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Big Love: Slippery Slope?

Tue 1 Jan 2008 In: Comment View at Wayback

Big Love poster art The US Christian Right waxed hysterical about HBO's Big Love last year. We can probably expect to hear the same arguments about polygamy and same-sex marriage, so here we go again... For those unfamiliar with this excellent TVNZ drama, currently in its second series, it's about Bill Henrickson, a store owner in suburban Salt Lake City and his family. Thing is, Bill is a covert practising suburban polygamist schismatic Mormonoid, at odds with the mainstream Latter Day Saints, who abolished polygamy as a religious requirement back in 1890. He has three wives - Barb, Nicole and Margene - and a tribe of about eight kids. If all polygamist schismatic Mormonoids were like the Henrickson clan, all would be fine. However, the majority of schismatics are hardcore "fundamentalist" Mormonoids, who dissented from the mainstream LDS over the abandonment of polygamy. One of them is Nicky's dad, Roman Grant, who runs a creepy cult called the United Effort Brethren, and whose latest 'sister-wife', Rhondda, is barely sixteen. Moreover, the UEB will apparently be getting into a gunfight with other compounds at the end of the current series. "Slippery slopes?" There's only one gay man visible in the entire series, namely Alby Grant, who was checking out shapely male police posteriors when he reported his alleged poisoning in the UEB compound. Moreover, as long as polygamists are nice suburban conservative types like the Henricksons, a 'repressive tolerance' situation has apparently arisen, in which the latter don't draw attention to their chosen multiple spouse relationships, and mainstream Mormon society doesn't bother them, in return. In other words, in Big Love's Salt Lake City, moderate heterosexual schismatic polygamists are tolerated. There seem to be no other lesbians and gay men in sight. In other words, there is a distinct warp in the slippery slope argument, which Kurtz conveniently ignores. Incidentally, Alby is suppressing his sexual identity, indicating the distortion and moral corruption that enforced closetry may wreak on the LGBT psyche. Herein lies the rub. Because LGBT populations are predominantly metropolitan in composition, we have access to professional employment and urban social networks that enhance the ability of our communities to press for legislative change. Polygamist Mormonoids, whether nice suburban conservatives like the Henricksons, or scary rural authoritarian paedophiles like Roman and his seedy entourage of true believers, appear not to have this logistical, strategic and tactical advantage. Therefore, my guess is that the decriminalisation, registration and regulation of heterosexual polygamy won't occur any time soon. Anti-polygamists, like Stanley Kurtz, appear to think that the schismatic Utah Mormonoids aren't alone in their endeavours. He cites the formation of a bisexual cohabitation triad (the Van Brujin case) in the Netherlands, as well as a Swedish polyamorist rights/marriage abolition movement and Canada's recent government reports that urged the decriminalisation of heterosexual polygamy. He views this as the initiation of a 'slippery slope' that "will" lead to an 'eventual' mass movement of dissident LGBT, feminist, civil libertarian and libertarian right supporters for social change. Except that doesn't exist now, of course. Oh, and then there are Muslim polygamists who want recognition for their marriages too. What is wrong with this picture? While I might condone refugee polygamist family resettlement for continuity of care and family support network reasons for displaced Muslim polygamists, I am not convinced beyond that. Kurtz conveniently forgets that there are LGBT and feminist opponents of polygamist "rights" too, who point to precisely the sort of creepy polygamist paedophile attacks on little girls and female teenagers that Big Love is dead set against. Not to mention violence against women in polygamist relationships. In fact, what Big Love does is show the impossibility of a polygamist "rights' movement under current circumstances. It demonstrates how profoundly different their circumstances are from LGBT citizens in the context of civil unions and same-sex marriage, moreover. Not Recommended: Stanley Kurtz: "Big Love, from the Set" National Review: 13.03.06: Craig Young - 1st January 2008    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Tuesday, 1st January 2008 - 3:24pm

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