20 June 2013

Bernardi Doesn't Get It: On Same Sex Marriage and Polygamy

Sigh, more dreck from a Liberal Party member.

Liberal Senator, and Tony Abbott's former personal parliamentary secretary, Cory Bernardi is again defending his comments regarding a spurious link between homosexual marriage, polygamous marriage and even bestiality.
A cursory Google search shows that Cory likes to have his photo taken with books, but finds it hard to keep his eyes on the page
Clearly not fazed by the public backlash at his original equivocation of these relationships, Bernardi now believes that a petition being organised in support of polygamous relationships vindicates his earlier remarks.
"I stand on the record and say, well I was right,"
This from the same man whose internal logic insists that loving someone of the same sex can be easily correlated to having sex with an animal:
"Bestiality, of course it was an extreme example, but once again it's linked to the radical agenda of the Greens Party,"
He calls it an extreme example, but still seriously thinks it a valid one, and what’s more asserts an untenable link to Green Party policy.
Regarding the question of homosexual marriage Bernardi had this to say:
"I think there should be alarm . . . If you're going to re-define a word to satisfy demands of a minority then you're going to face continuing demands in that space.''
The thing he fails to take into account is that it isn’t a minority that is demanding this right; it is the majority!
Yes, the subset of the population that is gay is a minority; but the subset that wants gay marriage to be made legal is a majority. I firmly believe that gays should be able to marry if they choose to, even though I myself am not gay, and would thus never benefit directly from the ability to do so. So while I am not a part of the minority being denied rights, I am a part of the majority that believes this should be rectified.
Those who are arguing for polygamous relationships to be given the same right however do not have the backing of the majority of Australians. They are both a minority in this sense, and also in the obvious sense that the majority of Australians are not tempted to take multiple spouses (we assume).
I'll just leave this here
This is the fundamental difference that needs to be addressed in dealing with fallacious arguments like Mr Bernardi’s. We are not seeking to affirm rights for minorities because they demand them, but rather because the majority recognise these inherent rights. You don’t have to share in a minority’s reality in order to agree with their position. And when the majority of the population believes that these rights should be recognised, it is not kowtowing to the minority; it is the will of the majority.

What’s worse is that setting up ones position based solely on the ‘slippery slope’ argument fails to take into account any differences between propositions. It simply asserts that if you allow one thing, then you must allow others. The same argument was dragged out in opposition to mixed marriages, and no doubt many of those who employed it in the past would feel as vindicated of their bigoted beliefs due to the push for gay marriage coming after mixed race marriages, as Bernardi does when facing polygamy today.

But just because one thing can lead to another, does not mean it must. And what’s more, just because one thing is allowed, does not mean all subsequent things must also be permitted.
The strength of the slippery slope argument rests solely on its ability to prove a link between these subsequent propositions. In this sense, Bernardi and others fail miserably.
There are fundamental differences between allowing gay marriage, and allowing polygamous marriage. One requires a fundamental change to the marriage code, and associated laws, the other does not.
It is not hard to substitute a husband and husband, or a wife and a wife, for a husband and wife in our legal system. It is fundamentally the same thing; recognising a relationship between two individuals. Indeed much of our legal system now accepts the role of same sex relationships in one form or another. Adding a third party to the affair however would require a whole new set of rules to deal with the ambiguity or asymmetry of a multi-partnered relationship, whether it be sorting out inheritance, defining guardianship and so on.

All this being said, I myself don’t have any major objections to polygamous relationships, I just don’t think them very practical, or stable. If I was to be proven wrong, and shown that people could make such an arrangement work harmoniously, then more power to them.

But at the end of the day these two arguments are separate arguments, linked only by the fact that they both deal with relationships and marriage, but not linked in any fundamental way that would demand both be recognised should either ‘cross the line’ into law.

Thanks for reading,

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