North Carolina’s House Majority Leader Representative Paul “Skip” Stam of the 37th District said during a Tuesday press conference that there is no philosophical difference between legalizing same-sex marriage and legalizing polygamy or adult incest. This comes ahead of North Carolina lawmakers taking up a constitutional amendment to codify a ban on same-sex marriage in the state.
At Tuesday’s press conference Stam was asked by a reporter if the amendment would constitute government overreach, to which he replied with the following via On Top Magazine (which also has the audio):
“Well 90 percent of all laws affect people’s lives, so that’s an argument without any content to it. … We prohibit adult incest, we prohibit polygamy. What would be their answer to that? We’re involved in people’s lives. That’s a slogan without analysis.”
Stam is then asked if he is comparing same-sex marriage to incest and polygamy, he responds he is not but then, well, goes on to compare same-sex marriage with adult incest and polygamy:
“What I’m saying is you cannot construct an argument for same sex-marriage that would not also justify philosophically the legalization of polygamy and adult incest.”
Stam concludes by saying that supporters of same-sex marriage need to come to the floor to say why there’s a distinction.
So, let’s break it down.
First of all, the government overreach question is viable if one considers that curtailing government involvement in how people regulate their private lives is a big Republican cause, and there is a general consensus that such involvement is only acceptable when there is a legitimate government interest in preventing certain behaviors due to inherent risks either to the parties involved or wider society. With the federal government abandoning defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act because the government has determined it is unconstitutional and discriminatory without justifiable government interest, and various states legalizing same-sex marriage on grounds of equality, the burden of proof is on Stam and his associates to qualify what exactly the legitimate government interest is in this case.
Secondly, Stam frames the wider debate as though passing the constitutional amendment means the difference between legalizing same-sex marriage or preventing that from happening. This isn’t true. North Carolina already has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage which was enacted in 1996, and if he is concerned that the ban may in fact be vulnerable to judicial action — i.e. a plain reading of the constitution that would find the ban unlawful based on constitutional guarantees of equal treatment — then perhaps that should inform him about the nature of the constitutional amendment he and the rest of the Republican leadership in the state are supporting.
Third, that there is no philosophical difference between legalizing same-sex marriage and legalizing polygamy or adult incest. Well, there certainly is a legal difference, that is to say that at this time the latter two activities are unlawful — this is not the case with same-sex relationships, which are no longer criminalized in the US and in several states are in fact recognized through civil marriage rights or state level equivalent unions.
Addressing the lofty philosophical angle directly, gay marriage does not automatically lead to the legalization of adult incest or polygamy, and to even suggest such is disingenuous, but could it necessitate a discussion on why society has decided to make those relationships illegal? Perhaps. And any discussion about such a topic should be welcomed, given that we are all adults capable of critical thinking and as critical thinkers we are also able to see the clear distinctions between same-sex marriage, multiple partner marriage and marriage between biologically related consenting adults. So, please, let’s stop with the scare tactics.
The Republican Leadership in North Carolina is pushing for a vote on the constitutional amendment in the September special session which begins September 12. The proposed senate version of the amendment would not only ban same-sex marriage but would also prevent all marriage-like relationships. If passed by the Legislature, the issue would go before voters at the 2012 ballot where it is expected, though not certain, to pass.