Dutch Civil Unions Are Hers And Hers And His


Reader Adam Scavone sends us the news that a man and two women in the Netherlands have entered into a three-way civil union:

Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal "married" both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

"I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both," Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. Two and a half years ago they met Mirjam Geven through an internet chatbox. Eight weeks later Mirjam deserted her husband and came to live with Victor and Bianca. After Mirjam's divorce the threesome decided to marry.

Victor: "A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage."

From the Red States, from Grant's Pass, OR, and from the Great White North, gay marriage opponents say this proves the slippery slope argument, but the only slippery slope I'm worried about is the grammar in Victor's quote: A marriage is between two people, but it's among more than two people.

Even if, like me, you think the potential to undermine traditional marriage is the best reason to support gay nuptials, this slippery slope argument is upside down. First and most obviously because polygamy predates not only gay marriage but one-to-one straight marriage and is attested in both the Old Testament and the Quran—bestsellers that I understand a few people are referring to when they talk about "tradition." To say that gay marriage will lead to polygamy is like saying harder drugs will lead to pot.

More to the point, Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam are specifically not entering into a marriage but into a civil union, to which gay couples already have broad access. Gay marriage proponents want access to traditional marriage, and once they get it will no doubt be just as defensive and niggardly with the privilege as their opponents are now. (Every American should spend some time in San Francisco just to understand that in an environment of general tolerance gays can be exactly as boring, uptight, and conservative as everybody else.) Dan Savage's current column makes that point with a quote from E. J. Graff, author of What Is Marriage For?: "They're assuming that we homos are making a claim to marriage under the libertarian argument that everyone should be free to do as s/he wishes. Wrong. We are arguing that we already belong to the West's contemporary marriage philosophy—for capitalist and for feminist reasons." If you're upset that Victor and girls are free to set up their unusual relationship, you could just as easily argue that this shows the need to approve gay marriage and eliminate civil unions.

Strangely, Victor, who looks like the Low Countries' answer to Wallace Shawn, demonstrates another principle: Sam Spade's argument in the Parable of Flitcraft that in seeking a life change we always end up going back to our old patterns. In the wedding picture, Mirjam and Bianca seem to be almost identical in size, shape, coloring, and facial features. I thought they were twins until I read the story.

AltaVista's Babelfish translator renders "Come and knock on our door" into Dutch as "Kom en klop op onze deur."