Equal Marriage Bingo!

If you’re following the debate in the House of Lords on the Second Reading of the Equal Marriage Bill, why not play Equal Marriage Bingo? Just cross off the predictable stock phrases as and when they occur, and you might win yourself a full House (of Lords). Although why you would want one is a mystery…

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courtesy of Stonewall

5 Responses to “Equal Marriage Bingo!”

  1. Bryn Jones Says:

    I would argue that the “slippery slope argument – advocating that mild, moderate, reasonable reform is dangerous because it might start a process that will lead to much greater, undesirable change – is a logical fallacy and that it is never valid.

    I recall the slipery slope argument regularly being cited by opponents of devolution twenty years ago when some of us were arguing in favour of democratisation of the functions of the old Welsh Office.

    • Certainly the danger is overplayed by those opposed to change. However, one often finds that people want more freedom—for themselves. They are happy to deny the same to other groups (sometimes, but not always, in order to attain this goal). This is often found among those wanting more freedom with regard to Islamic dress: freedom for themselves, of course, in societies where such dress is frowned upon. But they are the first to criticize those whose dress (or lack of it) doesn’t appeal to them.

      In the gay-marriage debate, some proponents have countered the argument “if we allow gay marriage then we must allow polygamy” with “no, we don’t, and we’ll work with you to keep marriage defined as a contract between two people”. Objectively, of course, there is no reason to favour a marriage between two people over one with more than two. The same arguments for and against gay marriage can also be applied to polygamy. (This doesn’t apply, of course, to other undesirable potential changes which do not involve consenting adults.)

      I’m reminded of an episode of the American 1970s sitcom All in the Family (based on Till Death Us Do Part): Archie Bunker and George Jefferson, White and Black, are constantly arguing, Archie a typical White racist and George essentially the same but reversed. When they hear that some Puerto Ricans plan to move into a house on their block, both of them realize that they have to stick together now.

      Was allowing women to wear trousers a start down the slippery slope which led to miniskirts? Probably. Did it mean the downfall of civilization? No.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Polygamy arose because in traditional societies the role of the man was provision and the role of the woman was childbearing. Men who were rich could afford to provide for more than one woman, hence polygamy. But they would never be willing to provide for children who were not theirs, which is presumably why adultery by a wife was regarded as more serious than adultery by a husband.

        Biology dictates that childbearing will always to be the woman’s role, but in the postwar West the tax-and-welfare system is now available as provider. I think that it is too soon to tell what the consequences will be. Society is in flux and has not reached a new equilibrium.

      • I agree almost completely. 🙂

        Of course, the original reason for which something came into existence is not necessarily related to its current use—a common theme in evolutionary theory. As in monogamous heterosexual relationships, birth control changes the boundary conditions for polygamous heterosexual relationships.

        Pinker makes the point that polygamy (almost always polygyny) has died out mainly not because women don’t like it but because men don’t like it—the men left with no wives at all. This is obviously an unstable situation socially, and more of a problem now than when the average lifespan was less than 30 years. (A similar problem is occurring in Asia today where, due to selective abortion (girls are too expensive due to dowry etc), there are now many more men than women. Most of these “extra” men will end up losing out, through no fault of their own.)

        Since there are more male than female homosexuals, one could argue that equilibrium is reached with a bit of polygyny, at least in a society where homosexuality is not repressed. This takes many forms: Victorian mansions with a ridiculous number of female servants (French maid costume, anyone?), rich tycoons divorcing every couple of decades and marrying a younger woman (the older woman more often remaining unmarried), covert polygamy (JFK and Marilyn) etc. Of course, in societies where extramarital sex is not punished, polygamous relationships (even if not sanctioned by marriage, which is not something everyone necessarily wants) are possible, but still often kept low-key for fear of ridicule (similar to the situation 30 or 40 years ago where homosexuality was legal but not accepted—must check out the new Liberace film with Michael Douglas).

        We might disagree about “in the postwar West the tax-and-welfare system is now available as provider”. Most children are supported by both parents, whether or not the parents were ever married and regardless of how long the relationship leading to the child lasted. Of course, many more things now are paid for via taxes than before, including support for families (probably most of it goes into supporting married couples with their own children), which is probably good in that it provides for more equal opportunity. In other words, I don’t think the possibility of welfare support has led to a significant increase in single mothers, as you seem to be implying. Of course, there is some effect, but whether that is good or bad depends on one’s point of view (especially if the alternative is abortion, whether or not legal). Certainly it is a good thing that a woman is not forced to remain married after the relationship has died because the alternative is poverty.

  2. Achtung! In German: http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/ehegattensplitting-karlsruhe100.html

    One of the German high courts (Bundesverfassungsgericht, “Federal Constitutional Court”; there are other high courts for criminal law, civil law etc) ruled that it is unconstitutional for homosexual married couples to be disadvantaged with regard to income tax. The CDU (Merkel’s party) wants to keep this disadvantage in place; all other parties want to get rid of it one way or another. (The CDU (very roughly: Conservatives) doesn’t have an absolute majority, but nevertheless their opinion wasn’t turned over in parliament because the FDP (very roughly: Liberal Democrats), who would like to get rid of the disadvantage, are in a coalition with the CDU. Obviously, a coalition entails compromises and it is of course acceptable for one coalition partner to refrain from voting how they would like in return for getting support on other issues.) Also, it applies retroactively back to 2001. The decision is binding and parliament must cast it into law.

    Germany of course has a progressive income tax. Married couples are taxed as if each earns half of the total income. The original idea made sense: it shouldn’t matter if each parent works part-time, one works full-time and the other stays home etc; how a couple decides to organize its time shouldn’t affect how much tax they pay. The original idea is that both would not work full-time because one or both would work less than full-time due to child care. So far, so good, but there are problems in practice: The advantage also goes for childless couples (whether voluntarily or not is neither here nor there), it doesn’t apply to unmarried parents, due to day care it is no longer necessary for both to avoid full-time employment except when the child is very young (and here one gets paid money to counteract the loss of salary—since a few years in Germany, since decades in Sweden), it takes earnings into account and not time worked (i.e. if both work full time, but one earns more, there is still a tax break because each is taxed as if the average has been earned).

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