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(c) by Mary Griggs

The National Organization for Marriage released an ad saying that allowing gay couples to marry would be akin to legalizing pedophilia and incest. Here it is:

They are not alone in making this argument. In fact, Justice Antonin Scalia warned of this in his dissent to the 2003 Supreme Court decision of Lawrence vs Texas which struck down Texas’s law against sodomy. He wrote (and read from the bench in its entirity): “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are … called into question by today’s decision.”

You expect ignorance from a group like NOM but a Supreme Court Justice should know better. As Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal has written:

The problem with “slippery slope” arguments…is that they assume that society and the law can’t make distinctions between situations that are different from one another. But we can tell apples from oranges. For example, that women got the right to vote does not mean that infants are next.

I will use this blog to refute the equation of legalizing marriage equality with starting us down the slippery slope to incest and pedophilia.

Let’s start with incest. Much of the info used in this section came from the FindLaw Forum.

Incest in this country is regulated through two parallel sets of laws: marriage regulations and criminal prohibitions. Marriage laws prohibit unions of parties within certain relationships of consanguinity (by blood) or affinity (by marriage). They declare such marriages void from the start.

Criminal laws prohibit marriage and sexual relationships based on the same ties (with the necessary consanguinity and affinity usually defined the same way as in the marriage laws). They penalize those who disobey with fines or imprisonment.

Every state prohibits marriages between parents and children, sisters and brothers, uncles and nieces, and aunts and nephews. Some prohibit all ancestor/descendant marriages, regardless of degree. Four states extend the prohibition to marriages between parents and their adopted children.

The argument for incestuous marriage is predicated on the notion that private consensual activity between adults should not be criminalized. However, in 2004, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that state interests in preventing incest — even among adults or step-relations — were perfectly legitimate.

I won’t be so bold as to say that such marriages will never be legal, especially in regards to cousin marriages (as a point of fact, most other countries permit first-cousin marriages without restriction, and the rate of cousin marriages in some parts of the world is as high as 60 percent of all marriages). However, the risk of producing genetically damaged offspring will keep society from ever accepting incestuous marriages.

Now, let’s discuss their second point:

Legalizing same-sex marriage does not logically entail that pedophilia (or bestiality, as others have argued) will become legal, too. Sexual abuse is not equal to loving, committed sexual unions.

The concept of the inability of children to give consent dates back centuries in the Common Law of British and American courts and it is the basis of all statutory rape laws. In the United States, under-aged youth are not legally allowed to marry.

The basis for saying it’s illegal to become sexually involved with person’s below a certain age is that quantifiable harm is done to the underage person by the physical, educational, and psychological consequences of sexual relations at a young age.

The harm includes interruption of education, limiting the fitness of a young person for later life, the psychological damage that sexual activity at a young age can cause, the physical damage that early childbearing causes, the increased likelihood of a complicated pregnancy and maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, the immaturity of at least one parent, which results in less effective parenting.  There is objective evidence that, in our society, the average adolecent or teenager is not equipped for marriage and childbearing and parenting and that very early marriages are more likely to end sooner.

This decision comes not from religion but from the practical, observable considerations that it is better for society if those who marry are competent adults.

In short, there are compelling reasons that society bans incestuous and paedophillic marriages, including genetic concerns about the children of incestuous marriages and the importance of preventing coercion and abuse. There are no such similar reasons to ban same-sex marriage between consenting adults.

As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance to name a few. Specious arguments about what might (however implausibly) result should marriage equality be the law of the land are not sufficient reason to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

There is a terrific graphic found here: Explaining Gay Rights To People Who Make the Huge Leap That If We Legalize Gay Marriage It Will Open the Doors To All Sorts of Ridiculous Things Like Marrying Your Toaster, Children, the Dead or Your Dog