A Crowded Institution

I like this post of Andrea's about polygamy, but I have to respectfully disagree with her on one point:

I firmly do not believe that multiple marriage has anything at all to do with same-sex marriage. The MacLean’s article says, “Marriage, already open to same-sex couples, could become a very crowded institution.” Oh, for Chrissakes. Did you really need to toss a sprinkling of homophobia into the mix? Because we queers are crowding the straights, is that it? Invading their personal space, perhaps? I didn’t realize that marriage was a room with a maximum capacity. Are we a frickin’ fire hazard now? Screw you. Get the fuck over it, people.
I agree that that was a homophobic and assholish comment on the part of the McLean's author, and that people do need to get the fuck over it, but I strongly disagree that same sex marriage has nothing to do with non-religious polygamy. Indeed, I think they are two aspects of the very same issue.

To me, the crux of the SSM debate was whether we wanted marriage to be a religiously defined institution, based on traditional ideas of relationships as necessary for social-group-mixing, transfer of property, etc., or an institution based on sense and legal expediency, providing humane and reasonable ways of dealing with such questions as health-benefit sharing and income tax on households that share expenses, child custody when households split up, etc. If we decide on the latter then the reasons for restricting the institution to groups of two evaporate along with the reasons for keeping it between opposite sex couples.

Like Andrea, I think that marriage is an out-moded, irrelevant, oppressive, and mysogynist institution (which is what I assume she means when she says "marriage kinda sucks"), and I think we need something new. If people want their religious institutions to bless their romantic/sexual relationships, that's their business, but I don't want to have to be involved in their fight to get the religious institutions to bless *this* particular pairing, or *that* particular set up. That is so resoundingly not my problem, and the best way to keep it that way is to make religious marriage an exclusively religious institution, carrying no legal weight whatsoever, and come up with something else on the legal side of things. I think what would work best (and Andrea touches on this as well) is a set of standard but tweakable contracts that have more to do with how a household is set up financially and in terms of child care, and don't worry about who's fucking whom. I agree that we need a system where two people in a romantic triad can sponsor the third for immigration based on their relationship, but I don't think that's enough. We need a system where a woman who stays home to care for her sister's or adult daughter's child will qualify for domestic partner benefits, and get consideration in terms of custody should the household split up. Households and families do not always consist of two (or more) adults who are sexual partners, plus kids. Adult siblings living together, groups of unrelated but not-sexually-involved women living together to share resources and raise their kids, grown children living with their parents or aunts/uncles, and all manner of other households are all completely normal, healthy and good ways to live, and the law needs to reflect that.

I think the conservatives who screamed that same-sex marriage was just a stepping stone towards allowing consenting adults to enter into whatever relationship they wanted, with full legal sanction, were absolutely right. I just don't see what the bad is.