Last week I wrote about the normalization of infidelity. The Toronto Star today has a story on a bipartisan effort in New Hampshire to eliminate penalties for infidelity. The legislature has already replaced the original punishment of standing on the gallows for an hour with a noose around the neck, up to a year in jail, or 39 lashes, with a mere $1,200 fine. Democratic state Rep. Timothy Horrigan, who is co-sponsoring a bill that would eliminate even the $1,200 fine, says:
“We shouldn’t be regulating people’s sex lives and their love lives … This is one area the state government should stay out of people’s bedrooms.”
I don’t know by what standard of justice the government stays out of the bedroom and intrudes upon every other room in every building in the country, but it is quite beside the point. And even if it was a just principle, affairs do not take place entirely within the confines of the bedroom. And even if they did, a cheated upon spouse would have recourse to state institutions such as the courts in the ensuing divorce. Or is state Rep. Horrigan saying the state has no responsibility or interest in enforcing marriage contracts? Infidelity is as messy legally as it is for a relationship.
As a society we tend to think too clearly about spousal cheating because it involves sex, but by ignoring the harm it causes to families and the mockery it makes of marriage vows, our policymakers and opinions leaders are forced to rely on cliched arguments like the government has no business in people’s bedrooms.
What I found most interesting in the Star story is the connection between gay marriage and the push to decriminalize cheating. It reports:
Horrigan signed on because he believes it continues New Hampshire’s efforts toward marriage equality. In June, lawmakers voted to legalize gay marriage – a law that takes effect Jan. 1.
“We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.
There are two possible takes beyond the straight-forward one Horrigan offers, which is anything goes. One is that homosexual unions must not be held to the historical ideal of marriage as a union of two people — that is, homosexuals are promiscuous and thus can’t be expected to remain loyal to his or her partner — and as a matter of equality, infidelity must be tolerated for everyone.
There is another possible take. In the late 1990s I did a story on the coming battle over same-sex marriage and I interviewed someone with the Canada Family Action Coalition who said the end-game is not SSM but pansexualism — a moral regime where there are no restrictions or limits on our behaviour. Or essentially what state Rep. Timothy Horrigan is saying: anything goes.