In 2005, then U.S. Senator Rick Santorum compared gay marrage to “man on child, man on dog or whatever the case may be.” It seems that Santorum is still on a roll with his logic that suggest that the acceptance of gay marriage will lead us to also accept incest, bestility, or pologaymy. Is his argument sound? In the video above, we see Santorum arguing with a student about gay marriage with the same argument recently in New Hampshire.
Philosopher John Corvino calls Santorum’s argument the PIB argument (short for Polygamy, Incest, Bestiality). In 2005 he wrote Homosexuality and the PIB Argument in which he exposes the weakness of Santorum’s argument. Because Santorum is still using the PIB argument as he runs for president, I thought it will be a good idea to share a PDF copy of Corvino’s paper with you and see what you think about his philosophical critique of Santorum’s argument. Check out the article.
If you want a quick glance, heres an excerpt:
Some bad arguments never die. Consider, for example, the allegation that approval of homosexuality somehow entails approval for polygamy, bestiality, and incest. This argument has resurfaced recently amid debates about sodomy laws and gay marriage. As U.S. Senator Rick Santorum put it, “if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” Later in the same interview he compared gay marriage to “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”
This argument would not be so worrisome if its use were limited to occasional hyperbolic remarks by politicians. But the “polygamy, incest, bestiality” (PIB for short) argument has been employed by philosophers, Supreme Court justices, and influential political theorists and pundits. Begin tinkering with the institution of marriage, they claim, and you start down a dangerous path with no reasonable stopping point. Their argument is nothing new, having been used before against interracial marriage. But whatever it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in rhetorical force: given the choice between rejecting homosexuality or accepting a sexual free-for-all, mainstream Americans tend to opt for the former.
Unfortunately, sound-bite arguments don’t always lend themselves to sound-bite refutations—which is one reason for their appeal. Part of the problem is that the PIB argument is not typically put forth as an argument. Instead, it takes the form of a challenge: “Okay, you sexual liberals: explain to us why polygamy, incest, and bestiality are wrong.” Most people are not prepared to do that on short order. And many answers that leap to mind (e.g., that PIB relationships violate well-established social norms) won’t work for the defender of same-sex relationships (since same-sex relationships, too, violate well-established social norms). Accordingly, gay-rights opponents often treat the PIB argument as a kind of trump card in the debate.
In this article I attempt both to clarify and to refute the PIB argument. In the first section, I analyze the argument and consider three familiar but inadequate responses to it. In the second section, I develop my own response while further clarifying the original argument. In brief, my central thesis is that PIB and homosexuality are no more essentially connected than PIB and heterosexuality. In the third section, I explore a different version of the argument associated with “new natural lawyers” such as John Finnis. Although Finnis’s version is in some ways superior to the original formulation, ultimately I find his approach untenable. In the fourth section, I return to some lingering questions about the individual practices of polygamy, incest, and bestiality, and I sketch some tentative lines of response.