave this little tidbit out of the marriage discussion is disingenuous."
Now combine the "any two people" scenario with the "any number of people" scenario that polygamy provides. Not only could we could see things like heterosexual friends marrying to provide one with health care, or to allow one to receive the Social Security or Medicare benefits of the other, but we could see an individual marrying multiples to do the same. We could see one couple marrying another couple so that they could file joint tax returns, or three lesbians marrying because they enjoy each other's company.
Again, as I have noted multiple times before, redefining marriage will have profound consequences. Much of the above may seem absurd, but that's what happens when one redefines a fundamental truth that lies at the very foundation of our nation.
Trevor Thomas is a Hall County resident and frequent columnist.