In his reply to my post, for which I thank him, Robert George fairly notes that many of the family radicals who signed "Beyond Marriage" favor SSM. Of course they do. But so do nearly all left-wing and queer-theory academics and activists, which is what these folks are. (With the exception of Chai Feldblum and a few others, they have not played prominent roles in the same-sex marriage fight. I mean, Cornel West? Gimme a break.) The important distinction is that SSM is only part of what these folks favor, and the rest is what they really care about. As the title of their manifesto proclaims, they are looking beyond same-sex marriage: they favor SSM, not as an end in itself, but as a way-station toward a post-marriage society in which all concepts of family enjoy equal status and marriage is irrelevant.
There's no denying that they speak for a prominent element of the gay-rights movement (not the gay marriage movement; there's a difference). I worry about their influence, as I do about that of socialized-medicine advocates and anti-globalists and gender-abolishers and other members of the ultra-egalitarian left, but I don't think they'll prevail, even within the gay universe, most of which is neither radical nor "queer."
There's a legitimate argument here about whether the culture will interpret gay marriage as "anything goes" or as "marriage goes." Actually, some of both may happen, but I expect the dominant vector to be reaffirmation of marriage's privileged status as the family structure of choice. Parents asking their gay kids, "So, you guys going to get married?", plus the longstanding social preference for the unique commitment of marriage (as expressed, for example, in corporate benefits reserved for married couples), plus the fact that most marrying gay couples marry precisely because they see marriage as a unique commitment - all these, I expect, will lead the culture to read SSM as a return to the values of marriage, not a further flight from them. The wind brings positive straws from Massachusetts, where a number of employers are revoking domestic-partner benefits now that SSM is legal.
In any case, it's hardly fair to saddle homosexuals with the burden of exclusion from marriage in hopes of preventing heterosexual folly. If straights insist on trashing marriage, it's not gays' job to stop them. Question: how many American heterosexuals would give up their own marriages to (maybe) forfend polygamy? Who would even consider asking them to do so? I'm often saddened by otherwise compassionate conservatives' willingness to think of gay people, in the SSM debate, as pawns to be manipulated for some larger social good. They must forgive us for declining to think of ourselves that way.
Regarding polygamy...OK, let me see if I get this. Polygamy destabilizes societies, is inconsistent with liberal democracy, shows pronounced inegalitarian and misogynistic tendencies, is frivolous by comparison to SSM, has no logical connection to SSM, and indeed is logically antithetical to the principle of SSM properly understood (everyone should have the opportunity to marry)...these are not principled arguments? Whereas "one man plus one woman makes baby" is not just a principled barrier to polygamy, it is the only principled barrier?
The problem, which is immediately obvious, is that "one man plus one woman makes baby" is no kind of barrier to polygamy, either logical or practical. Logically, man-plus-woman-makes-baby is a biological fact, but one-plus-one-makes-marriage in no way follows from it. Men are perfectly happy to marry all the women they can make babies with, as they have been wont to do since the dawn of history. Given that most human cultures have been polygamous (and quite a few still are), and that presumably all of these cultures have been well aware that heterosexual couples make babies, it seems self-evident that the man-woman-baby argument has little or no deterrent effect on polygamy.
A point of honest disagreement with George is this: in my opinion, the reasons to oppose polygamy are instrumental, not metaphysical, and all the stronger for that. And they are the same reasons for favoring gay marriage. Society and (generally) individuals are better off when everyone can marry and most people do.
That disagreement aside, I wish George would reconsider his strategy of pooh-poohing all the arguments against polygamy (and polyamory) that don't also militate against SSM - which is to say, virtually all the arguments against polygamy. Surely we could agree that this strategy does monogamy no favors. As SSM and gay partnerships gain acceptance, conservatives will be stuck with their own arguments that any change to the boundaries of marriage entails every change. It will be harder for the public, sensible though it is, to hold the line with conservatives insisting there is no line to hold. Sometimes I wonder if, like Col. Nicholson in "Bridge on the River Kwai," slippery-slope conservatives are forgetting what they're supposed to be defending. (Hint: not polygamy.)
As for polyamory, if by that George means group marriage, it might be different in some ways from polygamy, but it's analytically similar: frivolous, logically antithetical to SSM, and, to judge by the last several thousand years of experience, likely to devolve in the vast majority cases into polygamy. As for fending off formal recognition of non-marital polyamory (e.g., group cohabitation benefits), gay marriage is the surest method of preventing that.
In any case, it's well to remember that all this polygamy/polyamory talk amounts to changing the subject. Gay people are asking only for what straight people currently have: the opportunity to marry someone we choose (not anyone or everyone we choose). When straights get the right to marry two people, their mother, a dog, or a toaster, gay people will want the same opportunity. But not before.