Home > Gay Marriage > Santorum’s Case Against Gay Marriage: Polygamy is Bad

Santorum’s Case Against Gay Marriage: Polygamy is Bad

One of the more common tactics by opponents of equal marriage rights challenges same-sex relationships by bringing up polygamy. In the video above a student asks Rick Santorum how he can deny marriage rights to gay couples if he believes that all men are created equal and “have the rights to happiness and liberty.” In response, Santorum asks if marrying 5 other people is ok. The students say that’s not the point, while Santorum thinks he’s got one.

I never understood this line of reasoning. When else can someone ask you to justify your position on something and changing the subject to something else constitutes a valid response?

  • Why don’t you think adults should be able to drink alcohol in moderation? Well do you think they should be able to get hammered and drive a car!? 
  • Why shouldn’t I be able to play music in my room? Well should you be able to blare sirens blasts at 180 decibels!? 
  • Can my family buy a second truck? Well should you be able to own an M1 Abrams tank!?

It’s also worth noting that Santorum is utilizing a sort of traditional-marriage-of-the-gaps argument. As we gain more knowledge about gender, sexuality and non-traditional relationships there is less of a reason to restrict marriage rights, so opponents must retreat to more abstract and shaky arguments to preserve their particular notion of marriage.  Many people can’t really explain off the cuff why they think plural marriage is wrong while gay marriage isn’t – they just sort of have a visceral negative reaction to it. I’m sure when people first started debating interracial marriage some traditionalist asked if same-sex marriage is ok. If you don’t fully understand precisely what defines marriage only traditional marriage can exist!

If you’re going to deny an entire class of citizens a fundamental constitutional right it seems necessary to make an actual case against gay marriage rather than frightening people with polygamy or man-on-kethup marriage.  The case against polygamy centers around abuse of women and children, unstable gender ratios, judicial chaos, and other reasons that have nothing to do with the gay marriage. In other words, there is a rational basis for not  giving state sanction to plural marriages.

I’m fairly encouraged by this. It demonstrates that the illiberal religious right continues to lose the argument. They can’t just exploit the taboo and strangeness of gay marriage anymore. The only way they feel they can win is to attack something else.

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  1. Eli S
    January 6, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Ignoratio elenchi.

  2. Deana
    January 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Oh dear, that Santorum really just embarrassed himself.

  3. Dean Moriarty
    January 7, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Dan, this is a beautifully trenchant rebuke. (isn’t the fallacy actually a red herring, though?). This is the kind of expose’ that needs to be brought up each and every time we hear morons like him open their mouths.

    I always thought that the evangelical opposition to gay marriage was rooted in failed logic, even by their own biblical standards. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Romans criticize homosexuality primary because of the PROMISCUITY it entails. Well, wouldn’t the best way to reduce promiscuity be to encourage monogamy?

    It makes me shudder to think that it is conceivable that someone like Rick Santorum might be President. The warped sense of righteousness is one thing, but the complete inability to grasp even basic logic is TRULY frightening.

    • January 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks Dean. I’m always a bit wary of trying to argue that the bible really says this or that. First, it’s pretty clear that the bible does condemn homosexuality. But the Bible contradicts itself constantly and can probably be made to fit any argument. We’re all better off if when we don’t contort our morality to fit iron age literature.

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