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Aug 24 2012

Actually, LGBT Status Is a Bit Like Polygamy or Addiction

First off, kudos to at least one RNC delegate for attempting to bring the party into the 21st century on marriage equality. Pat Kerby, congratulations on standing up to one nasty facet of the party you call home.

The effort failed, of course. And in the failure, Kris Kobach, one of Romney’s advisors, said something that is getting passed around:

Our government routinely judges situations where you might regard people completely affecting themselves—like, for example, the use of controlled substances. Like polygamy that is voluntarily entered in to. We condemn those activities even though they are not hurting other people, at least directly. So this is worded way too broadly for inclusion in the platform.

There is, however, a grain of truth to this statement. There are negative consequences to being LGBT or to using illegal drugs or to ending up in a polygamous marriage in the sects that practice it.


Communities that practice religious, though not legal, polygynous marriage (because, after all, we can be that specific) experience more spousal abuse and child abuse. They limit educational opportunities and employment opportunities for the women involved and not infrequently result in male children who are cast out with little hope for getting along in the wider world. They offer very little in the way of spousal choice for women, to the point that Kobach’s “voluntarily entered into” describes a choice that is no choice.

Use of illegal drugs can limit employment opportunities, both through the use of drug testing and because users can easily end up with a criminal record under our current system in the U.S. It can break up family relationships, largely through the endless telling of lies, the devastation of household budgets, and the need to distance one’s self from a user in order to maintain a clean legal record or housing. It can lead to homelessness. It can lead to illness through the sharing of dirty drug paraphenalia or through prostitution when other means of obtaining money have run out.

Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals have higher rates of homelessness, particularly as teenagers. They experience higher rates of bullying. They experience higher rates of mental illness and suicide. They experience higher rates of drug use. They experience more employment discrimination and less familial support. They have a great deal more difficulty having the basic facts of their lives recognized by the law. Trans people experience all of that–only more so.

Kobach is right in so far as there are negative consequences to all of these things. That, however, is where being right ends. Why? Because none of these people are “completely affecting themselves”.

Every consequence I just listed is tied to how we as a society treat the people in question. We don’t have to set up such dire consequences for people who do illegal drugs, but we’ve collectively decided punishment is the way to go. We don’t have to allow the options of people, particularly children, in religious communities to be so restricted, but we’ve decided the adults’ religious freedom is more important than the integrity of their children. We don’t have to make the lives of LGBT people miserable with few legal remedies, but we do in most of our nation.

So, while Kobach is right on some of the effects, he neglects to mention that people like him–and the legal inequalities he’s fighting for–are the cause.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Natalie Reed

    I got one of those annoying spam e-mails from the HRC a couple days ago with them being all “Grr! The Republicans compared us to drug users and polygamists! That’s so nasty!” and it just kinda seemed like exactly the wrong way to react. Like it just VALIDATES a culture that thinks it’s appropriate to stigmatize such things… just as long as they don’t stigmatize us in the process, I guess? What the hell kind of mentality is that? Like “we’re not at all disgusting and horrible like those disgusting and horrible junkies and poly sluts!”

    … it reminds me very much of the current reactions some people have to the APA’s statement on changing the DSM classification of Gender Identity Disorder to Gender Dysphoria, with them getting all up in arms and demanding total removal. There’s a lot of ableism in that, I think, in how it also validates the stigmatization of illness and disability by only seeking to DISTANCE ourselves from the concept of “disorder” rather than addressing the fact that it’s, like, NOT a horrible thing to have a disorder that requires medical treatment. That’s just something that happens. “We’re not sick and disordered like all the OTHER disordered sickos in your manual of sickness!”. Fuck that.

    I get really disappointed in LGBTQ politics sometimes, and the lack of noticing the bigger picture, or considering any kind of intersectionality. It all just seems like crabs in a barrel sometimes.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    All goes to show we really do need to educate in every community. Looks like none of us will be out of jobs anytime soon.

  3. 3
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    I’ll just say, “Yeah, what Stephanie and Natalie said.”

    Because our gov does something wrong, that’s reason for increased wrongness, and an excuse for personal bad thinking?

  4. 4
    Ace of Sevens

    Yeah, me too. It reminds me of all the assurances that’s we’ll keep immigrants from taking advantage of any health care improvements.

  5. 5
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    *quietly stands behind Natalie and Stephanie*

    I agree with these comments.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    Solidarity. It’s a bit ridiculous, even, to think that the stigma of drug use or polygamy is necessary when each has its own costs.

    Destigmatize it all. None of it is worthy of depriving the person of their basic human dignity.

  7. 7
    timberwoof

    I once had a cow orker who told me that if his son showed up after school with a Mohawk haircut, he’d beat him and shave the rest of his hair off “to teach him the importance of conformity.” Conformity is an important conservative social value, and any social consequences that arise from nonconformity are the fault of the nonconformist, not the ones doing the mean stuff. I’ve heard people say that eliminating the possibility of their sons getting ridiculed for having an abnormal penis is a good reason to have them circumcised. And so, of course, the crap I get for being gay is seen as not the fault of the people giving me the crap but my own. In a different context I’m discussing gay marriage. One person told me that he opposes gay marriage because most people do … but if the laws changed, he’d support it. Gaah!

  8. 8
    shockna

    As someone with an -extremely- addiction prone personality, I have to say, it’s fucking pathetic for the GOP to compare addiction and homosexuality.

    Mostly because addiction is an actual problem. Unlike homosexuality, addiction causes serious issues for both addict and bystander both. Homosexuality? Not so much, unless you count bigots being offended at nothing.

    Also, agreed with Jason. The stigma needs to go. It doesn’t help addicts, and gay people don’t need help. Not with their sexual orientation, anyhow (Their rights, of course, is a very, very different story).

  9. 9
    mikee

    Hmmm, my choices as a gay man Would be to 1) suppress it, marry a woman, have kids and probably end up cruising toilets or even misdirecting my sexual urges at children.
    2) acknowledge it and have a fulfilling relationship with another man.

    Now which option does the most harm to myself and others?

  10. 10
    Ysanne

    Maybe I’m way too liberal on these questions, but there’s one angle from which I can see a valid point in Kobach’s statement:
    Yes, it’s is policing and intruding into people’s personal choices for no good reason when society condemns and punishes people for living in polygamy or using drugs. And that’s why this condemnation and punishment is plain wrong. Instead of forbidding these not inherently harmful activities, it’d be way better for everyone involved to create circumstances under which they can be practiced in a way that avoids the associated potential problems.

  11. 11
    Alyson Miers

    So, why DO we encourage our government to judge situations where we might regard people completely affecting themselves? Why are we supposed to be okay with that, Kobach?

    If someone could show me a situation in which polygamy was actually practiced voluntarily (because what the FLDS folks are doing is far from voluntary), I would see no reason to legislate against it.

    Furthermore, much of the problem with drug addiction is actually the War on Drugs. Why is it that we accept alcohol as a fact of life while we punish people for using other substances, at all, ever?

  12. 12
    Almulhida

    @9 I put a similar question to a conservative discussion group I used to hang out in. The replies were as follows:

    1. Gay men who marry women and then later get divorced because they’re gay are monsters who have victimized women

    2.What do you mean social pressure? Take responsibility for your actions, stop playing the victim card.

    They basically want a world where being gay is universally considered horrible but where gay people are immune to that message and get into adulthood with the knowledge that they’re gay and should stay celibate for some unelucidated benefit to straight people.

    The lack of understanding is staggering.

  13. 13
    Otrame

    Why is it that we accept alcohol as a fact of life while we punish people for using other substances, at all, ever?

    Because the people who get rich from selling alcohol are white. So are the people who sell the most addictive drug out there–a drug responsible for more deaths each year than all other drugs combined–which is also legal.

  14. 14
    Dalillama

    @Alyson Miers
    Well, it’s not polygamy in the usual sense, but I have encountered and/or been part of a number of long three-person relationships, with varying gender mixes, which were entirely voluntary. That said, legally recognizing such relationships is a slightly more complex issue than allowing for same-gender pairings, as there are issues of e.g. common property if on party leaves, how medical decisions are handled if the spouses disagree, etc. I don’t consider these to be a justification for not recognizing, them, though, as I’m certain that some of the relevant law from incorporation proceedings could be adapted for most of it.
    Also, what Natalie said.

  15. 15
    Natalie Reed

    Ummm… Mikee @9… you know there is like NO evidence that pedophilia is in ANY way tied to homosexuality, repressed or otherwise? And that the vast majority of pedophiles exhibit otherwise heterosexual orientations in their pursuits with adults, and no interest in homosexual adult intimacy? And that it’s, like, a super offensive myth that they’re at all connected?

  16. 16
    Alyson Miers

    Dalillama @14, that’s what I mean. Actually voluntary non-monogamous relationships are not usually what enter into the discussions of marriage equality in which polygamy is used as a scare tactic against same-sex marriage.

  17. 17
    Susan Silberstein

    @#13, it is my impression that a lot of alcohol is consumed in China and Japan. Are the manufacturers and sellers there white?

  18. 18
    Paul

    @#13, it is my impression that a lot of alcohol is consumed in China and Japan. Are the manufacturers and sellers there white?

    Are they the ones writing US law using Congresspeople as proxies? Context: it matters.

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