The Dim-Post

January 10, 2013

A chilling vision of things to come

Filed under: books,Politics — danylmc @ 7:51 am

The Herald reports:

The MP behind a law change to legalise gay marriage has slammed the “dishonest” argument by opponents that her bill will pave the way to polygamous relationships.

Labour Party MP Louisa Wall said she was frustrated by the more extreme arguments against her bill, which had prompted her to release research showing that no country had legalised polygamous relationships after legalising gay marriage.

The concern about creating a “slippery slope” to polygamy was raised at the first reading of the bill by National MP for Wairarapa John Hayes, and has been echoed by submitters to the select committee considering the legislation, in particular the lobby group Family First.

Family First founder Bob McCoskrie said he believed legalising polygamy was “on the long-term agenda”.

The most important point to make about this is that there’s a late-period Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel called Friday which (as Mr McCoskrie is no doubt aware) is about a sexy nymphomaniac bisexual female secret agent, and some of the action takes place in a futuristic New Zealand in which polygamy is legal, and large polygamous marriages are common-place. There’s also a space elevator in Kenya.

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49 Comments »

  1. Those late period Heinlein novels are quite disturbing I mean who would site the space elevator in Kenya when we all all know Hammaguir in Algeria is a much better choice.

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — January 10, 2013 @ 8:19 am

  2. And, of course, the “sexy nymphomaniac bisexual female secret agent” was an Artificial Person. So perhaps that’s what Louisa Wall really wants – the freedom to marry a robot.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 8:25 am

  3. At the time we legalised homosexuality, no country had legalised same-sex marriage. People who were arguing to legalise homosexuality were arguing “we’re not arguing for recognition, but we just shouldn’t be criminal.” And no doubt opponents were saying things like “next they’ll want to teach in schools” and “they’ll be asking to get married next”. The resonse could have been the same.

    I’m not saying it’s now, or soon, but I reckon McCoskrie is right on this one. It will happen. Maybe in steps (like civil unions were a step), but this is going to come up.

    It has been quite funny seeing proponents of same-sex marriage post McCoskrie’s piece to Facebook, with observations to the effect “no-one is talking about legalising polygamy”. It then quickly devolves into lists of people saying ‘why not’, and ‘I am’.

    The simple point is that this is the wrong way to respond to this. The answer is that this doesn’t allow polygamy, and it should be decided on its own merits. There is a slippery slope, but the answer should be “so what?” this is right, so we should do it anyway. If we don’t think polygamy is right, we’ll fight that.”

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 8:30 am

  4. multiple robot sex – 2013!

    Comment by CnrJoe — January 10, 2013 @ 8:47 am

  5. Heinlein obviously had a thing for polygamy. He lauds it in “the moon is a harsh mistress” as well.

    Comment by King Kong — January 10, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  6. Strangely enough the same arguments are being made in the U.S Sadly no slaps them down .

    Comment by Hamish Mack — January 10, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  7. So does this mean my dream of marrying Mila Kunis AND Kate Upton is still alive?

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  8. Wary as I am of arguing with the inexorable logic machine that is Graeme Edgeler, I disagree that we should admit there is a “slippery slope.” Implicit in that model is a morally pure top of the slope, leading to utter depravity at the bottom. To concede that there is a slope AND to be pro marriage equality AND to agree that marriage equality is some distance from the top of the slope is to agree that marriage equality is some way towards depravity and away from moral purity. In no way will I accept this. If we are to have a slope of morality, the pure heights are where human rights are respected, and we are proposing to crawl up a little further, while the current situation is downhill from there, towards the depraved bottom where the law makes arbitrary distinctions based on nothing but prejudice.

    I seem to recall Andrew Geddis making an analogy along the lines of saying this is like claiming giving votes to black people will lead to giving votes to cats and dogs. I find that much more appealing as a counter.

    Comment by Stephen J — January 10, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  9. “Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers.”
    From Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein

    Comment by Bill Engrish — January 10, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  10. That was a weird book, Anyone else find all the references to ‘South Island’ instead of ‘the South Island’ really grating?

    Comment by xy — January 10, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  11. you get that in a lot of foreign media – people think that the islands’ names are, well, proper names, not relative geographic descriptors.

    Comment by dean logan — January 10, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  12. serious question: why is polygamy a big deal? perhaps family first are worried about being the only guy in the world who can only find one wife.

    Comment by Che Tibby — January 10, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  13. I can put up with polygomy, if we get a space elevator!

    Comment by max — January 10, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  14. @Graeme Edgeler: “The simple point is that this is the wrong way to respond to this.”

    I disagree. Giving credence to McCroskrie’s claim that there is an inevitable slip from same sex marriage to polygamous marriages buys into his purely political agenda, which is to shift the debate from an issue that he knows he can’t win (the equal legal treatment of same sex couples) to one that he thinks he can (if we do this, we’re going to become a decadent Gomorrah where anything goes). So the politically smart thing to do is exactly what Louisa Wall is doing – keep the focus on the issue at hand (we’re simply seeking to give same sex couples the same rights as straight ones) while demonstrating that there is no observable real-world connection between her proposal and the dark future McCroskrie is painting, so any discussion of slippery slopes is utterly irrelevant.

    Furthermore, it isn’t clear to me that you are right to say there really IS a slippery slope at work here. First, we need to distinguish between two forms of “slip”.

    (1) In principle, it is not possible to permit same sex couples to marry without also giving legal recognition to polygamous relationships (ultimately in the form of marriage).

    (2) Therefore, in practice, permitting same sex couples to marry inevitably will lead to a serious public policy discussion around giving legal recognition to polygamous relationships (ultimately in the form of marriage).

    I don’t think that (1) is necessarily true. It’s only if you view the principled basis for same sex marriage as being “anyone should be allowed to marry anyone (or even anything) because it is all just a matter of personal choice” that you “slip” into polygamy territory. But you can be committed to same sex marriage on grounds other than this. You can, for instance, say that the social institution of marriage contains values – community recognition of two individuals’ commitment to one-another and their desire to build a life in common – that same-sex couples are just as equally capable of meeting as straights. Thus, including same sex couples within the institution advances one of our social values (the equal treatment of individuals irrespective of their sexual orientation) without harming or changing the social nature of the institution itself. Hence, there is good reason to do so, and no good reason not to.

    On this view of the argument for same sex marriage, there is no principled reason to “slip” from legally recognising same sex couples as “married” to doing the same for multiple partners. That is because polygamy isn’t compatible with the values inherent in the present social institution of marriage, which focus on “two becoming one”. Now, you can argue that the social institution of marriage ought to change so as to encompass individuals’ commitment to multiple persons … but the point is that you need to change what marriage is seen as being in a way that you don’t have to for same sex couples. And there may then be very good reasons (whether cultural or moral in nature) not to make that change.

    Furthermore, even if (1) is true (which, as I say, it may not be), that does not mean (2) is true. It is (for example) hard to see a principled reason why it is illegal to hold a dog fighting tournament, yet it is perfectly legal to use dogs to hunt wild pigs. Both practices involve humans gaining pleasure from the deliberate infliction of suffering on and by animals. Yet there is no realistic possibility whatsoever that we will expand our legal disapprobation of one (organised dog fighting) to the other (hunting pigs with dogs) in the foreseeable future. And that’s because the law, and the views of various social practices that the law reflects, doesn’t always work on a purely principled basis.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  15. Personally I’m totally willing to marry the space elevator.

    Comment by xy — January 10, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  16. I don’t think slippery slope *necessarily* carries connotations that the top of the slope is morally pure. Sometimes a slippery slope is a good thing. Some people were offended by the half-step that was civil unions, thinking it a form of “separate but equal (but not really)” that should be opposed because it treated same-sex couples as unworthy. I know a number whose support for civil unions was precisely because it was a slippery slope, and they thought civil unions would lead to change in public attitudes that would make gay marriage more likely.

    I think they were right. Civil unions did make same-sex marriage more likely. And that is a good thing. But the people who were defending civil unions and arguing that we should support civil unions because it wasn’t marriage, and marriage was something special between men and women that wouldn’t be touched, were misleading people.

    Is the step from gay marriage to greater* state recognition of polygamous relationships as obvious as the step from homosexual law reform to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act to civil unions to same-sex marriage? No. But I ask myself if I think it is more likely that there will be greater* state recognition of polygamous relationships in say 40 years, if we pass same-sex marriage now than if we don’t, and I’m confident the answer is “yes”.

    *greater state recognition, in that we already recognise polygamous marriage in New Zealand, and define marriage in the Family Proceedings Act 1980 in a way which expressly includes polygamy.

    p.s. in stating my view that this was the wrong way to respond, I was taking some lead from the post here: http://coleytangerina.tumblr.com/post/39987483213/on-polyamory-and-marriage-equality

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  17. I seem to recall Andrew Geddis making an analogy along the lines of saying this is like claiming giving votes to black people will lead to giving votes to cats and dogs. I find that much more appealing as a counter.

    I do think the US adoption of the 15th Amendment (no racial prohibitions in voting) made the adoption of the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) more likely, and that had these not been adopted, or had been adopted much later, then the 26th amendment (voting age drops to 18) would have been later as well.

    Society changes. The change in society itself changes society. I am confident that if same-sex marriage is rejected this time around, that serious public discussion of greater state recognition of polygamous relations will occur later than if it is supported. I am not saying greater state recognition of polygamous relationships will necessarily occur, or will occur any time soon. That the slope is slippery doesn’t mean your traverse of it cannot be stopped, but I think you will get to that point sooner if you’re open to change higher up the slope.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 10:38 am

  18. “But I ask myself if I think it is more likely that there will be greater* state recognition of polygamous relationships in say 40 years, if we pass same-sex marriage now than if we don’t, and I’m confident the answer is “yes”.”

    Or, same sex marriage doesn’t pass, resulting in a government 10 years from now carrying out a comprehensive family law overhaul that not only recognises same sex marriage but gives greater* state recognition of polygamous relationships.

    Or, same sex marriage passes, but an increased wave of immigration from Muslim countries sparks a nativist backlash, which so prejudices the debate over polygamous relationships that it becomes political poison.

    Or, something else we can’t think of at the moment happens, and so the world changes in a way we can’t foresee.

    Point being, extrapolating a current social trend 40 years into the future is a mug’s game. After all, whodathunk that 40 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, it would still be lawful to pay people in comparable professions different amounts based primarily on the gender of those who carry out the work?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 10:55 am

  19. I think the problem Bob McCoskrie et al have with polygamy is that if the queers are pushing it they will feel obliged to resist it, rather that welcoming it as a step towards true biblical marriage. I think it’s a really bad strategic move by the fundies to link the two, because it leaves them wide open to questions about “what god wants” and just how many wives did Moses have anyway…

    Comment by Moz in Oz — January 10, 2013 @ 11:04 am

  20. “I do think the US adoption of the 15th Amendment (no racial prohibitions in voting) made the adoption of the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) more likely, and that had these not been adopted, or had been adopted much later, then the 26th amendment (voting age drops to 18) would have been later as well.”

    Really? Women’s suffrage took place in 1920 in the US. The voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971.

    In New Zealand, women’s suffrage took place in … 1893. The voting age was lowered to 18 in … 1974.

    So the claim that “the earlier something happens, the quicker something else happens” seems a bit tenuous.

    (I think you’ll find that the lowering of the voting age was more to do with the Vietnam War and the fact people could be drafted at age 18 while not being able to vote than anything else.0

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 11:06 am

  21. Point being, extrapolating a current social trend 40 years into the future is a mug’s game. After all, whodathunk that 40 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, it would still be lawful to pay people in comparable professions different amounts based primarily on the gender of those who carry out the work?

    I think I would have thought that.

    I also think that pay equity discussions that there have been, here and elsewhere are indeed down a slippery slope from pay equality laws, that we wouldn’t have had the pay equity discusses that we have had if pay equality had never happened, or had happen some time late, and that if someone had said at the time of pay equality laws “they say they’re only pushing for equal pay for equal work now, but just you wait, in 20 years’ time they won’t just be arguing that people in the same jobs should be paid the same as each other, they’ll be arguing that nurses and police officers should be paid the same, as well” then they would have been right to say it.

    That they would have been correct would not have been a reason for rejecting pay equality any more than Bob McCoskrie’s being correct on this is a basis to reject same-sex marriage.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  22. (I think you’ll find that the lowering of the voting age was more to do with the Vietnam War and the fact people could be drafted at age 18 while not being able to vote than anything else.)

    I think that too.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  23. It’s not the top of a slippery slope, it’s the first rung on a rung on a ladder.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 10, 2013 @ 11:29 am

  24. Space elevators aren’t that uncommon in sci-fi writing. There is one in Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. SPOILER ALERT. It falls down.

    In real life – there is an actual group called The International Space Elevator Consortium – http://www.isec.org

    This year you can win a $10,000 prize from them if you come up with a material that’s strong enough to build the tether.

    It’s not that nuts. Previously NASA held competitions for the same thing. Space elevators are cool.

    Slippery slope indeed.

    Comment by Conor Roberts — January 10, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  25. I’m assuming that they will build the space elevator after they discover and exploit the ancient treasures looted there.

    @ Graeme – I agree with you. Civil unions, when only applied to same sex couples, is pretending to give equal rights. I know that atheists and adulterers and all other people, including heterosexual people, can also have a civil union but all those groups can also get married. All in all, same sex couples should be able to get married. As I have said before, there should continue to be civil unions for everyone who does not want to go under the title of marriage, but there should also be marriage (General) available for everyone who does want to go under the title of marriage, and Christian Marriage, which will respect celebrants’ right to choose who they marry, which will include only heterosexual couples that are getting married for the first time and are of the Christian faith.

    Comment by Dan — January 10, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  26. Terrorist / Freedom Fighter
    Slippery slope / first rung of a ladder

    I’m fine with the different nomenclature, although I don’t think it’s likely Louisa Wall will be adopting it.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 11:37 am

  27. Well, if the claim simply is that “if one change happens, then people will move on to talk about whether other changes ought to happen”, then I’m not sure there’s anything to disagree with. But that isn’t, of course, what McCroskrie is saying – he’s claiming that if this change happens, then other changes WILL happen. And it’s that version of the “slippery slope” argument that I think ought to be dismissed out of hand, as it is both false and being deployed for undesirable political ends (i.e. to try and stop a positive social development).

    “I think that too.”

    So … not connected with when women were given the vote, then? Unless, of course, giving women the vote caused the Vietnam War.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 11:38 am

  28. Here’s Bob http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00012/the-evidence-that-polygamy-and-polyamory-will-be-next-claim.htm
    … dogs and cats marrying each other …

    Yeah, the thing abotu the slippery slope argument is that it both assumes people are unable to consider each issue on its own merits, and encourages people not to consider each issue on its own merits.

    Personally, the slippery slope always puts me in mind of a fun naked waterslide. I guess it depends on what your opinion of *that* is.

    Comment by lyndonhood — January 10, 2013 @ 11:50 am

  29. So … not connected with when women were given the vote, then?

    Still connected. I think if women didn’t have the vote by 1971, that despite the impetus given by the Vietnam War, there would have been calls for the franchise to be extended to women at the same time, and that there may have been opposition on the basis that people trusted their children to vote, but not their wives and mothers, etc.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 11:52 am

  30. … dogs and cats marrying each other …

    Dogs and Cats can already marry each other.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 11:54 am

  31. At the time we legalised homosexuality, no country had legalised same-sex marriage. People who were arguing to legalise homosexuality were arguing “we’re not arguing for recognition, but we just shouldn’t be criminal.” And no doubt opponents were saying things like “next they’ll want to teach in schools” and “they’ll be asking to get married next”. The resonse could have been the same.

    Er, this is a bit of an over-simplification. Yes, there were some people arguing for just-repeal; there were also people arguing for marriage equality. White’s States of Desire has a good discussion of this in the 80s US context. (The Boston and Washington chapters.)

    Comment by Keir — January 10, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

  32. I think we need to listen to McCoskrie here.

    I remember a few years back when there was that kerfuffle over the prolonged wetting of denuded hills. He said at the time it would be a slippery slope and he was right.

    Comment by King Kong — January 10, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  33. What’s McCroskie’s problem with polygamy anyway? The bible’s full of it. Perhaps he just hates jesus.

    Comment by Richard — January 10, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

  34. More deeply, the slippery slope argument is just the rhetorical twin to the `leap into the wild’ argument. Either the gays ask for something big, and it’s a leap into the wild, or they ask for something little, and it’s a slippery slope / thin end of the wedge / etc.

    Comment by Keir — January 10, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

  35. Er, this is a bit of an over-simplification. Yes, there were some people arguing for just-repeal; there were also people arguing for marriage equality.

    Keir – exactly. Just as there are people who are arguing for same-sex marriage, and also people arguing for marriage equality. And just as there were people arguing for civil unions and there were people are arguing for same-sex marriage.

    That some people who are arguing for same-sex marriage are arguing against marriage equality doesn’t mean that they are right when they say that defining marriage as including same-sex marriage won’t be used in the future to say that marriage shouldn’t be further redefined to allow for group marriage and other marriage equality.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

  36. I understand Bob McCroskie is great friends with Helen Clarke and John Keys.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

  37. Why does no one try the “God doesn’t exist, so fuck off” argument?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 10, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  38. “That some people who are arguing for same-sex marriage are arguing against marriage equality doesn’t mean that they are right when they say that defining marriage as including same-sex marriage won’t be used in the future to say that marriage shouldn’t be further redefined to allow for group marriage and other marriage equality.”

    Exactly who categorically says that permitting same sex marriage “won’t be used in the future to say that marriage shouldn’t be further redefined to allow for group marriage and other marriage equality”? No-one has control over the arguments that others may choose to deploy. But what Louisa Wall IS saying is that Bob McCoskrie is wrong to claim that permitting same sex marriage INEVITABLY will lead to polygamous marriages (or similar) … or, at the very least, will result in serious social pressure to permit these. Which is how the term “slippery slope” is being deployed in the discussion.

    Of course, if we’re going to change the terms of the debate and define “slippery slope” as meaning “once one thing has stopped being talked about, then that opens up greater room for someone (even if only a couple of individuals) to talk about something else”, then yes … there’s a slippery slope at play here (as there is in every single public policy issue). But it’s a fairly trite observation (unless, of course, you can find evidence of people who really are saying “same sex marriage will not be cited in the future by anyone as a reason to permit polygamous marriage (or similar)” … in which case those people are idiots).

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 10, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

  39. Well I don’t know. If some outfit could convince me and a clear majority of my fellow New Zealanders that someone would actually want to be married to not one but TWO women then I’d say, “well, those Romans are crazy but what the heck.”

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

  40. … that someone would actually want to be married to not one but TWO women…

    Sometimes I find it hard to believe there’s still one woman that wants to marry me. God only knows where I’d find a second one who wants to make that mistake.

    Comment by Phil — January 10, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

  41. I’m almost inclined to let Bob have this one, in the hope that it does in fact work out that way. We will get same sex marriage, and why not hurry the fuck up to just getting the government and bible out of our bedrooms altogether? Sometimes this kind of resistance can provoke a backlash that is actually rapidly progressive. Who the hell is Bob to say that basically everyone in the country can’t have another spouse? There’s probably over a million people here who have had that end up being their practical situation when they fell out with their first spouse.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 10, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

  42. And where does all this leave Stephen Franks’ dog? Has he really got a dog that loves him?

    Comment by justsomeguy — January 10, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

  43. A two girl threesome yeah, two wives? WTF?!

    Comment by timmy — January 10, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

  44. Stephen Franks had a variation on this: “I love my dog but that doesn’t mean I should be allowed to marry it.”

    Comment by deepred — January 10, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

  45. Or, we could just abolish marriage altogether. Why should the state be regulating the relationships of consenting adults anyway?

    Comment by MeToo — January 10, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

  46. deepred (channeling Stephen Franks) simple: dog can’t give consent.

    Comment by MeToo — January 10, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

  47. Surely the slippery slope began when remarriage and divorces were allowed. It’s been all downhill since then.
    I don’t see Family First arguing against these?

    Comment by Rob — January 11, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  48. In all honesty, I think the slippery slope started with the move from arranged marriages to love-marriages.

    Comment by kahikatea — January 12, 2013 @ 1:49 pm


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