Originally Posted by Gonso
But they're not. It's horribly defined with a ton of potential problems that don't exist in two-party marriages.
For example, if a husband should die leaving multiple wives (all heterosexual), do the surviving sister-wives remain married to each other, or can man be a "hub" that has multiple independent/disconnected wives? If not, does the loss of any one party dissolve the union? Can a party have another marriage outside of the household and not part of the main group. Are there limits to the number of people that can enter into these marriages? What (if any) are the restrictions placed upon who can enter into the marriage - for example, can two women who are blood relatives marry the same man? Then there are all kind of issues about biological parents vs. non-biological parents that could take place - if a kid's biological Mom should die, would another wife have equal legal standing to the biological father?
Some of those problems would be unique to that type of union. Whether you support polygamy or not these are things that would require careful thought, which you're not going to get when the issue is tied to some other issue without those factors. And lets face it, the people who are looking to group these issues are either for the legalization of polygamy or they're pulling a Rick Santorum and trying to paint gay people in an unpopular light since people aren't as receptive to polygamy.
In contrast to the fairly murky topic of polygamy there just isn't much ambiguity in what gays are asking for, or how a same-sex marriage would actually function in practice.
Besides all of that, considering how hotly the Mormons backed Prop 8, I doubt polygamists and gays see their plights as that similar at all. I wouldn't be surprised to find that each opposed the other if you count up a majority. [EDIT: And yes, I know that the mainstream Mormons no longer do the polygamy thing, at least publicly.]
No harm at all in evaluating each topic one at a time.
Your point that polygamy is different than gay marriage and has it's own set of complications to be hashed out is a good one. And there is no issue with treating each topic one at a time for practical purposes. As a practicality issue, they are different and should certainly be treated as such. It appears it would be simple to change the rules for gay marriage when compared to polygamy.
But in order to fight Rick Santorum, I think it is important to understand his arguments. All practicality aside, this is being presented as a rights issue. People in this country want to know why the rules ought to be changed for one group of people they don't necessarily identify with, and the thing they keep getting told over and over is gays should have the right to be married because they love one another and being gay is fine, so just let them get married already! But naturally, people ask why should gays have more rights in marriage than any other group who love one another? Just because it might take more work to hash out the intricacies of multiple-person marriage, does not mean it cannot be done. Don't you think polygamists already have plenty of solutions for all the potential problems presented above?
As long as we're fighting Rick Santorum, let's take another one of his arguments (I'm assuming) - a change to marriage more or less as practical as what the gay community wants. Why not let brothers and sisters get married? I think a few royal families tried this. I don't see how it would be any more difficult to change the rules for siblings than it would be for gays.