After the passage of California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, something shifted in the gay rights movement. The new normal now seems to be that anyone who is opposed to gay marriage for any reason at all is quickly labeled a bigot and a hater.
I fully support gay marriage but don't agree with the bigot / hate labeling. I think there are plenty of people for whom the idea of marriage equality is simply something too new for them to have fully wrapped their heads around. I don't think it helps the argument to throw labels at people. This isn't just a function of living in a post-Obama world but it's also just a poor argument technique, closer to bullying than to changing hearts or minds.
This is where the most vehement of marriage equality advocates point out that their rights were violated by the passage of Prop 8. Marriage is a right, they say; THEIR right and those who would deny it to them are committing an offense on the level with any serious violation of human rights. Waiting is not an acceptable option, they argue - it's just as cruel as telling a slave they must wait to be free.
On a theoretical basis, I actually agree. I do think that consenting adults do have the right to enter into marriage contracts with the people they love.
So I wonder why I don't hear more gay marriage advocates giving full throated support to recognize the marriage rights of polyamorous people?
If you aren't familiar with polyamory, it's pretty straightforward - it's multiple, simultaneous romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all parties. In other words, you have more than one lover and everyone involved knows.
Polyamory recently got an online publicity boost when influential personal development guru Steve Pavlina announced he was going to try poly relationships this year. For those interested in learning more, this Wikipedia.article is a good place to start. Another longtime poly resource is the book The Ethical Slut.
Polyamory shouldn't be confused with Warren Jeffs / crazy Mormon-offshoot style polygamy, where creepy old guys marry twelve year olds. Nor is it 'cheating'. The key difference is, of course, consent.
But what's a poly person to do if they want to enter into a committed relationship with the people they love? Polygamy - marriage to more than one person - is no more an option for conseting adults in the United States than gay marriage is in all states expect Massachusetts and Connecticut. If the rights of gay people are being trampled on, then it's two states worse for poly people.
If you follow the same argument template as many gay marriage advocates, anyone who opposes polygamy is a bigot and a hater. Rick Warren has made it clear that he opposes poly relationship, too. And even comparing consensual poly relationship to Jeffs is equating polyamorists with PEDOPHILES!
If Melissa Etheridge has the right to marry Tammy Lynn Michaels - and I think she does - then Melissa and Tammy also have the same right to make it official with David Crosby, it they choose to do so. In fact, if they wanted to marry Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Linsday Lohan, Samantha Ronson, Mark Ronson AND Ani Difranco...it's their choice and their right and it'd make quite a tour, too.
There's no argument you can make against a poly marriage that wouldn't work just as well as an argument against gay marriage.
Aside from reasons of consistency, advocates of gay marriage should also be vocally in favor of polygamy since it allows bisexuals to be actively practicing married bisexuals. Bisexuals are the B in GLBT but they really get short shrift in the marriage discussion.
I'm in favor of real marriage equality. Love the one you're with. Love the two or more you're with, if you can work that out. Marry them if you're into that kind of thing. But until the gay marriage movement embraces polygamy...well, they are just acting like bigots and haters, aren't they?
Lee Stranahan is an award winning photographer and filmmaker and he blogs at LeeStrnahan.com about how creative people can earn some money doing what they love. Since you'll ask, he's been in poly relationships before.