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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Sibling couple call for change in the law"

This article is from several years ago, but it's still relevant. These things happen. Consanguinamorous couples are a fact. People can either deal with that fact in a mature way, or they can stick their heads in the sand, but neither will change the truth.
A couple are calling for a change in the law in the Irish Republic after discovering they are half-brother and sister. They are opposed to a law which allows the identity of a child's father to be withheld if it is thought to be in the child's best interests.
James and Maura (not their real names) have been together for seven years and have a five-year-old son. In April, a DNA test confirmed they were related. They met "as two strangers" from different parts of Ireland. James told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire: "Everything about her attracted me to her. We agreed on everything." For Maura, it was "his eyes".
They had a long-distance relationship before settling down together and were delighted when Maura became pregnant. After her son was born, Maura felt it was important for James to contact his estranged mother. James visited his mother at Christmas. When they started talking about Maura, his mother asked him questions about what she did and about her parents. She seemed very interested in Maura's father and started asking what he looked like, said James.
As the realisation dawned, the expression on her face "was just horrible", he told Victoria Derbyshire. "She put her hand over her face and said 'You're not serious?'". His mother then went into her room and James knocked on the door. "I said 'Mam what's wrong?' She wouldn't answer for a while. She said to stay away from her. I remember sitting by the door…eventually she said 'He's your Dad'."
James broke the news to Maura when he returned home. Maura said: "At first I didn't want to believe it." A DNA test confirmed that James and Maura were half-siblings.
James' mother later told him the whole story of his childhood. She said James' real father had found out about him when he was four-years-old and had taken legal action to try to get access to him. The court decided not to grant it and the name on his birth certificate remained that of his mother's husband. He grew up believing that he was his natural father.
[...] James and Maura are still together. They were distant at first, James said, but "it's very hard to try and take away seven years". Family relationships have been strained. Both Maura's parents know, but others don't. James sees his real dad now, though the couple never meet him together. They have not told their son. "We want to tell him when he gets older... but we have to do it in such a way that it doesn't impact him," James said.
The couple are planning to get married and perhaps have another child. James' birth certificate means they are not brother and sister in the eyes of the law. James said: "If they could turn a blind eye to my birth certificate, they can turn a blind eye to my marriage certificate." Maura added: "It was always our plan to get married; we won't change our plans to suit these people who created us."

Monday, July 6, 2015

"It's Time to Legalize Polygamy"

It's wonderful to see someone making such clear and strong arguments in favor of full marriage equality, given most of the media's attitude towards it.
The question presents itself: Where does the next advance come? The answer is going to make nearly everyone uncomfortable: Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals? The most natural advance next for marriage lies in legalized polygamy—yet many of the same people who pressed for marriage equality for gay couples oppose it. [...] Yet the moral reasoning behind society’s rejection of polygamy remains just as uncomfortable and legally weak as same-sex marriage opposition was until recently.
That’s one reason why progressives who reject the case for legal polygamy often don’t really appear to have their hearts in it. They seem uncomfortable voicing their objections, clearly unused to being in the position of rejecting the appeals of those who would codify non-traditional relationships in law. [...] They’re trapped, I suspect, in prior opposition that they voiced from a standpoint of political pragmatism in order to advance the cause of gay marriage.
In doing so, they do real harm to real people. Marriage is not just a formal codification of informal relationships. It’s also a defensive system designed to protect the interests of people whose material, economic and emotional security depends on the marriage in question. If my liberal friends recognize the legitimacy of free people who choose to form romantic partnerships with multiple partners, how can they deny them the right to the legal protections marriage affords?
Polyamory is a fact. People are living in group relationships today. The question is not whether they will continue on in those relationships. The question is whether we will grant to them the same basic recognition we grant to other adults: that love makes marriage, and that the right to marry is exactly that, a right.
[...] The marriage equality movement has been both the best and worst thing that could happen for legally sanctioned polygamy. The best, because that movement has required a sustained and effective assault on “traditional marriage” arguments that reflected no particular point of view other than that marriage should stay the same because it’s always been the same. In particular, the notion that procreation and child-rearing are the natural justification for marriage has been dealt a terminal injury. [...] And rightly so.
But the marriage equality movement has been curiously hostile to polygamy, and for a particularly unsatisfying reason: short-term political need. Many conservative opponents of marriage equality have made the slippery slope argument, insisting that same-sex marriages would lead inevitably to further redefinition of what marriage is and means. See, for example, Rick Santorum’s infamous “man on dog” comments, in which he equated the desire of two adult men or women to be married with bestiality. Polygamy has frequently been a part of these slippery slope arguments. Typical of such arguments, the reasons why marriage between more than two partners would be destructive were taken as a given. Many proponents of marriage equality, I’m sorry to say, went along with this evidence-free indictment of polygamous matrimony. They choose to side-step the issue by insisting that gay marriage wouldn’t lead to polygamy. That legally sanctioned polygamy was a fate worth fearing went without saying.
[...] Many argue that polygamous marriages are typically sites of abuse, inequality in power and coercion. Some refer to sociological research showing a host of ills that are associated with polygamous family structures. These claims are both true and beside the point. Yes, it’s true that many polygamous marriages come from patriarchal systems, typically employing a “hub and spokes” model where one husband has several wives who are not married to each other. These marriages are often of the husband-as-boss variety, and we have good reason to suspect that such models have higher rates of abuse, both physical and emotional, and coercion. But this is a classic case of blaming a social problem on its trappings rather than on its actual origins.
After all, traditional marriages often foster abuse. Traditional marriages are frequently patriarchal. Traditional marriages often feature ugly gender and power dynamics. Indeed, many would argue that marriage’s origins stem from a desire to formalize patriarchal structures within the family in the first place. We’ve pursued marriage equality at the same time as we’ve pursued more equitable, more feminist heterosexual marriages, out of a conviction that the franchise is worth improving, worth saving. If we’re going to ban marriages because some are sites of sexism and abuse, then we’d have to start with the old fashioned one-husband-and-one-wife model.
[...] Most dispiriting, and least convincing, are those arguments that simply reconstitute the slippery slope arguments that have been used for so long against same sex marriage. “If we allow group marriage,” the thinking seems to go, “why wouldn’t marriage with animals or children come next?” The difference is, of course, consent. In recent years, a progressive and enlightened movement has worked to insist that consent is the measure of all things in sexual and romantic practice: as long as all involved in any particular sexual or romantic relationship are consenting adults, everything is permissible; if any individual does not give free and informed consent, no sexual or romantic engagement can be condoned.
[...] Progressives have always flattered themselves that time is on their side, that their preferences are in keeping with the arc of history. [...] I think it’s time to turn the question back on them: given what you know about the advancement of human rights, are you sure your opposition to group marriage won’t sound as anachronistic as opposition to gay marriage sounds to you now? And since we have insisted that there is no legitimate way to oppose gay marriage and respect gay love, how can you oppose group marriage and respect group love?
I suspect that many progressives would recognize, when pushed in this way, that the case against polygamy is incredibly flimsy, almost entirely lacking in rational basis and animated by purely irrational fears and prejudice. What we’re left with is an unsatisfying patchwork of unconvincing arguments and bad ideas, ones embraced for short-term convenience at long-term cost. We must insist that rights cannot be dismissed out of short-term interests of logistics and political pragmatism. The course then, is clear: to look beyond political convenience and conservative intransigence, and begin to make the case for extending legal marriage rights to more loving and committed adults. It’s time.
The bolded passages are especially important. So many of people’s complaints/conscerns about full marriage equality are actually about sexism and male domination. They look at patriarchal cultures and assume that that’s how it has to work here. Yes with gender equality, their arguments are rendered absurd.

Centennial Park is a great example. What makes them different from other Fundamentalist Mormons? The prerogative is on the woman to choose her husband. They’re still a patriarchal, heterosexist community, where political and religious authority is held by men, but that one simple change has made them significantly different from other Fundamentalist Mormon communities.

Now imagine how much better those relationships could be if they were secular, queer, and completely gender-equal in social roles and economic power? That’s what we’re arguing for, not just Mormon or Islamic polygyny. We want a secular system of marriage based on gender equality, and that includes the numbers and genders of partners. If gender equality weren’t a possibility, then I wouldn’t argue for full marriage equality at all, or anything like it. I’d pack up my blog and leave. But I do think it’s possible, and that’s why it’s worth fighting for.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Man tries to stop paying alimony over ex-wife’s polygamy"

An upstate judge nixed a divorced man’s bid to cut off alimony to his ex-wife when she joined a “Big Love”-style marriage — because polygamy is not legal in the Empire State. Dr. David Hunsinger split from his wife of 19 years, professor Patricia Hunsinger, in 2009. Their separation agreement said David, 54, who earns a higher salary than his ex as a family physician in Binghamton, had to pay the Ithaca College art professor alimony until 2023 or until she remarried. In July, David asked Justice Philip Rumsey if he could stop the payments because Patricia, 54, had “entered into a polygamous marriage with Dr. Kenneth Hill and Janice Hill.” To complicate matters, the two couples were not strangers. David Hunsinger and Kenneth Hill did their medical residencies together.
In a diary entry written prior to her divorce, Patricia confessed about “her desire to be married to Kenneth Hill and of her plan for a polyamorous relationship with both Hills,” according to court papers. In the alimony proceeding, David told the judge the threesome lives together in Ithaca and that Patricia wears a “ring comprised of three intertwined bands that was given to her by the Hills,” the Nov. 19 ruling states. Patricia also says in a January 2012 e-mail to David that she wanted the Hills at their daughter’s wedding because, “I am married to both of them,” according to a copy of the message obtained by The Post. But when it came to giving up alimony, Patricia didn’t want to admit she was remarried.
The judge sided with the ex-wife, ruling that “New York allows a person to have only one spouse at a time; a marriage is absolutely void if contracted by a person who is already legally married to another.” Michael Stutman, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya, said the decision was striking for taking on questions related to atypical families like those portrayed in HBO’s “Big Love.” “I have never seen anything like this outside of Utah, a woman getting paid [alimony] and living out a ‘Big Love’ lifestyle in her twilight years,” Stutman said.
David will have to keep paying support — unless the threesome moves to Utah, the only state where polygamous cohabitation is legal. David’s attorney, Anthony Elia, is considering an appeal. The decision “allows [Patricia] to say that her illegal conduct is a defense to the case,” Elia said. “I don’t understand the logic.”
This article from the New York Post is a bit confused, which is not surprising. Outside of a certain socially liberal bubble, most people have never heard of polyamory. They confuse religious polygamy with polyfidelity (i.e. secular polygamy), and fail to realize how common it is among educated coastal liberals. The only thing unusual about this situation is the continued alimony payments. That said, I agree with the judge's legal reasoning. This is one of the reasons full marriage equality would help many more people than just those directly involved in alternative relationships. No-one lives in a vacuum - certainly not poly* people.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Representations of animal mating strategies

An artist did a really great series of illustrations for the different mating strategies animals employ in the wild.

Remember, these only cover a fraction of the crazy diversity in the wild. There are polygynandrous birds. There are tube worms where the males are 1000x smaller than the female and live inside of them in harems. Life is weird, remember that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Invasive species display no inbreeding depression

I came across a fascinating paper that empirically proves what theory has said: invasive species are able to spread the way they do not in spite of inbreeding, but because of it. The rapid success of invasive species has long been confusing, since their initially small populations guarantee a high level of inbreeding. It turns out, that population bottleneck helps them eliminate harmful recessive genes from their genepool, allowing them to mate with any member of their population, regardless of genetic relation, and have successful children.

Bottlenecks in population size reduce genetic diversity and increase inbreeding, which can lead to inbreeding depression. It is thus puzzling how introduced species, which typically pass through bottlenecks, become such successful invaders. However, under certain theoretical conditions, bottlenecks of intermediate size can actually purge the alleles that cause inbreeding depression. Although this process has been confirmed in model laboratory systems, it has yet to be observed in natural invasive populations. We evaluate whether such purging could facilitate biological invasions by using the world-wide invasion of the ladybird (or ladybug) Harmonia axyridis. We first show that invasive populations endured a bottleneck of intermediate intensity. We then demonstrate that replicate introduced populations experience almost none of the inbreeding depression suffered by native populations. Thus, rather than posing a barrier to invasion as often assumed, bottlenecks, by purging deleterious alleles, can enable the evolution of invaders that maintain high fitness even when inbred.
There's one section that I found especially important:
[...] [O]ur results might explain the finding that invasive populations often have higher performance than native ones even when reared in a common environment. This has been attributed mainly to adaptation to the new range. However, a purging of inbreeding depression could explain, at least partly, the increase in performance without invoking local adaptation.
Related to this, in species that have to colonize new territories frequently as part of their normal life cycle, inbreeding depression is also nonexistent. This is most notable in cockroaches and bedbugs:
“For the vast majority of insect species, inbreeding is detrimental,” says Coby Schal, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University, who presented his findings on bed bug inbreeding at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference in Philadelphia. “‘Inbreeding depression’ occurs, because it leads to mutations that have deleterious effects and eventually kill off the population. But some colonizing species such as cockroaches and bed bugs are resistant to inbreeding depression because they have little opportunity to breed with other populations that might be some distance away — bed bugs can’t fly — so they’ve evolved the ability to withstand extensive inbreeding without deleterious effects.”
In a genetic analysis of bed bugs that Schal and his colleagues conducted in apartment buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey, they found very low genetic diversity among the bugs inhabiting each building. In other words, they were all related. So, rather than accumulating from multiple sources, building infestations tend to be the handiwork of just one or two industrious females. “A single female can produce a very thriving population that can spread through a building very rapidly,” says Schal.