VAN SCOY: Stop bothering consenting adults

We’re back to this argument again: Gay marriage is a dangerous, slippery slope. In a column published by the New York Daily News a week ago, Errol Louis commented on the New York State Assembly’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage – acknowledging that this raises fear of more varieties of sexual conduct being legalized. Among these practices, he included incest and polygamy.

Published pieces such as Louis’ column tell those in the public who object, “. Conservatives were right to predict that proponents of odd and radical sexual practices would try to slip through the political and legal doors opened by the gay rights movement,” supporting the concepts that the gay rights movement is a “gateway” to immorality and that sexual privacy is a right that will be attained through substandard, unethical means.

Considering the case Lawrence v. Texas set a precedent to protect the sexual privacy of two consenting adults, these “fears” are apparently valid to some, but the sexual conduct of others is not something to fear – or to deny to other people because of a moral standard held by anyone other than the consenting adults.

Firstly, polygamy has no legal connection to any manner of sex – marriage and consensual sex are clearly two different concepts. Marriage is a legal contract and holds benefits to those involved, such as tax incentives. There is no reason that one, two, three, four or more people cannot all enter into this legal contract, were there standard regulations regarding these benefits, if they are all consenting adults.

Secondly, in the eyes of the law, there is no difference between marriage and other living situations – save for this contract, which doesn’t specify sexual practices within the marriage. So, the issue of marriage and sex combined is moot here – they exist without each other. When contesting the issue of gay marriage, arguments that it may lead to immoral sexual perversions are disregarding the fact they are separate legal battles.

With that said, there should be no discrimination toward any who wish to enter into a marriage contract provided by the state – sexual preference is moot, and the number of people to whom the contract applies can be easily altered. What we have are groups of people opposing marriages because they blur the line between legal marriage and sexual practices and try to make a law that applies to both.

This leads to the discussion of incest, in which the term “marriage” and “sex” are thrown around inclusively, as noted in its definition: “The crime of sexual intercourse, cohabitation, or marriage between persons within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity wherein marriage is legally forbidden.” The previously stated argument takes care of the consensual legal contract, so what about the sex?

The main argument against incest is that interbreeding will result in mentally and physically handicapped children- a notion that should not stop marriage – and is therefore similar to or the same crime as child neglect.

What about those with hereditary diseases and disfigurements? Should they be put in a national directory and cross-referenced when marriage is on the line? This gets into very large issues of the degree to which people who are handicapped have fulfilling lives, abortion, and more than one level of privacy.

How about this, simply: Sex between two consenting adults is not a crime. At what point can you take away a legal adult’s right – always considering the fact that they are competent – to consent to an act, therefore making consent irrelevant to the law? It shouldn’t happen.

The reality is that consent is key to both sex and marriage laws, making them extremely hard to distinguish from each other. This same importance is the reason why this shouldn’t worry anyone who doesn’t want to partake in these and other controversial practices. If you don’t give your consent to participate, it is still, and always will be, illegal. Nobody can legally force you into anything. But for those who do consent, taking away their right to do so is taking away a fundamental principle on which many laws in this country stand, and quite literally, an abominable example of discrimination. That, I believe, is still illegal as well.

– Luci Van Scoy is a junior in anthropology from Newton.