Gene Robinson’s Straight Talk about Gay Marriage

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G Jeffrey McDonald interviewed Bishop Gene Robinson about his new book God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage for Publishers Weekly. Here is some of what they said:

Q. You seem to argue that one can be inspired by religious convictions to influence public policy, but one must make his or her case on secular grounds.

A. That’s exactly right. Stability is why society has an interest in marriage. Opponents of gay marriage have to be able to argue that it undermines stability. But all the studies show, and reason shows, that gay marriage supports stability in the culture.

Q. The church in many corners has long considered celibacy to be the faithful option for those not called to marriage, but you suggest celibacy is not an option. Why not?

A. The truly longstanding tradition in the church is that some are called to celibacy. Some feel called to it. But the church has never supported that celibacy be mandated for someone not called to it. It’s never imposed on someone.

Q. If everyone should be free to marry whomever they choose, should three consenting adults be allowed to get married?

A. The state’s interest in marriage is stability. Generally speaking, polygamy does not work for stability. Inherent in the whole polygamous movement is a deep and abiding misogyny and denigration of women. So polygamy is objectionable on lots of grounds.

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Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

It seems that in at least one place where monogamy has been the norm, polygamy is being given some legal protection. I came across this story about a threesome in Brazil in the Portuguese-language press; unfortunately, the only English-language site to pick it up so far is Fox: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/08/29/three-way-marriage-ignites-uproar-in-brazil/

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Sridgcw
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Sridgcw

Anybody who has grown up in families with more than two children knows the inherent instabilities that arise. With two, they may either get along or not, but it's always one with one or one against one. Add more, and it gets way more complicated and unstable, as alliances inevitably form and shift, creating adversarial relationships. Even if the number of kids is an even number, it's not always the same two against two (for example), and there will be betrayals and plots and all sorts of underhanded activity. I don't mean to equate the spats among children to marriage, even if sometimes kids are far more civilized than adults. But if you have a multiple-partner "marriage" -- whether all are "married" to each other or one is "married" to the others, and totally leaving misogyny out of the equation -- you will almost certainly have situations where some are taking advantage or discounting or ganging up on one. That is not going to be healthy. And that is my secular reason for not being in favor of multiple-partner marriages, and I think it fits with Bishop Robinson's interest in stability.

I also see no reason to jump on his answer, even if was slightly tone-deaf. It's a sound-bite, a quick answer to a question that was almost certainly fishing for a controversial answer. And he's not speaking for all of us, by any means.

Sarah Ridgway

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Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

@Jancis - All marriage has its origin in systems that treated women like chattel. An institution's origins are not what define it.

Let me be very clear: I'm for the rights of same sex couples to get married. I'm not in favor of polygamy. But my reasons for opposing polygamy are religious in nature. I have yet to read convincing secular arguments for limiting marriage to two people. All I've read is that the sort of polygyny practiced by various misogynistic religious groups shouldn't be allowed, as if it were the only conceivable kind. But the sort of polygyny found among fundamentalist Mormons, or Muslims or (until recently) Yemeni Jews is not the only sort of polygamy possible. It shouldn't really strain the imagination to imagine non-monogamous marriages that don't fit the harem scenario.

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Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

@Lan - the "man/dog" line was in reply to a reference to bestiality in a comment of David's

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Jancisa
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Sorry, Editor, for not signing my name at the end of my comment regarding polygamy, and the decision of British Columbia's Supreme Court that polygamy should remain banned because of its harmful effects on society. My name is:

Jancis M. Andrews

(thanks ~ed.)

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