Mike Kueber's Blog

July 30, 2012

The slippery slope from same-sex marriages to plural marriages

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:07 pm
Tags: , ,

During his presidential run earlier this year, Rick Santorum argued that legalizing same-sex marriages would make it difficult to deny the plural marriages that are sometimes found in Mormon or Muslim communities.  At the time, many pundits pooh-poohed Santorum’s warning and declared that his slippery-slope argument was actually a fallacy.  Instead of arguing principle, however, the pundits hypocritically argued that same-sex marriages were no longer deviant in the American mainstream, whereas plural marriages (and incest and bestiality) remained totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans.    

This week, however, we learned that perhaps there is a slippery slope.  The latest edition of Time magazine includes an extensive article on the growing movement in America in favor of plural marriage and its cousin polyamory (having multiple lovers be mutual agreement).  And there is nothing in the Time article or any other on-line articles that provides a persuasive justification for legalizing same-sex marriage, while criminalizing plural marriage. 

If you can justify the distinction, I would love to hear it.  





  1. As long as they hurt no one else, people should be free to create/set their own personal parameters. The same should apply to contracts. Therefore, other(s) morality or ethics should have nothing to do with the contract(s). Take religion out of the picture and work with civil law, once you truly do that, government no longer (why did it ever???) has an interest other than (perhaps) for the protection of children.

    Comment by Bob Bevard — July 30, 2012 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

    • Bob, don’t you think government should encourage people to get married and have kids?

      Comment by Mike Kueber — July 30, 2012 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

      • Absolutely not. It has no business in marriage, child bearing, or any societal engineering, especially using tax incentives/disincentives or rules, regulations, or laws. The government (at every level) has absolutely NO business in encouraging or discouraging legal contracts, nor should it specifically encourage child bearing. Or non-child bearing. It simply shouldn’t be in the governmental purview. However, people must be able to support whatever decisions they make. If someone wants to have a dozen children, that should be fine, however, they should be able to adequately and effectively care for their progeny on their own with no government support.

        Comment by Bob Bevard — July 30, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  2. There is no “principle” involved here, aside from one: Freedom. Call me crazy, but here I thought we lived in a free country wherein mature, sane adults are capable of entering into any kind of private mutual agreement they wish to. That some Americans don’t like gay marriage, is not sufficient reason to forbid others to engage in it, if they wish.

    BTW, I love how you read my blog post on the subject of marriage and decided that my argument was “that same-sex marriages were no longer deviant in the American mainstream.” It was no such thing. Not even close. And you know it, too. My point was very different from what you said it was. I suggest you read what I posted again. After all, it contains scriptural quotations which ought to have meaning to you.

    Comment by PsiCop — July 31, 2012 @ 12:53 am | Reply

    • I apologize PsiCop. I had collected three blog postings for references, and must have mistakenly used yours for the argument “that same-sex marriages were no longer deviant in the American mainstream.” I think there is some validity to the argument, but the problem is that the slippery slope makes it difficult to stop between legalizing same-sex marriage while ciminalizing plural marriage. I don’t agree with your argument that contractual differences between same-sex and plural marriages render the former feasible and the latter not. What is not feasible about contracting for plural marriages?

      Comment by Mike Kueber — July 31, 2012 @ 3:03 am | Reply

      • Thank you for re-reading what I posted. But again I must point out, I didn’t say plural marriages were absolutely “not feasible.” I said that they’re substantively different from dual marriages … in fact, different enough that permitting gay marriage does not logically become a mandate to permit plural marriages (i.e. the “slippery slope” so many folks are obsessively concerned about). There are legal ramifications involved in plural marriages that just don’t come up in a dual marriage.

        For example, assuming a classic polygamy scenario of one man married to several wives, who gets custody of children if the husband dies? Do they go to their natural mothers? Or can one of the “sister wives” sue for custody of any or all of the children, even one she didn’t give birth to? If you follow the former, you’re breaking up a family; if the latter, how do you select one of the mothers over the rest, to raise all the children, or how do you justify doling the children out if you decide to mix them up some other way? Are you suggesting that this … and other ramifications of a plural marriage … are simply minor considerations that no one need be concerned with, hence plural marriages are on their way already?

        Comment by PsiCop — July 31, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

      • PsiCop, I think the scenario that you describe is easy – courts already makes decisions based on the best interests of the child, and that would remain the deciding factor. Most courts will say that the child goes with the natural mother.

        The slippery-slop logic (not the slippery-slope fallacy) contends that the act of allowing same-sex marriage will weaken the moral or intellectual coherence of those in favor of only one-man, one-woman marriages. Or as Wikipedia says:

        Modern usage includes a logically valid form, in which a minor action causes a significant impact through a long chain of logical relationships. Note that establishing this chain of logical implication (or quantifying the relevant probabilities) makes this form logically valid. The slippery slope argument remains a fallacy if such a chain is not established

        Comment by Mike Kueber — July 31, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

      • Re: “PsiCop, I think the scenario that you describe is easy …”

        Unfortunately, your merely saying it’s “easy,” doesn’t actually make it “easy.” In the case of a dual marriage with one surviving spouse, there’s usually little decision to be made at all … by virtue of the fact that there were only two people in the marriage to begin with, and only one survivor to take the children. Sure, outsiders might attempt to meddle, but the basic situation is typically simple and even automatic. With a plural marriage, there is no quick or easy solution to begin with.

        The bottom line is, you just keep insisting that plural marriage is the same as gay marriage … but they aren’t. They are not even close. They are substantively different. At best all you can do is just keep intoning endlessly that they’re the same. But doing so is another fallacy on top of the slippery slope you love, i.e. argumentum ad nauseam. Repetition does not make veracity.

        At any rate, you’re also engaged in yet another fallacy, that of circular reasoning, which goes something like this: 1) Gay marriage is profane and horrific, and can’t be permitted; 2) Plural marriage is also profane and horrific, and also cannot be permitted; 3) If we permit gay marriage, we’re required to permit plural marriage, which are both profane and cannot be permitted; therefore, 4) Plural marriage and gay marriage can’t be permitted! What you have failed to do is explain what’s wrong, in the first place, with either one.

        At least I’ve articulated some potential problems with plural marriage, which aren’t present in dual marriage. What you’ve done is to refuse to explain why either one is impermissible, other than having religious objections (which, as far as I’m concerned, being metaphysically-based, are not worthy of consideration).

        I will repeat: The basic issue here is freedom. Gays marrying each other, does not prevent heterosexual couples from marrying if they wish to. Gays marrying hurts no one else. In a free country, there’s no rational reason to prevent it. If the complications I mentioned with plural marriage could be ironed out (and I’m not saying they can’t be, just that the system we have would have to be adjusted in order to deal with it), I’d support plural marriage, too. It’s all about freedom. Freedom. That’s spelled F-R-E-E-D-O-M. Try it sometime. You might enjoy it. And maybe give some of it to other folks while you’re at it, instead of forcing them to reorder their lives according to your metaphysics.

        Comment by PsiCop — August 1, 2012 @ 2:17 am

      • Au contraire, PsiCop, I am perfectly comfortable with same-sex marriage and plural marriage. To distinguish between the two requires strained reasoning, which I suggest you are guilty of.

        Comment by Mike Kueber — August 1, 2012 @ 5:15 am

  3. The slippery slope is obviously not slippery. Look at all of the places where “plural marriage” (polygyny) is legal and common, and yet simply BEING gay can get you killed. If there is a slippery slope, why haven’t those places adopted same-gender marriage? As for me, I support the rights of an adult to marry ANY consenting adults, because equality just for some is not equality.

    Comment by Keith Pullman — August 11, 2012 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

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