American ingenuity is the envy of the world, and why not? The exceptional nation may no longer be the workshop of the world — Americans drive cars built in Japan, wear pants made in Malaysia, shirts sewn in Burma, shoes cobbled in Canada and drawers, from petite to queen size, manufactured in China — but nobody makes excuses, takes offense quicker and nurtures hurt feelings longer than the Americans. Taking offense is the great American growth industry.
Just when a reasonable man thinks there’s nothing left to redress in the public square, that every feminist has found a job supervising a man, that every gay caballero has found a baker to bake his wedding cake, that every aspiring Rev. Al has started his riot, here comes someone with a fresh mob to whore after the new thing.
The gay lobby is in court now, trying to persuade the Supremes to require the states to sanction the ringing of their wedding bells and to join them in a search for an orange blossom to sniff. Once every gay caballero is assured the right to collect ex-wives and every Sapphic sister to collect abusive ex-husbands, could there be anything still to come on “the relationship front?”
Ah, yes. The learned justices of the Supreme Court found a hint this week in the proceedings to determine whether Americans of homosexual extraction have a constitutional right to federal sanction of their rites of domestic affiliation. Most of us would imagine that if the Supremes smile on the regiments of the kingdom of the LGBT, they’ve gone about as far as they can go.
Justice Samuel Alito, clearly curious about what might lie ahead of him, asked Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for the gay legion, what might be next. “Suppose we rule in your favor in this case and then after that, a group consisting of two men and two women apply for a marriage license,” he asked. “Would there be any grounds for denying them a license?”
She said she “believes” so, and when Justice Alito asked why, she embarked on a lawyerly ramble. “There would be two [reasons],” she said. “One is whether the state would even say that that is such a thing as a marriage, but beyond that, there are definitely going to be concerns about coercion and consent and disrupting family relationships when you start talking about multiple persons. But I want to just go back — “
Justice Anthony Scalia interrupted, as judges often do: “I didn’t understand your answer.”
“Well,” said Justice Alito, “I hope you will come back to my [question].” He refined the question of what would happen when four people, two men and two women, all consenting adults, highly educated — “and they’re all lawyers” — want to be joined together in matrimony. Justice Alito carefully didn’t call it holy matrimony, because with four lawyers in one marriage we can imagine how unholy that matrimony might be, with never any peace in either boudoir or at breakfast table. “But what would be the ground under the logic of the decision you would like us to hand down in this case? What would be the logic of denying them the same right?”
Mzz. Bonauto could only take another ramble, trying to think of a convincing argument, observing that she “assumes” the states would say that a group marriage “is not the same thing we’ve had in marriage.” Just so. That’s exactly what opponents of same-sex “marriage” have said about putting two men or two women on a single marriage license.
The revealing exchange is more than an exercise in what-if? There’s already group-marriage advocacy abroad in the land, and intellectually respectable voices are arguing that group marriage, with an ample supply of erotic love, companionship and day care, is the natural successor to the traditional nuclear family.
Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, a founder of the polyamory movement, argues in Psychology Today magazine, that group marriage can help lonely children, offers childless couples a “low-tech” solution to “challenges of infertility,” and multiple donors can “soften the ticking of the biological clock” by offering older women the opportunity to raise the children of “a younger sister-wife.” And of course, with all these multiple husbands and wives in the mix, who would ever feel the pangs of jealousy and rejection?
Dr. Anapol, a clinical psychologist, is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington at Seattle, and has worked with “erotic spirituality” and something called “Pelvic Heart Integration,” which sounds like too much information for a pundit of delicate sensibility. And maybe for a Supreme Court justice, too, but Messrs. Alito, Scalia and their colleagues must prepare themselves. Today a nut, tomorrow a plaintiff.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.