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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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It’s a Slippery Slope

Almost four months ago the Marriage Amendment Bill passed, allowing same-sex couples to marry. Progressives all over New Zealand rejoiced, comfortable in the knowledge that one of the few remaining bastions of discrimination in our law had been removed. Of course, these same people knew that the fight to end discrimination in society was not over, but as far as removing discrimination from law it seemed that our work was done.

Throughout the marriage-equality debate, proponents argued that the government had no place in dictating who one person could solemnise their love with. Equally, the other side of the debate talked about how the “natural progression” after marriage equality was to legalise polygamy and incest. Instead of arguing with any substance or admitting that the march of progress might lead to polygamy and incest, progressives often dismissed the arguments as simply Colin Craig and Family First fear-mongering and trash.

But maybe they were right. Maybe incest and polygamy is the next step? And maybe, just maybe, there is nothing wrong with that? Over the past year, supporters of marriage equality have almost certainly found themselves saying that if two people love each other, then why should the state stop those people from expressing that love in a marriage. So what if there are three people, or four? What if they are siblings?

If a group of loving, consenting adults want to formalise their relationship in marriage, why should we stop them? Polyamory is just a bigger, better version of what we already do. Likewise, why should we stop the same consenting adults marrying if they are related? They don’t even have to bother changing their surnames.

Of course, it is true to say that the offspring of incestuous couples are more likely to be born with defects, but we have moved on from conflating sex with reproduction. Incestuous couples can surely be trusted to make decisions with this in mind, just as we let all other couples make that decision in spite of them having a chance (albeit lesser) of producing a child with mental or physical disabilities. As Johann Hari pointed out, “to prohibit two people from having sex because their offspring may be ‘defective’ or ‘inferior’ is to adopt the standpoint of a eugenicist”.

Society changes. Just nine years ago, our Parliament passed legislation which allowed civil unions, and the prospect of marriage between same-sex couples seemed to be a distant one. Yet, less than a decade later, public opinion has swung in favour of what was once a mortal sin. Incest and polygamy are just an extension of this same expression of love. It might not be as common or ‘sexy’ an issue as marriage equality, but it’s one that progressives who argue that the state should stay away from the bedroom should support.

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