First, to Golf Guy: forgive my occasionally condescending tone. When in argument, that is my style. Call it flawed if you wish. Whatever you do, don’t assume in any way that it reflects any disrespect toward you. If I respected neither you nor your arguments, then I wouldn’t go to such lengths to reject them and lay them to waste (see, there’s that arrogance creeping out).
Golf Guy’s comments are located amongst the dozen-plus to the April 15 post “Polygamy and the First Amendment.”
The crux of my argument is that marriage is a religious institution and is therefore protected under the first amendment: meaning “Congress shall pass no law” restricting it. Due to the supremacy clause (Article IV, Section 2), states are similarly bound as well.
In my argument, I will often use references to Christianity because that is the area of my religious experience. However, it should not be construed that I am only defending the idea of Christian marriage.
My argument is that consenting adults whose religions have established axioms governing marriage should be able to live as married people. As long as no one’s life, liberty, or property are violated, then it is outside of the government’s justifiable sphere of influence.
Golf Guy began his attack by trying to flank the question, “Whose rights are violated by polygamy?” by calling it “the wrong question” and replacing it with “Whose rights need to be protected?” (Quotes are taken from his assault). The answer to this is, of course, everyone’s rights need to be protected.
As my daughter would say, “Duh!”
In avoiding the initial question, he either concedes to its rhetorical point, or opposes it but declines to answer it, or opposes it but cannot figure out how to beat it. Changing the topic in such a way—especially since, in an earlier comment, he clearly defined the parameters of the debate—is the equivalent of a red herring (a logical flaw that is characteristic of an otherwise weak argument).
His next step is to attempt a rejection of the notion that marriage is an inherently religious institution. If marriage is not inherently religious, he argues, then it has no first amendment protection.
However, a man and woman can be good, practicing Christians with absolutely no contact with the state.
Think about it. Adam and Eve were married. They had sex and spawned children. No government was necessary to confirm their relationship. If they could do it, then we could do it.
The government says that I need a permit to build an addition to my house, but that’s really nonsense. I can build an addition to my house without the government’s consent because the government is not the source of that power. Sure, it will come after me with fines and threats of incarceration, but I was able to do it nonetheless.
Marriage is the same. The government says that you can’t be married without a license, and that you can only get a license under its terms, but that’s really baloney.
He resorts to semantics by referring to Adam and Eve’s relationship as a “union and a blessed one but not a marriage.”
The inference here is that marriage is not a sacrament and the reflection of God’s will—but is instead the product of bureaucracy and expediency.
However, Genesis 2:24 clearly states “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one in the flesh.”
This means that, from a biblical/religious standpoint, Adam and Eve were married, for no woman is a wife if she is not married.
Golf Guy also notes that many people's “marriages” have been for non-religious purposes (e.g. alliance, enhanced wealth, they want to be “married” but aren’t religious, etc.). I would argue, in his own most semantic spirit, that those are mere unions, not marriages.
Back to Golf Guy’s characterization of marriage as a bureaucratic expediency, his argument is based on the idea of marriage as a contract involving property rights.
In this sense, the government is called in as an arbiter. But what if I decline to authorize the government in such a capacity? As long as I don't trample another's rights, on what grounds has the government to meddle?
He asks, “Who is to protect children from forced marriages, arranged marriages and from marrying under age?” Of course, this does not attack the premises of my argument, for such a scenario involves people being stripped of their liberty.
I believe that I have argued in many posts that if government has any purpose at all, it is to protect people’s rights. Golf Guy has changed the debate. His argument now isn’t one on marriage. It’s an issue of freedom. Using force to prevent one from injuring another is justifiable. This is true on an individual basis, so it is a power that I would grant for the state.
There must be some kind of assumption here that polygamy is necessarily based upon force—that no women would volunteer to be part of such relationships. In fact, the only way for Golf Guy to have a real point here is for that to be true—that no woman has ever consented to be part of a polygamist relationship.
Need I really go any further to reject that argument?
If a woman does consent to such a relationship, should she be attacked violently for doing so? If not, then you'd better leave the state out of it. Agents of the state don't carry guns for their own protection. They carry them so that you will do whatever they want.
Golf Guy also asks, “When a marriage dissolves, who should settle arguments about custody?” Again, this is not a question having anything to do with polygamy. It’s one of property rights. The government—as the presumably most expedient authority—can just as easily settle custody arrangements in a polygamist household as it can in a monogamous one. Just set a court date, if you consent to the government's arbitration, that is.
Golf Guy further argues "people . . . enter into a marriage contract with the expectation that their intended spouse is not already married.”
The flaw in this is that it assumes that polygamist/bigamist relationships cannot possibly exist. I, on the other hand, assert that a woman who voluntarily enters into a polygamist/bigamist marriage knows and doesn’t care that her intended spouse is already married. This makes the whole “marriage license” part of his argument rather unnecessary.
He adds, “Sad to say but people enter into a marriage contract with the state with the expectation of certain rights if the contract is ended.” I don’t see how this cannot apply in a polygamist relationship. A judge can divide property amongst three or more people just as he or she can do so between two.
At this point, Golf Guy brings down the hammer: “Marriage needs to be regulated by the state to insure children are not taken advantage of and lose their rights to liberty and happiness. Marriage needs to be regulated for adults to insure their rights of happiness (property) are upheld.”
And yet, it has been demonstrated that marriage isn’t even the issue here. Children can be “taken advantage of and lose their rights to liberty and happiness” no matter what the marital status of their parents.
Polygamy isn’t the issue here; it’s bad parents that Golf Guy’s really worried about. He just assumes that a polygamist is de facto a bad parent, and that a monogamist is de facto a good one. As for the property factor for adults in marriage, again such disputes can be “regulated” in polygamist relationships just as well.
Golf Guy concludes his argument by stating that children’s rights are harmed by polygamy, but then he says that he cannot substantiate that assertion.
So why assert it?
Children are harmed by bad parents. That is true. However, there are enough bad parents in non-polygamist relationships to use Golf Guy’s logic to defend banning all forms of marriage.
In the end, Golf Guy's argument amounts to this: "In polygamist families, there is the potential for child abuse and property disputes. Therefore, they should be illegal, and polygamists should be fined and incarcerated"
And that's why he loses this debate, for the same risks are true in all families. Golf Guy doesn't like polygamy because it offends his notions of a good family. He is therefore willing to allow the state to use violence in order to prevent and punish such arrangements. While I agree that polygamy is not the best arrangement, I can only submit to the use of violence when it is used to prevent the real--not possible or theoretical--violation of people's rights. There's a word for governments that go beyond their just powers. That word is tyranny.
All this said, I do not think that God endorses polygamy, and I believe that a monogamous relationship is far superior. However, I decline to cede to the state the authority to dictate such an arrangement between consenting adults.