Back

ABA Journal

Home

Family Law

Are Laws Barring Polygamy Destined to Fall? Law Prof Defends Marriage of Two

Nov 14, 2012, 06:30 am CDT

Comments

I think it’s the same basic argument that keeps resurfacing, as to whether states can make laws to protect values that are founded upon religion.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 14, 8:11 am CDT

Canada has already solved this problem. S.293 CC, proscribing polygamy, came under attack by pro-polygamy groups, including the cult at Bountiful, BC, infamous for elders bedding underage girls and trafficking them to similiar compounds in the USA in order to provide more concubines for the elders’ harems. The case went to BC Supreme Court, and after listening to 13 groups, Chief Justice Robert Bauman brought down his decision on Nov. 23, 2011. He stated that polygamy is an anti-social act that harms all society, contravening the equality rights of women, harming children psychologically, and creating dangeorus rivalry among men since Nature has not provided even two women for every one man. Male polygamists thus rob their brothers of the chance to have a wife and family of their own.  Canada has decided that it does not want to accept the ancient, patriarchal practice of polygamy, which comes from the dark ages when women were considered chattels and had no rights. Canadians lauded Judge Bauman’s decision. After all, the year is 2012 AD, not 2012 BC.

By Jancis M. Andrews on 2012 11 14, 8:17 am CDT

So, he is OK with polygamy, as long as women take multiple husbands?  That would actually help to solve the problems of his lonely heart brethren who can’t land a mate.  Maybe Canada could further address this perceived problem by requiring their rare women to marry, so that none continue to contribute to the problem by selfishly remaining single.  I think it is Bauman who is in the stone age there.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 14, 8:29 am CDT

@2 quoting Chief Justice Robert Bauman: “Canada has decided that it does not want to accept the ancient, patriarchal practice of polygamy, which comes from the dark ages when women were considered chattels and had no rights.”

So, in order to protect womens’ rights, the Chief Justice is going to make the decision for them.  Interesting logic.

I don’t see how anyone could logically support marriage between homosexuals and oppose marriage among multiple partners of any gender.

Given the changing nature of marriage, however, I do think that we need to re-evaluate the preferences, tax and otherwise, that are extended to married people.

By W.R.T. on 2012 11 14, 9:05 am CDT

“I don’t see how anyone could logically support marriage between homosexuals and oppose marriage among multiple partners of any gender.”

Why?  Denying homosexuals the right to marry each other basically denies them marriage, period.  Denying a heterosexual person the right to marry more than one person does not exclude them from marriage, it only limits the number of people involved in the arrangement.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 9:17 am CDT

W.R.T. @ 4 - In contrast to reasons for opposing same sex marriage, the reasons for opposing polygamy are based on sound public policy. The monopolization of prospective suitable mates by those with means would undermine social stability (B.McLeod’s glib proposed solution notwithstanding). Simple, right?

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 14, 9:46 am CDT

I’m not necessarily pro-polygamy (or polyandry?) but I *am* pro-rationality.

What bothers me is making the decision based on supposition.  I’d like to see peer-reviewed social science that confirms that there is a rational basis beyond naked morality for banning polygamy.

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 9:58 am CDT

“So, in order to protect womens’ rights, the Chief Justice is going to make the decision for them.  Interesting logic.”

@ 4 - You’ve heard of Lochner, of course.

By Pushkin on 2012 11 14, 10:00 am CDT

@7 - You do not need peer reviewed articles supporting a position to meet rational basis. As far as social science articles, or even good ol’ fashioned journalism, there are many qualitative examples of the instability caused by older men hoarding binders full of women in various societies (think about the ostracism of young males in FLDS communities, for example).

It is simple math.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 14, 10:08 am CDT

@ 5 one could as well say homosexuals were always allowed to marry, and could always get married, just to people of the opposite gender, just as those who have a fervent desire to marry multiple people could still marry, just one at a time.

Notwithstanding my own beliefs, I do generally support the freedom to have pretty much any relationship among any number of genuinely consenting informed adults (that’s tolerance, not support or agreement).

However, that doesn’t mean you get to enjoy the legal and financial consequences of two-person marriage. Part of the difficulty is the financial and legal consequences of marriage, extending that beyond two-person marriage could have serious economic consequences (e.g. I think I’ve read something about polygamous marriages where multiple “wives” end up on welfare). Also, if someone has been brought up since being a child that she (usually) should be one of many wives of a man, is it still a genuinely consenting informed adult merely because she’s 18, or is it brainwashing?

By df on 2012 11 14, 10:09 am CDT

@9 - Well, you *do* need something beyond naked morality, and I think that necessarily includes wild speculation *based* in naked moral panic.

So I would be more *comforted* seeing such research before coming to a conclusion for myself that we were outlawing polygamy for appropriate reasons.

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 10:12 am CDT

@10:  “@ 5 one could as well say homosexuals were always allowed to marry, and could always get married, just to people of the opposite gender, just as those who have a fervent desire to marry multiple people could still marry, just one at a time.”

Well, one could say that, but I do not see the logic.  If a homosexual wanted to enter into a loveless, sexless marriage with someone of the opposite sex, sure, they can contract to do so.  I am unsure what the point of that would be in terms of why people usually get married.  Practically speaking, barring same-sex marriage does exclude homosexuals from marriage, since, by their very nature, homosexuals do not marry people of the opposite sex.

The same cannot be said for heterosexuals who want to marry more than one person.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 10:54 am CDT

Marriage is the union of consenting individuals (restrictions based on race, age, sex, or number is discriminatory).  Polygamy should be legal in the US.

By tim17 on 2012 11 14, 11:08 am CDT

@13:  “number is discriminatory”

Why?  The barriers to marriage have fallen mostly on immutable elements, such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Why is it discriminatory to limit the number of participants in government-sanctioned marriages? 

Note:  I don’t have an ethical problem with polygamy in which the participants are equal partners in the arrangement; however, that does not mean I see a constitutional right to it (although I am open to a logical constitutional argument being made).

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 11:12 am CDT

Sorry, Professor Witte, monogamy is not “natural” - although I agree with your analysis that the legislature could rationally conclude monogamy is better in the long run for men, women, and children alike.  The fact that monogamy is _not_ humankind’s natural inclination is the reason civilized society requires laws supporting it, just like we require laws prohibiting murder, rape, and so on.  Any cultural anthropologist can tell you there are numerous societies worldwide that practice many variations on polygamy - some permit men to have multiple wives (polygyny), others permit women to have multiple husbands (polyandry).  There may be restrictions on the number of spouses, but not the number of concubines, or restrictions on both, as well as other rules that must be followed in that culture.  No human society so far as I know permits _both_ men and women to have multiple spouses.  Thus polygamy, like monogamy, is a culturally-created institution.  No known society, however “savage” or “primitive” it may appear to be to an outside observer from within his own society’s preconceptions, is in a “natural” state.  The natural state of human social organization—if it ever existed, millions of years ago before humans became cultural animals, probably most closely resembles that of the great apes, in which dominant “alpha” males collect harems of females to mate with, and defend their exclusive access to these harems against challenges from younger, rival males, including their own sons.

By mikej on 2012 11 14, 11:25 am CDT

Polygamy works so long as it’s practiced within rules laid down that guarantee fairness for all involved.  In Islam, for example, that means permitting polygamy only so long as all wives are treated equally in terms of support and sexual relations.  At least, that’s what Muhammad practiced and required.

By AndytheLawyer on 2012 11 14, 12:22 pm CDT

The old “X leads to Y and Y is bad, therefore outlaw X” argument is completely absurd.  People marry people who treat them horribly all the time, so what?  Should we outlaw ‘bad marriages’ too?

Anyway, if economic benefits were stripped from marriage in the United States then I really don’t care who/what/how many get married.  As long as they’re consenting adults (this is the only area, in my opinion, where one has to make a subjective judgment) I really couldn’t care less.  That being said my understanding is there are few states with laws against polygamy (meaning just saying you’re married, not attempting to form a legal union), so in most states this argument is really just over benefits.  Government should only take marriage into account for things like access during medical emergencies and healthcare surrogates.  Giving economic benefits because you’re married is a joke.

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 14, 1:15 pm CDT

It’s not even clear to me what laws are being discussed here.  Are we talking about the definition of marriage being restricted to two people, or to criminal laws purporting to outlaw “polygamy,” however that might be defined?  If the latter (which it sounds like – “anti-polygamy laws”), how does one differentiate between a law criminalizing polygamy and a law criminalizing adultery and/or a bigamy law?  Even more to the point, what makes me a “polygamist” rather than a guy with two girlfriends?

Surely it’s not the religion I practice, as Jancis Andrews seems to suggest?  Or is it the words I use to describe my relationship?  Is Gen. Petraeus a polygamist?  If not why not?  And if not, why are his actions less culpable than a man who has relationships with two women openly and with their consent?  How can a consensual relationship involving more than two people be culpable at all in any society that claims to be free?  And what IS Prof. Witte’s position on adultery laws anyway?  We need to answer a lot of questions here before a meaningful debate can even really begin.

By Roger on 2012 11 14, 1:58 pm CDT

@5: “Why?  Denying homosexuals the right to marry each other basically denies them marriage, period.”

Absolutely false, dude.

By Marc on 2012 11 14, 2:02 pm CDT

As I have noted before, there is no logical reason to not allow polygamous marriages or marriages between related parties if one accepts the SSM argument.

That is a simple fact.

By Marc on 2012 11 14, 2:03 pm CDT

If you are going to allow homosexuals to marry, I can’t see how you can reasonably or credibly argue against polygamy or other types of group marriage, including marriages that defy current restrictions relating to the degree of consanguinity among partners.

I see the end result of this mess which was set in motion by those social radicals who chose to tinker with God’s plan of marriage being EITHER utter chaos putting advocates of homosexual marriage in the position of making outlandish arguments trying to distinquish their favored arrangement with other unusual couplings (in the process, insulting the intelligence of the rest of us who would be compelled to listen to such nonsensical arguments) OR, alternately, the complete privatization of marriage.

Speaking for myself, I would favor the second alternative, since I would still be married to my Wife from the most important sacramental perspective, and am hopeful that I could patch together some of the legal protections for spouses and children associated with traditional marriage through contractual, deed and estate instruments.

By Yankee on 2012 11 14, 2:08 pm CDT

Marc, see my post @ 9. Are you going to ignore that reason exists?

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 14, 2:13 pm CDT

@19: “Why?  Denying homosexuals the right to marry each other basically denies them marriage, period.”

Absolutely correct, “dude”.

A loveless, sexless marriage is no marriage at all.  If you think otherwise, you are welcome to that notion.  All the best to you.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 2:16 pm CDT

@20:  “As I have noted before, there is no logical reason to not allow polygamous marriages or marriages between related parties if one accepts the SSM argument.”

That may be true - I have no ethical qualms with people marrying a gaggle of other people.  However, that does not necessarily mean they have a constitutional right to do so. 

I am tired of the lazy arguments that equate the arguments for same-sex marriage or interracial marriage to those of polygamous marriage.  Confusing immutable characteristics with the number of people one chooses to marry is illogical.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 2:18 pm CDT

Marc @ 20: Polygamous marriage/relationships are permitted by many other religions and/or societies. It is the Christian version of monogamy that is a relatively recent innovation. Despite Church law, men who had wealth and power have engaged in sex with multiple partners outside of marriage, and royal bastards tended to enjoy a status similar to Kardashians.

Consanguinous marriages are potentially more harmful to society than plural marriage. There is sound scientific reasoning for not allowing marriage of persons who are more closely related than the second degree. In countries/societies where marriage among first cousins is commonplace, (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Hasidic Jews, etc.) there tend to be more cases of genetically linked medical disorders, which in turn could place a potential socio-economic burden on our healthcare system if these people are divorced, unemployed, or become disabled .

By BMF on 2012 11 14, 2:23 pm CDT

@ 24 - Not so sure about that second sentence. If there is no arguable logical basis for a law, how does it survive rational basis scrutiny?

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 14, 2:24 pm CDT

@26:  Rational basis is a *very* low threshold.  While SCOTUS has been subjecting classifications based on the immutable characteristic of homosexuality to higher standards without calling it such yet (although some federal courts have gone all out and labeled homosexuality as an “intermediate” level), it doesn’t take much to satisfy rational basis.  I don’t see how wanting to be in a polygamous relationship logically equates to immutable characteristics of race, gender, or s.o.  At least, not under the SCOTUS’s previous rationales.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 2:27 pm CDT

Now, to clarify one point, I think a very good constitutional argument exists against criminalizing the act of holding oneself out as married to more than one man or woman.  While the government may not be constitutionally required to recognize polygamous marriages, criminalizing a party privately recognizing oneself as in a plural marriage is more problematic.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 2:34 pm CDT

@25 Actually, studies have concluded that aside from siblings and/or parents having relations, there is no greater risk of genetic defect, first cousins do not have a statistically relevant difference in increased genetic defects.  There may be increased homozygosity in the greater populace, but that’s not been proven and may not be incredibly meaningful.

That being said, your argument still holds true for siblings and parents.

@24 I’m fine with same-sex marriage, but there’s still no evidence that it is an immutable characteristic.  Also, while I don’t agree with the nonsense the guy you quoted posts, but I don’t see him or anyone else ‘“[c]onfusing immutable characteristics with the number of people one chooses to marry…”  My point, at least, and I think it’s most people’s point, is that this is something these people do with their private life and you should have no right to interfere if nobody is being harmed - which is the exact same way I feel about marriage for anyone.

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 14, 2:35 pm CDT

@29:  Virtually every medical, psychological, pediatric, and other scientific organization that looked at same-sex attraction has held that it is immutable in that it would be either impossible, or damaging, to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation. No, they haven’t found the “gay” gene, but they have found that sexuality is deeply embedded in a person’s state of being.

By Esq. in Austin on 2012 11 14, 2:38 pm CDT

@30 Actually, the consensus is that it’s not a choice - not that’s impossible to change.  You are correct there is a great deal of evidence attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation would be damaging though.  My point was simply that’s not the definition of an immutable trait - immutable means it can’t be changed, period (I’m well aware, at the same time, the legal definition is whatever SCOTUS says it is…).

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 14, 2:44 pm CDT

@23 - Great response.  There is just no room to argue with someone like that.

I offer that the poster’s comments reflect why marriage is in trouble—and it isn’t because other loving couples would like to have access to it…

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 2:51 pm CDT

BMF@25:

BMF, your “argument” against marriage between related parties is an absolute non-starter.

1.  Arguments in favor of SSM have to be based on the argument that marriage has nothing to do with reproduction.

2.  In any event, marriage does not require married couples to have children, and thus related parties could marry with none of the ill effetcs you suggest.

3.  Related parties could have children without being married.

4.  What about SSM between related parties - there is no possibility of the ill effects you suggest?

5.  The obvious solution to the problem that you suggest is to not allow related parties to have children.  Of course, one must then consider whether or not to allow the birth of children with known defects and simply legislate that they must be aborted.  Such defects will soon include persons who will be born short, stupid, ugly etc.

I will respectfully decline to respond to the other red herrings.

The fact is that if you accept the SSM argument - that adults should be free to marry whoever they love - there can be absolutely no reason to not allow ploygamous marriages or marriegs between related parties.

By Marc on 2012 11 14, 2:58 pm CDT

@31 - I don’t think you’re fully accurate there, and here’s why:  Unlike other categories, sexuality exists in a strange ambiguous place, where it can be simultaneously both an inherent or performative characteristic, or only one or the other.  The choice / not-a-choice is, at its heart, a false dichotomy.  The fact that one person “chose” one way or another does not logically prove anything about the next person.  Not that this stops people from making the illogical leap.

I could swear an affidavit to you as to what *my* experience has been, but it doesn’t mean that the person next door didn’t *decide* he or she was going to adopt that performative characteristic.

Acknowledging this is, oddly, taboo for *both* sides.  I think it’s much wiser to just put it out there in the light of day.

Therefore, coming full circle:  A purely performative characteristic is almost never immutable, but that isn’t what we’re dealing with here.  And yet, we cannot logically say that the characteristic is fully inherent either.  I think that the best you can say is that it might be mutable for some, but not for others, and that we can never *really* know what the balance is.

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 3:01 pm CDT

I think @31 was referring to orientation, not sexuality writ large.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 14, 3:02 pm CDT

@33—

First, let me say that I do agree with you that we have to press hard on *exactly* what the non-moral rational basis is for prohibiting poly-relationships.  And I agree that if we cannot find one, then we must conclude that, like same-sex marriage, the government has no authority to prohibit it

However, on this point, I think you’ve missed a critical logical step.

The primary purpose of marriage isn’t reproduction, and the state of our laws demonstrates that.  That can *still* be the case if marriage does tend to *lead* to reproduction.

To take another example: I do not go to Best Buy to buy movies, I go to buy video games.  And yet, the percentage chance of me buying a movie is much higher on a day that I go to Best Buy, because I do tend to do that no matter what my primary purpose for going there was.

This being the case, I would offer that the increased odds of reproduction and the scientific basis for believing that certain pairings increase the odds of recessive alleles manifesting in the gene pool form a rational basis for prohibiting those marriages.  It doesn’t have to be the best or most direct way to achieve the goal, but it is not an irrational way of achieving it.

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 3:08 pm CDT

Andy@36: “That can *still* be the case if marriage does tend to *lead* to reproduction.”

No, sex tends to lead to reproduction.  people engage in sex whether or not married.  Banning marriage between related parties will not tend to prevent them from having sex.

By Marc on 2012 11 14, 3:18 pm CDT

@37 - You’re still missing the point.  What you’ve said is totally correct, but the issue is that, despite all that being true, it may be rational to conclude that reproductive sex is more likely to happen within a marriage.

Like the Best Buy example.  Stopping me from going to Best Buy will not stop me from buying movies.  But it *may* make it less likely.

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 3:22 pm CDT

@34 I understand where you’re coming from, but it requires proposing a view of the word ‘choice’ that isn’t used in a clinical setting.  A subconscious reaction to something due to prior environmental (and possibly genetic) factors is not considered a choice.  Flinching because someone appears to be about to hit you is not considered a choice, but from a semantic standpoint it is easily argued to be one.

I’m not sure what you meant when you discuss ‘performative characteristics’ so I don’t want to misinterpret you.  If you’d like to rephrase I’d appreciate it (performative means the act of saying it does it - “I knight thee Sir Andy” - not sure how that relates to sexual orientation…  I don’t think a person saying “I am gay” suddenly makes them gay).

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 14, 3:46 pm CDT

@39 - I think I agree exactly—for some it’s exactly that type of instinctive reaction.  But it doesn’t mean it has to be that way for everyone, and there’s no logical reason why it should.

That’s one reason why I like to keep the conversation about what the rational basis is, because I feel like it fails even *that* level of scrutiny without ever needing to get into the (completely fabricated) issues of immutability that the court has drummed up to avoid applying the text of the 14th Amendment.

Performative language is as you say,  but I mean a performative characteristic—suppose you bake a cake every Sunday.  You are, definitionally, a baker.  But you might not identify as one.  But one of your friends might justifiably say, “Come on, you bake.  You’re a baker.”  But you might disagree.  “Yeah, I bake now and then when I get drunk, but does that really make me a baker?”

I think we hit a similar issue surrounding homosexuality.  Is “gay” A) what you do, or B) who you are?  Or, like most things, is it somewhere in-between?  I, of course, have my own opinion, but an opinion is all it is.  I just feel like it’s so much better to lay the cards on the table and honestly say, “some people have this perspective, and while I disagree, it isn’t inherently unreasonable.”

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 3:59 pm CDT

Disagreement over whether to recognize same-sex, cosanguinous or plural marriages brings up the deeper question as to what the rational basis for marriage itself – the state-licensed version – is?  Whether barring or including certain couplings has a rational basis requires answering that question first, or else we’re left grasping in the dark.  The same-sex marriage movement has done a good job demolishing many of the traditional justifications offered for it, but where does that leave it?

By Roger on 2012 11 14, 5:56 pm CDT

I don’t know where Americans got the idea that “one man one woman” marriage is Biblical.  Countless Old Testament figures from Abraham to Solomon were polygamists.

By AndytheLawyer on 2012 11 14, 6:03 pm CDT

@42 - Stop clouding the issue with inconvenient facts, or I’ll have you flensed!

By Another Andy on 2012 11 14, 6:10 pm CDT

@Another Andy:  Try looking up some of the following: Pakistan Polygamy & Depression in Women, Effect of Polygyny on Children of Hmong Refugees in US, Intelligence & Family Marital Structure, Polygamy and Violence Against Women in Nepal, Effect of Polygyny on Women’s Health in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sexual Activity of Adolescents from Polygynous Families, Polygamy & Increased Risk of Incest, Sexual Abuse, Israeli Government Doesn’t Control Polygyny Among Arabs, Academic Achievement : Polygamous Vs. Monogamous Kids in Nigeria, Achievement - Children of Polygynous Families, Psychogenic Illness in Polygynous Families, Effect of Polygamy on Children’s Health - Ghana, Polygyny & Wife Abuse in the US - Phillips, Polygamy & Women’s Rights - Uganda, Health Status - Children of Polygyny, Polygynous Women in Primary Health Care Centers, Perceptions of Men in Polygynous Marriages, Polygynous Women Admitted for Psychiatric Treatment :Psychiatric Tx. for Polygamous Women in Kuwait, Effect of Polygyny on 1st Wives & Kids - UAE, Polygyny is a Risk Factor for Invasive Cervical Cancer, Mental Health - Adolescents from Polygynous Families, Elbedour Review Article - Effect of Polygyny on Kids, Eapan - Psychological Effect of Polygamy on Children, Explanations for the Genesis of Polygyny, The Problem of Polygamy - Prof. Thom Brooks, Univ. Newcastle, Feminism & Multiculturalism, Polygyny & Violence in Uganda, Multi - Spousal Relationships : Psychosocial Effects & Therapy, Polygyny Marriage : Effect on Family Thesis, Comparison of the Academic Functioning of Children of Monogamous Vs. Polygamous Marriages, Case study on incestuous polygamy, Cults and Families. That’s just a start for anyone who is sincerely interested in facts instead of opinion.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 14, 7:54 pm CDT

MOST cases of polygamy are human rights abuses that have been justified by religion. Human rights must always take presidence over religious practice. Otherwise a “man will become a law unto himself”.  Polygamy was made illegal alongside slavery for a reason, because it was about the control and ownership of women. It is not a morality issue, it is a human rights issue.

By Victoria M. Reynolds on 2012 11 14, 8:04 pm CDT

Genesis 2:18-24

By Yankee on 2012 11 14, 9:31 pm CDT

@Victoria - American marriage laws did not recognize plural relationships even before slavery was outlawed, so you are wrong about that unless you’re referring to some other law I’m not aware of.

By Tim on 2012 11 15, 7:22 am CDT

Polygamy is a problem only where there is severe gender inequality and only polygyny is allowed. Under full marriage equality, an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion, should be free to marry ANY consenting adults. Victims of abuse will me more likely to come forward if their marriage isn’t criminalized or stigmatized in the law.

Right now in the US, a woman can live with, have sex with, and have children with multiple men at the same time. She just can’t marry them all, even if all are in agreement. What kind of sense is that??? All of the paperwork issues can be resolved. There is no excuse for keeping bigoted laws in place.

By Keith on 2012 11 15, 8:03 am CDT

Polygamy has always been a part of marriage since the start of time.  it is only in today’s modern society that it has been looked down upon. 

A man and woman should be allowed to marry whoeever they want as long as everyone is at the age of consent.

By tim17 on 2012 11 15, 8:39 am CDT

Nope. There are perfectly valid public policy reasons to restrict marriage to two consenting adults.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 15, 9:40 am CDT

@44 - I apologize, I did not get a chance to respond sooner.  Thank you for providing those resources and for taking my request seriously.  I think it’s very important that we *make sure* we have rational, sound reasons beyond naked morality.  Otherwise, it’s all too easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking that reasons born out of speculation and naked moral panic are actually real.  Believe me—I’ve been the victim of that.

I would definitely like to read one or two of those—if I only get time for that, which two would you most highly recommend.

Thank you again for your contribution!!

By Another Andy on 2012 11 15, 9:48 am CDT

#46—You forgot what comes later…..Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Abraham and Sarah failing to conceive, and Hagar stepping into Abraham’s bed—also God’s plan:)

By AndytheLawyer on 2012 11 15, 11:20 am CDT

@52- There’s a good look at “biblical marriage” on this rather popular graphic:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-_FJ9NuT_L9k/T2cvH59u2aI/AAAAAAAABXc/RfuQ7QAKxuk/s1600/biblical_marriage_chart.jpg

(Apologies if such links aren’t allowed, but I’ve never seen a rule against it…)

By Another Andy on 2012 11 15, 11:24 am CDT

Cleg Burris here.  My wives don’t seem to mind.  Once in a while we have to hole up and let the brew haha blow over but other than that we’re good to go.  My youngest is a darling and she just gets a kick out of the oldest and her mannerisms.  We cajole each other alot and play kick the can in the back of the shed when we’re not out in the field picking.

By Cleg Burris on 2012 11 15, 1:10 pm CDT

@50 and there are perfectly valid public policy reasons to ban marriage altogether.  Just like it was HATE to deny gay marriage, it is HATE to deny polygamy

By tim17 on 2012 11 15, 2:37 pm CDT

@51 I agree. This board is filled with polygamy-hating religious zealots.  Since polygamy is associated with Islam, I have to assume that they are anti-islamic as well.

By Yankee on 2012 11 15, 6:33 pm CDT

@ 55 - Taking away everyone’s legal benefits associated with marriage would certainly pass the rational basis test, I agree.

To take your second (facetious) point at face value, denying gay marriage probably does not pass the rational basis test (as Another Andy is wont to point out), and it certainly does not pass any higher level of scrutiny. Prohibiting polygamy in my opinion certainly passes rational basis review, and probably passes stricter levels of scrutiny. I say that based on what I perceive to be the policy implications, not from any claim to sainthood.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 15, 7:39 pm CDT

1. As a divorce lawyer, polygamy means more business for me.

2. Any man who marries and lives with more than one woman at a time will get everything he deserves ... Huge credit card bills, endless arguments, more kids than he can afford, etc., etc., and still no sex.  Yup, go for it, big guy!

3. Polygamy is totally different from same sex marriage.  The arguments presented in this blog border on the silly.  The future of marriage and structure of society, as we knew it, is at risk.  Do we want that much change?  Do we want to live and raise our young in troupes?

By Goldcoaster on 2012 11 16, 7:05 am CDT

This should not be an issue.  The sovereign People of a State should be able to ban pologamy and should be able to determine that a marriage recognized by the State shall be one man and one woman.  It is nonsense to say that it is a problem that religious values support the law.  Religious values (“Thou shalt not murder”) support the ban on murder.  It is for the People to decide, not judges who are invariably employ personal beliefs to make public policy decisions under the guise of interpreting general clauses of the Constitution to strike down State laws on such things as marriage.

By Phil Byler on 2012 11 16, 7:18 am CDT

If those who advocate a legal status of gay persons that is identical, other than its label, to traditional marriage, why can’t there be a legal status, identical, other than its label, for a multiparty marriage?

By CA Lawyer on 2012 11 16, 7:34 am CDT

To the best of my recollection, an inordinately large percentage of criminals come from single parent families, and yet they are permitted to continue to exist in our society because adults (or even kids at times) made private decisions, leading to the foreseeable consequence of a single parent home.  I wonder if there will ever be a study on the negative effects of “allowing” this relationship status as it compares to the possible legalization of a private decision to have multiple spouses (at the same time, rather than the current trend illustrated by Newt Gengrich).

Statistics and arguments exist that indicate that children from a 2-parent home have the greatest odds of becoming functional adults who contribute to society.  And yet, all of that research was done in a time prior to the legalization of homosexual marriage….  One could argue that the only reason for state sanctioned marriage in this time of growing athiesm/agnosticism, is the argument I have just expressed.  I can think of no other legitimate government interest in marriage.  If that is the reason for the government rewarding a decision to marry, then we should stick to the recognized limit of the research - heterosexual parents.  Without the “do it for the kids” argument in play, it seems that the State has no reason to incentivize marriage, and should remove itself from the business of granting (or denying) marriage (this is my personal opinion, keep government out of the bedrooms of consenting adults in any activity).

The issue that I see, is that any argument to allow an expansion of “traditional” marriage, can be stretched to encompass any consenting relationship between adults.  - They are wired that way - can be stretched to, some women are only attracted to men who have shown the kind of commitment that a long term marriage entails.  Should they be forced to live a lie and/or be denied the benefits of marriage?  There are too many issues for the government to be dabbling its fingers into this.

By JB on 2012 11 16, 7:35 am CDT

Remember, not all marriages, gay or straight, with two, or more, parties, has a sexual component.

By CA Lawyer on 2012 11 16, 7:39 am CDT

@#3-Know the penalty for bigamy? (Two mother-in-laws.)
I once decided to represent a man for having 2 wives—wasn’t that bigamy?
The real definition of a bigamist in most states is a fog over Italy.

By NOW JERRY BROWN on 2012 11 16, 8:20 am CDT

I think there are plenty of public policy reasons for banning polygamy.  Think about how it would play out in real life.  Say a man dies intestate with 3 wives.  Would his estate be divided up equally among the three wives?  What if his first wife, who had 3 children, challenges the division?

Consider a divorce, where one wife wishes to leave the marriage and take her two children with her.  Would the sister wives have a right to custody of the children?

Should a first wife/husband have greater rights than the other wives/husbands?  Should the wives who had more children have greater rights to property?

All discussions of sex, morality, religion and the bible aside, this would be very difficult to administer.  Dealing with these issues between two married people is hard enough.

By Karyn on 2012 11 16, 8:35 am CDT

As history shows, a religious based society necessarily has the short comings of that religion. A strictly law based society also has proven undesirable. The freedom granted under the Constitution seems to have melded religious and legal philosophy into a free society where government is not supposed interfere/mettle in the lives of its citizens without cause. I.e., we are free to excel, free to make mistakes. In either case the decision maker must live with her choices. Law/government steps in only when the choices damage the rights/freedoms of other citizens. Why then is freedom limited in the marriage choice?
The state (and church) should remain at bay unless the rights of one of the participants is impeded. That means any marriage between any equally consenting adults is fair game. Yes that can get absurd. (What bothers most, it seems, is the sex part. That is a personal problem with the choices made by most.)
The fact that many people are poor at choosing mates should be a warning sign to those who venture outside “the norm”. Two nagging wives is probably as annoying as two controlling husbands. The misery is no doubt exponential with each added member of the marriage team. How much pain can be borne?
In the end, rational reasonable people will probable go with the time tested number: two. Productive members of society can barely manage success at that small number.
Foreign practices, religious or not, and customs should not be allowed to corrupt what is basically a Euro-English legal system. Freedom should flow profusely in all venues… If that doesn’t fit your personal perspective, expatriation is a viable option.

By Blue & Gold on 2012 11 16, 9:00 am CDT

A religion should be able to marry as many people (or whatever) that their religion feels is appropriate. The government, however, has plenty of policy reasons to restrict the secular institution of marriage to just one person. Marry as many as you like, but you will only get a tax break for one and you will only get any government assistance for the same one. I am aware that a problem could then arise, whereby the children of the second wife are considered children of unmarried women, but this should not take away any parental obligations on the part of the father, married or otherwise, if the statutes are written properly.

By Janet on 2012 11 16, 9:09 am CDT

Why on earth would any person want two spouses?  I think one is MORE than enough for any person.  I say this with the utmost respect for my beautiful and brilliant wife.

By Matthew Anderson on 2012 11 16, 9:33 am CDT

@Another Andy,

Try you might this one, which cites a lot of others, first: The puzzle of monogamous marriage by Professor Joseph Henrich. When I went in to my data base last night to try to pick one or two for you, I ended up getting all caught up in trying to organize the dozens and dozens of studies I have collected.

I am an anti-polygamy activist. I have many friends who have escaped polygamous relationships. Most people are blissfully unaware of the human rights abuse of polygamy, especially here in the US. I became involved in 2005 when I went to work as a staff reporter for a radio cluster in Arizona. The thing that got my attention was all the dead children of polygamy. As a southerner from Texas, with most of my extended family coming from the deep south, I grew up visiting a lot of cemeteries. When a source slipped me an exhaustive list of the bodies buried in northern Mohave County, where the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints reside, I was stunned by what I saw. I had never in my life seen a cemetery, anywhere, that was comprised of 50% children’s bodies. Needless to say, once I visited the area and saw it for myself I started looking for an explanation for why these children died in such great numbers.

Dr. Henrich sums up nicely what I believe is the crux of why polygamy is so harmful to children when he says, “By increasing the relatedness within households, normative
monogamy reduces intra-household conflict, leading to lower rates of child neglect, abuse, accidental death and homicide.”

In Colorado City, Arizona, I documented a dozen toddlers who were accidentally run over by cars in driveways in a twenty year period. It took me almost five years of researching to finally find a control group to compare it to. The problem was that Colorado City, an all polygamous community has a population of between 5,000 and 6,000 people. The other group that had the same number of toddlers accidentally run over in driveways during the same twenty year span was the state of Connecticut, with a population of more than three million people. See the problem for child safety here?

You can read more, and see photos I took of the cemetery here: http://polygamyisabuse.com/2010/07/10/photos-childrens-cemetery/

My interest in keeping polygamy illegal has nothing to do with moral judgment based on my faith. I have many gay friends and support civil unions and full federal parody for tax benefits etc. I want marriage to remain defined as one man and one woman for the same reason the Romans did so, many many years before Christianity, because it is a better social foundation, which leads to prosperity for a nation. The biggest byproduct of polygamy, by far, is the gross poverty it throws women and children into. They cannot even afford to bury their babies with dignity. Take a look at the photos I took of their baby cemetery in front of the town junk yard. For years I have had a standing challenge to anyone. Please show me another cemetery like this anywhere in America, or another town with a cemetery that is 50% children’s bodies. After 7 years, I am still waiting.

Polygamy, even according to the UN is a human rights abuse of women and children. If polygamy is so great, then why did 80% of Afghan women when polled say they wish it were banned?

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 9:52 am CDT

As the issues developed and arguments percolated regarding SSM and gay rights, I have have often wondered about the logical inconsistency of expanding “marriage” to same-gender couples (which I support, BTW) but limiting it, at the same time, to two people. If the rule is to be that individuals can define “marriage” as they please, unrestricted by various religious-based concepts, then you have to allow bigamy and you have to allow two same-gender heterosexual roommates to announce they are “married” and have the benefits.

I also wonder how the B in GLBT works into the issue, since G,L and T relationships can be dual but B cannot. In the context of ordination standards, churches which allow openly gay people to be ordained, or which perform gay marriage ceremonies, look for the “committed couple” and thus have to exclude the bisexual like any other polyamourouis. Just because a bisexual person has desires for both genders, shouldn’t he have to pick one when it comes to marriage, just as I, a hetero male with desires for all females, picked one when it came to marriage?  Or look at it another way, why accomodate the bisexual and restrict the hetero?

What a crazy world.

By Hadley V. Baxendale on 2012 11 16, 9:57 am CDT

I still don’t understand why lawyers, who supposedly have the ability to break issues down logically, just don’t get the difference between the religious marriage and the secular marriage. Stop lumping them into the same argument. They are different. A religious marriage can be between anyone—anyone. The state does not have to recognize it. The state does not have to confer benefits, either. Choose your one state-recognized beneficiary and then continue to “marry” in your religion as many times as you want. There is no reason the government should extend benefits to everyone as the policy reasons are the only reason for the benefits to start with. If it remains that a person chooses his or her one beneficiary of the government benefits and obligations of marriage, there is no civil rights abuse to anyone, nor is there any abuse of the First Amendment in either direction.

By Janet on 2012 11 16, 10:05 am CDT

It’s amazing how many of the reliable lefties on this site are so opposed to the tenets of Islam.  I would say that’s rather ethnocentric of you.  We had a ballot question in our state a few weeks ago on whether the state should define marriage as between a man and a woman.  All the signs opposed to same said “DON’T LIMIT THE FREEDOM TO MARRY!”  Apparently, freedom to marry only applies to certain groups and not all.  Either people should be free to marry who they want or they shouldn’t. Once the state gets involved, all bets are off.  There are dozens of countries on the other side of the world with legalized polygamy and there is no doubt it will come here too.  Changing the definition of something which has been the bedrock of western society is a slippery slope.  We reap what we sow.

By Been there done that on 2012 11 16, 10:19 am CDT

Been married for over 25 years and let me just say that I can’t imagine wanting two women running my life and denying me sex.  Clearly those favoring polygamy are mentally unstable!

By Rob on 2012 11 16, 10:41 am CDT

Approximately 30 years ago I wrote a piece entitled, A Critique of the Reynolds decision, appearing in the Western State Law Review, reprinted and also available on the Social Science Research Network (author 613804). This argues that the freedom of religion clauses prohibit prevention of religious-based polygamy and that the “belief-conduct distinction” is at best not well thought out. A few years ago, regarding same-sex marriage in an OpEd, appearing in the Orange County [CA] Register, I argued that marriage is a religious concept, and the state can only approve civil union. That said, if “marriage” is to be generically defined, we must mandate government to get out of the bedrooms, churches, and minds of our citizenry, and instead “merely” defend, balance the budget, and govern. That legitimate governance is proving too much for our government because it has taken on tasks that befit other private groups . . . and the individual. Please take a look at least at the first piece. It is copiously researched from many angles. It made waves, but surprisingly most all readers of both responded positively with a one-word comment, “Sane!”

By Jeremy M. Miller on 2012 11 16, 10:50 am CDT

Odd that there is a lack of distinction between polygamy between consenting adults and illegally marrying girls below the age of consent.

Even if polygamy was deemed legal, the second would not be.

The arguement that legalizing polygamy would promote underage marriage is a false assertion and a red herring to the main point: what is the inherent harm of allowing multiple husband/wives if consenting adults choose to enter into such a union?

Our system was setup in the context of 2 people in a marriage with the ‘moral’ constraint to not allow an end run via multiple spouses (see multiple wives on public assistance point above).  The reality that those ‘morality’ constraints are no longer held sacrosanct would require replacement via legal constraint.

Though to address the public assistance point, household income is used to determine qualification so having multiple people in one household, invidiually seek benefits is fraud and is thereby caught by another law and is outside the context of a multiple partner marriage discussion.

By Odd.... on 2012 11 16, 11:02 am CDT

Roger @41:  My thoughts exactly.  My response to questions about whether the law should sanction same sex or any other variation of marriage has always been to question why “legal” marriage was ever created in the first place.  For what it is worth, I consider myself a believer in Jehovah God, Christ, and marriage as a blessed union between man and woman.  However, the fact that “legal” marriage necessarily becomes subject to these expansive questions is the very reason it should remain solely a matter of faith rather than law.  If two so-called Christians, Muslims, etc. would like to be wed in a manner that is consistent with their particular faith, it appears to me that this should only be an issue to be resolved within that individual’s religious institution.  It does not require legal acknowledgement.  If two people who profess no particular faith would like to live together and share possessions, then so be it.  The law, in these situations, should only be concerned with protection of each party from violation or suppression each of their rights.  You don’t have to sanction marriage between a man and a woman in order to say that regardless of your religious belief, we as a society will not allow someone to sexually abuse or oppress someone or multiple people of the same or opposite sex, young or not so young.  This should be especially true with regard to the young and disabled who can not protect or press their own rights.  I’ve never been able to engage in a lengthy conversation on the subject.  Maybe there is something I am overlooking.  Seems to me that the only reason people don’t advocate for this position is that they don’t want to give up the special rights currently given to married couples with regard to joint possession of property, taxes, etc.  Forgive typos please - this was kind of stream-of-thought and I have no time to read back over this.

By tell the truth on 2012 11 16, 11:03 am CDT

Could someone please point out any same sex marriage law or proposal that limits same sex marriage to homosexuals or bans same sex marriage between heterosexuals?  I imagine there is none.  So, please—no more talk of “immutable characteristics.”

And, enough about “scientific” studies.  (Would these be the same studies that categorized homesexaulity as a deviancy until the 70s?)  This isn’t a dictatorship on behalf of the proletariat by social “scientists.”  Anyway, courts are rejecting the policy reasons of states to limit marriages to those between a man and woman because marriage is supposedly a fundamental part of personhood.

So, to deny folks the ability to marry is now a denial of their personhood.  Accordingly, every one of you who is opposing plural marriage is a bigot.  You’re a bigot because, under the logic of various courts, you are categorizing other human beings as lesser persons than you.

Crazy.  Again, that’s the logic of our current jurisprudence.  Don’t like it?  Then bray about the law being an ass.  But, please—no more about “immutable characteristics.”  Our profession is already in enough disrepute—ignoring the logic of our jurisprudence and descending into a pack of sophists just to defend what is politically correct against what isn’t will rightly lead to our profession being justly despised.

The state being in the business of laying down rules for marriage is or will shortly be gone.  End of story.

By SAF on 2012 11 16, 11:03 am CDT

We need to rethink the policy reasons behind secular marriage benefits and obligations. We are running on old assumptions of married people raising a family needing special benefits to help society as a whole. What are our current reasons for secular marriages/unions? Once we make this determination, we need to fashion a secular marriage or union that meets the needs of today’s society. It is a joke to give benefits to people merely because they got married instead of choosing to be roommates. Recognition of love is not the government’s business, keeping a stable society is. I do not have the answer to my question. I am suggesting we find it. Otherwise, the rest of the discussion is pointless.

By Janet on 2012 11 16, 11:13 am CDT

You can “imagine” all you like. Facts are facts, and polygamy, just like its sister, slavery, is inherently abusive. For “Mister Sane,” too bad you weren’t there for the Supreme Court reference case on polygamy last year, as I’m sure all your “sanity” would have turned the tide for the pro-polygamists and managed to get a different result when the inconvenient facts of polygamy were fairly heard, and deemed not to be protected by religious liberty in that country, because of the demonstrative harms inflicted on women, children and society by the practice.

There are obviously folks here who, because of their determination to brand anything and everything legal as long as it doesn’t personally affect them, will never listen to real facts. Don’t like the studies? How about you commission more than 70 of your own and try to get the results you want to hear. The ones that have already been done just don’t swing your way.

You can say polygamy has nothing to do with underage marriage but the facts don’t support that at all. You can say polygamy has nothing to do with child neglect and abuse, but again, the facts just don’t support that at all. You can say polygamy has nothing to do with poverty but the facts don’t support that either.

We have documented polygamous “families” in Utah and Arizona that collect upwards of 30k in food stamp benefits a month. Those women were all “married” in religious ceremonies and are technically single mothers you know. No harm to the children or society in that, huh? I have a spreadsheet detailing the food stamp costs to Mohave County for the zip code of their polygamous town. They pay an average of $1 in taxes for the $8 in benefits they receive. Gee, what could go wrong for society? What if any cut off in the number of spouses should there be? If a man can “love” three women and marry them, who is to say, like Warren Jeffs, he can’t “love” 80? 80 Social Security checks anyone?

Or, how about the fact that the judiciary in Utah is so corrupt to the practice of polygamy that when a concubine tries to leave with her children, they are regularly taken away from her and given back to her “husband” and his other concubines, because she has no education, no job skills and no resources, so the judge decides to give the children back to practicing felons who can “provide”. Then every little girl is raised, like veal in pens, to believe she will be doomed to Hell unless she too grows up to subject herself to concubinage. All her “choice” of course.

You don’t have to believe see or imagine the harms of polygamy, worldwide, I’ve seen enough of them to last me a lifetime.

Go ahead and legalize it, then please tell me how you will pay for it. A man has 5 “wives” and dies, is that 5 social security checks we now send out? If not, where is the equality in that?

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 11:32 am CDT

Janet - then the government should be able to restrict your social wlefare handouts to one kid.  What is the difference between a man and 2 wifes who have 1 child and a single mom who has 8 kids from 4 different men? 

People who try and limit marriage are just hateful bigots living in a society that does not exist anymore.

By tim17 on 2012 11 16, 11:39 am CDT

“People who try and limit marriage are just hateful bigots living in a society that does not exist anymore. “

Wow, thanks for clearing that up for us all.

As a female minority, [with lots of gay friends] who opposes polygamy I must be a real bigot. Wow, just wow.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 11:45 am CDT

lonestar - ever go to a domestic violence clinic.  the human rights violations between husband and wife should be enough to outlaw marriage altogether if you are masking your argument based on the misdeeds of a few. 

why would we allow any woman to every marry when we know there is a good likelihood she will get beat at some point in her marriage?  your argument makes NO sense. 

marriage to one man and woman is just as abusive as between multiple partners.

By tim17 on 2012 11 16, 11:45 am CDT

You are incorrect, tim17. Every study we have was comparing monogamous marriages to polygamous marriages. Those were the control groups in every study. But, again, don’t let the facts you refuse to even look at get in the way of your completely uninformed opinion or anything.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 11:49 am CDT

Lonestar, the problem with your perspective and hence, conclusions, is that you are discussing “polygamy as it now exists in its illegal state in some places in America.” There is nothing in the definition or practice that requires, or even must result in, salvery, uneducation, child neglect, underage brides, etc. Your argument is blaming Kool Aid for what happened at Jonestown.

Child abuse/neglect occurs where there is poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, crowded housing, and cold winters.  Although it will occur way more frequently where there is but one parent in the home, single parenting is not a direct cause of abuse/neglect.

But you make a very good point about widow’s benefits from social security. The answer is obvious: they split it (otherwise a man on his death bed could marry 20 friends).

Really, it’s a non-issue: so few people would become polygamists that any problems or benefits would be statistically irrelevant.

By Hadley V. Baxendale on 2012 11 16, 11:49 am CDT

“But you make a very good point about widow’s benefits from social security. The answer is obvious: they split it (otherwise a man on his death bed could marry 20 friends).”

Hence, women in polygamous marriages are automatically less equal than their monogamous counterparts. Brilliant. Not.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 11:53 am CDT

Re:  The issue of polygamy being harmful to society and creating rivalry among men, etc.:  Not True. 

As Andy The Lawyer mentioned, in some communities polygamy would benefit society.  In the African American community where the ratio of women to marriageable available men 10:1, polygamy would give many women an opportunity to marry and (have children if they chose to) with the legal protections that common law marriages do not provide.  While most young women do not consider polygamy as a remote possibility, ask any divorced, separated, never married woman over 35 if that might work for her.  The answer would surprise many.  Done correctly, polygamy would benefit many households. 

Personally, I am still trying to figure out why commiting adultery, running around, “swinging”, and/or being unfaithful is just “messy” and often socially embarrassing is not illegal, while an already man who choses to marry another woman (with the first wife’s knowledge) could face jail time.  Does a man who has a mistress with his wife’s knowledge fear the law?  Worse, does a man with multiple children out of wedlock have to justify his life choices.

By claire huxtable on 2012 11 16, 11:59 am CDT

I cannot help people who refuse to consider facts in their arguments. Again, most recently in Canada with the Supreme Court reference case, when facts are given voice, polygamy is proven harmful, not helpful to women children and society. Fully 80% of the Muslim immigrants to Europe are now on the dole. That’s because they practice polygamy, which leads to poverty. The same is true in Utah. Take the Brown family of TLC’s “reality show” Sister Wives for example. Every adult in that relationship has filed for bankruptcy, every one of them. In Christine Brown’s filing she listed her sole source of income as food stamps. In Kody Brown’s he lied about the number of children he had. Nationally, the rate of bankruptcy is something like 12% of the population, but for the consenting adults in that relationship, it is 100%.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 12:11 pm CDT

#41 - State-sanctioned marriage simply recognizes that a couple (or more than 2 people) wish to be treated as a unit for legal, tax, and financial purposes.  In that light, I think the states should grant those rights to anyone, including non-romantic couples such as two brothers or a mother-daughter, who wish to live as a single more-or-less permanent legal and economic unit.  (In this light, allowing polygamy would disqualify sister wives who are actually part of a larger family unit from collecting welfare benefits intended for single parents.)

It would actually be better if the state-sanctioned thing was called something other than “marriage” to highlight that it was really a type of legal contract, and leave the emotional and religious defintion of “marriage” to individuals, churches and other non-government institutions.

By Sharon on 2012 11 16, 12:20 pm CDT

Sure, disqualify the concubines from receiving benefits. Great, then like one friend of mine raise in a Mormon polygamous colony in Mexico, the kids can just all eat the family horse when they get too hungry.

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 12:27 pm CDT

Correlation does not equal causation.

Also, there are a great deal of Muslim immigrants to Europe from countries where polygyny is legal, and a great deal where polygamy is illegal - I’m not aware of ANY where polygamy is legal.  There’s a big difference and I have no trouble believing there’s a current correlation between polygyny and poverty, but to extrapolate that it has a causative effect takes a gigantic leap of assumptions.

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 16, 12:32 pm CDT

If the argument to legalize gay marriage is that the government does not have a compelling interest to decide the issue and it is a matter of personal choice, why shouldn’t the same argument apply to how many wives a man can have? Or how many men a women might marry?  It is interesting that society can accept, a man marrying a man,  but not a man loving two women, or maybe more.  What right or interest does government have in mandating how many people a person can commit to? If A=gays have a right to personal choice, B=people have a right to how many people they will commit to, Allowing A, we should allow B. I am not trying to decide the issue for you, or me, just examining the logic, without tying into varied perceptions about how “polygamy” is practiced any more than examining the type of sex gay men have. You don’t hear people argue against gay marriage by discussion of anal sex and the health risk it creates. The fundamental issue is the right of people to choose who they will commit to and love.

By if A=B, then allowing gay marriage, we should allo on 2012 11 16, 12:53 pm CDT

As more and more states allow same-sex marriage, it will only be a matter of time before polygamy will be legalized. All the same arguments that same-sex couples have used to push for legal marriage status can be easily transferred to the polygamy issue. Personally, I think that polygamy has an even stronger argument in that it often has roots in the exercise of religion.
While current polygamy certainly does have problems with exclusion of males and underage marriages, there are just as serious problems within heterosexual and same-sex marriages.

By sillyrabbit on 2012 11 16, 1:13 pm CDT

Polygamy or group marriage just means loving in a different way. Only a hate-filled, anti-Islamic, anti-LDS religious zealot, who wants to impose a Theocracy on the United States would oppose polygamy.  This is the 21st Century: Get with the program you haters.

By Yankee on 2012 11 16, 1:22 pm CDT

@ 44 & 45: Statements that plural marriage invariably leads to dependence on public benefits or human rights abuses based on nebulous “studies” proves nothing. As Mole Mountain pointed out @ 89: “Correlation does not equal causation.” Most religions that permit polygamous marriage—e.g. Islam and Judaism—require that the man be able to care for his wives and provide equally for all children. So your assertion, @ 45,  that polygamy is abuse justified by religion is also unfounded.  However, in this country, plural marriage has been criminalized. When you criminalize an act, it isolates people, decreases their opportunities for gainful employment, and makes it more likely that the participants will choose vulnerable people as marriage partners.

Karyn @ 64 asks: “I think there are plenty of public policy reasons for banning polygamy.  Think about how it would play out in real life.  Say a man dies intestate with 3 wives.  Would his estate be divided up equally among the three wives?  What if his first wife, who had 3 children, challenges the division? ”

Algebra was devised by the Arabs for, among other things, dividing estates equitably among heirs. It should also be noted that among cultures that practice polygamy, the women are often dowered—which means they have their own personal source of funds; and their marriages are formal contracts, which negotiate the financial terms of any divorce—and any amount over the mathematical calculations upon the demise of the husband—up front.

Custody is a red herring in this discussion. There is no reason why a divorcee from a polygamous marriage can’t share custody with the father if polygamy were permitted in the US. It’s not like the olden days where sons were expected to help the father haul water for crops or tend the sheep from age 5 onward.

By BMF on 2012 11 16, 1:44 pm CDT

Goldcoaster @ 58: So, as a divorce lawyer, you THINK this means more business for you, huh.

While there is a possibility that plural marriage will lead to increased debt, more arguments, and less sex it has some definite advantages:

1. If one woman wants a high powered legal career and the 25-year-old auxilliary aerobics instructor wife wants to dedicate her life primarily to raising kids, your child care expenses are practically nothing.

2. You have at least two or more incomes to use toward housing, food, kids’ education and retirement.

3. When you buy the gallon jars of pickles or No. 10 cans of jalapeno slices at Wal-Mart, you won’t wind up throwing half of them out.

4. As for polygamy leading us to raise our children in troupes, I have only one word: DUGGARS!

By BMF on 2012 11 16, 1:59 pm CDT

If the real problem is the coercion of young girls into marriage that they would not have chosen had they been more mature, then one of many reasonable solutions is to enforce the proscription against underage marriage.  That would be helpful whether the marriage is between two people, three or more.  Hotline and helpline advice for young wives who feel trapped in a coercive marriage are good practical outreach tools that bring assistance to those who might otherwise be isolated, so that they can more effectively help themselves.  The custom of banning long-accepted human practices that may be abused by some parties but not by all is a familiar problem in this country.  Our freedoms are very selectively edited by those who are easily offended.

By sunforester on 2012 11 16, 2:07 pm CDT

Yankee, I think it’s obvious who the “haters” are. Since becoming involved in the investigation of polygamists in this country 7 years ago, I have had two innocent helpless dead kittens thrown on my doorstep, received death threats, been tailed, followed, photographed, computer hacked and chased by an 18-wheeler with AZ tags here in Texas, which pursued me at speeds in excess of 90mph trying to drive me off the road. I still have a copy of the 911 call, where a little redheaded Jew is screaming “JESUS!” way more than is appropriate. I definitely know exactly which side the “hate” is on. And for my part, I believe it is ALL on the side of men who are determined to keep women in concubinage. Anyone interested in facts instead of uninformed airy-fairy ideas is welcome to contact me at polygamyisacrime at yahoo dot com. Otherwise I’m done here. Talk about closed minds!

By LoneStarBoots on 2012 11 16, 2:41 pm CDT

#96 “I still have a copy of the 911 call, where a little redheaded Jew is screaming “JESUS!” way more than is appropriate.” “Talk about closed minds!”

What.

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 16, 2:47 pm CDT

tim17(#49) is on the right track. Consenting adults should have the right to make their own decisions as far as how many husbands/wives to have. If they choose to restrict it to only one husband and one wife, that is their business, not the government’s.

Any concerns about children being forced into polygamous marriages would be addressed by limiting polygamous marriage to only consenting adults in most cases (as it is right now in laws about monogamous marriages).

Taking it a step further, though, the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. Consenting adults who choose should have the right to contractually enter into civil unions (whether heterosexual or homosexual, and whether monogamous or polygamous.) These civil unions would come with certain rights and responsibilities (as many contractual relationships already do) and would be the basis for certain benefits recognized by the government (such as immigration of foreign spouses, getting veteran’s benefits, inheritance through intestacy, etc.).

Under this scenario, “marriage” would be strictly a religious matter, to be governed according to the dictates of ones religion and would have no more governmental relevance than whether a person was baptized or had a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

By Joshua Effron on 2012 11 16, 3:14 pm CDT

@#96—little redhaired Jew?—-Things must still be really hard for you since the Third Reich shut down.
BTW, what do Jews have to do with your investigating ploygamy? (oh, well, blame them anyway, right?)

By NOW JERRY BROWN on 2012 11 16, 3:46 pm CDT

LoneStarBoots@78:

Facts are facts—except when they’re not facts at all.

First of all, don’t confuse anyone on this board with apologists for Warren Jeffs or the FLDS. There is religiously and culturally based polygamy, and then there are perverts and the criminally inclined, who find that the “cafeteria approach” to a given theology suits their particular purposes. Jeffs and his ilk, IMHO, belong to the latter group.

Second, most of us on this board are attorneys. As such, we spend a hefty portion of our time picking apart arguments and studies that are essentially bull$h*t. Take your dead children scenario. If you’re going to set up a meaningful study, you don’t just compare the mortality rate of children of FLDS practitioners receiving federal aid in a town in AZ with a high rate of kids run over in driveways with the number of kids run over in Connecticut. Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country. And did it ever occur to you that polygamy might not be a factor? If you compare the infant mortality rate of Colorado City to infant mortality rates among children fathered by men who have multiple underage female partners, either serially or concurrently, you will find that there are numerous groups who are NOT LDS living in the poorer sections of small towns and cities across the US. Most of the women are on welfare or have subsistence level jobs. Their children generally have a lower standard of living, worse health care, poor diets, less education, and, yes, they have a higher mortality rate. While many of them lack driveways to get run over in, they get hit by cars chasing each other in the street, fall off of fire escapes, are mowed down by gang members at birthday parties, or die by degrees from ingesting paint chips, rat poison, or their parents drugs. In that respect, FLDS members are no better or no worse than the rest of their demographic when demonstrating that women who have children before they are physically or emotionally mature make crappy parents.

3. “Reality shows” aren’t real. As for corruption in Utah, no one claimed that all was well in Zion. If you are affiliated with the groups that you have linked to, you seem to have found a way to profit from the misery of the victims you profess to be so concerned about.

By BMF on 2012 11 16, 4:34 pm CDT

Polygamy is the past, monogamy is the present, if we keep fighting about everything, absolute loneliness will be the future.

By Anna Gray on 2012 11 16, 5:30 pm CDT

Just wanted to chime in and say that I’m really, really enjoying watching all the gay rights libs squirming about trying to find some, any, rational legal justification for denying equal rights to polygamists that isn’t simply “bigotry” and “hate.”  It’s not about child abuse, underage girls, what have you—all those things would still be illegal.  Marriage is either arbitrarily defined as one man and one woman, or it’s defined as consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want as long as it doesn’t harm someone else’s rights.  There’s no other intellectually-honest position.  How ironic, seems like now that the homosexuals have (largely) gotten what they want, they’re acting like the heterosexuals have for decades, i.e., “I got mine, screw you guys.”

By Just Some Bloke on 2012 11 16, 5:37 pm CDT

Df @ 10: Brainwashing isn’t illegal. See, e.g., the Pledge of Allegiance, every elementary school history lesson, Sunday schools, etc.

The negative factors commonly associated with polygamy, particularly coercion of young women, aren’t necessary consequences of the practice. They are an expression/result of heavily patriarchal social structures in the societies which do now, or have most recently permitted, polygamous practices.

However, if newly installed into the modern legal structure, polygamy would have some predictable problems. Listed in no particular order, off the top of my head I come up with (1) division of community property upon one or multiple divorces; (2) alimony/spousal support payments; (3) child custody; (4) determination of “next of kin” in instances of incapacity (who makes the medical decisions if a comatose man has four wives?); and (5) potentially never-ending claiming of the unlimited spousal exception to the estate tax.

These legal issues aside, many have theorized that the reason polygamy is nearly universally rejected is to preserve the social order: without a restriction on the number of spouses, the rich and powerful are likely to accumulate a disproportionate number of the desirable (consider how many women would marry someone as rich as Mark Cuban, Sean Combs, etc.). Particularly when the rich and powerful are disproportionately of one gender (men), this leads to a lack of desirable mates in the lower classes. Fast forward a couple generations, and the lower class men have a revolution and immediately ban the practice. While this would be less likely to occur if there were an equal number of polyandry scenarios as polygyny ones; social mobility through “marrying up” would still seem diminished, even if it were actually enhanced by enabling one billionaire to scoop up multiple Anna Nicole Smiths.

By Voice of Reason on 2012 11 16, 6:36 pm CDT

@ 103 - Thank you for explaining those (hopefully obvious) points, especially the last one. Banning polygamous marriage obviously passes rational basis scrutiny. There are some seriously deranged slippery slope aficionados on this site.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 16, 8:19 pm CDT

Interesting article and comments. I’ve always wondered how we moved from a polygamous to a monogamous society.  We think of polygamy as polygyny (men having multiple wives), however, polyandry (women with mulitple husbands) is also foreclosed.

I actually think monogamy is detrimental to women as (historically) men were allowed to divorce women but not the other way around. Also, given the history of women’s access to jobs and the ability to gain custody of their children, having a second husband could have helped with these issues, as well as domestic violence.  Similarly, polygyny can be helpful and beneficial to women as well.  It allows for mentoring of women to one another, sharing of responsibilities - particularly child rearing and households chores - and would probably lower the divorce rate, which would increase the resources available to the family.

I think the legal position is entrenched in religious beliefs and should be seriously considered and evaluated.

By thoroughly_disgusted on 2012 11 16, 8:28 pm CDT

The problem with your position is the implicit assumption that polygyny and polyandry would occur at approximately equal rates across the sexes. There is nothing to suspect that would ever be the case.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 16, 8:37 pm CDT

@106 - If your comment is directed to me, I did not assume that polygyny and polyandry would occur at approximately equal rates. Nor is it necessary. The goal is not to ensure that men and women are married in equal proportions, but to give people the option to choose a scenario that is correct for them, particularly given some of the statistics about marriage and households.

About 20% of the US population is single (as in never married) by choice.  Married couples make up less than 50% of households. And, the divorce rate is greater than 50%. People are getting married later.  Less educated people are choosing not to marry at all or not to stay married.  Financial difficulties are the number one reason for divorce.  Long gone are the days of the Cleavers.  Polygamy makes sense and can address a number of issues, particularly resources and lifestyle.

I can imagine a scenario where a person (male or female) marries a less educated or lower earning spouse for companionship and sharing of day to day responsibilities and also a higher earning or more educated person for resources.  There is a benefit to the higher earner with lots of work responsibilities and commitments because s/he is relieved of the day to day family responsibilites by the other spouse and the resource issue for the other family members is also taken care of which makes the arrangement reasonable for them.  It also addresses boredom, variety, communication, etc.

By thoroughly_disgusted on 2012 11 16, 8:56 pm CDT

People don’t marry for “resources” anymore.  The whole country lives on credit.  All the houses on the block look the same, and nobody in the neighborhood knows which ones are paid for.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 17, 2:03 am CDT

All the more reason for people to consider polygamy - it will help with the “fiscal cliff.” And, a public records search can tell you which houses are paid for.

By thoroughly_disgusted on 2012 11 17, 5:47 am CDT

The state recognizes marriage because marriage confers benefits upon the state.
Though same-sex marriage might benefit the state by offering some of the same benefits associated with traditional marriage, such as long-term care-giving and stability, it cannot offer other benefits unique to heterosexual marriage: Propagating the species, raising/understanding the fruit of one’s own loins, and role-modeling the male/female relationship. Is it enough to offer a tax credit/deduction and say that the differences are now accounted for?

Are there NO benefits to polygamy/polyandry?

If there are burdens to polygamy/polyandry (say, for example, to a child’s psychological well-being) are those down-to-earth burdens enough to trump the eternal benefits to the child/parent’s soul? Is it possible for the observer to answer that question without dipping into his own well of morality?

Law and morality intersect quite often. It’s a pity that so many in the legal community can’t or won’t argue in moral terms, choosing instead limit their quiver to the arrows of economic efficiency, critical legal studies, and feminism. Why these three are deemed to have a rightful seat at the table of public discourse but morality/religion does not, is something quite troubling.

By LexLoci on 2012 11 17, 3:03 pm CDT

I have no problem with polygamy between consenting adults (whatever form that may take, depending on sexual orientation, gender, etc.: MWW, MMW, MMMWWW, whatever) but I am far too smart to want more than one wife. Keeping out of hot water with just one woman is hard enough, trying to keep out of hot water with several women concurrently is a near impossible task. Just look at Kody Brown on Sister Wives.

By bismuth on 2012 11 17, 3:31 pm CDT

Marriage is a partnership.  If consenting adults can form a partnership with several partners then I see no reason why the same should not be allowed for marriage.  Polygamy has been around for thousands of years and sanctioned by such major religions as the Hebrew and Moslem faiths, the latter still practicing it in many countries.  Same sex marriage is a new creation that has no historical basis until very recently.

On the subject of marriage in general, I think the state should get out of the business entirely and leave it up to religions and other groups to define what marriage is.  If someone want something that is sanctioned by the state then they would do so under partnership law.

By Wayne L. Johnson on 2012 11 17, 3:49 pm CDT

This is classic. For years, pro gay marriage advocates have scoffed at the idea gay marriage is a slippery slope. Yet we now have a robust debate repeating arguments to limit or expand the scope of marriage. Hadley Arkes of Amherst, among others, deserves credit for his prescience.  I am happy to see the beginnings of a pubic policy push for polyamorous marriage so it can be captured in the trial record that goes to the USSC. Keep it up folks! The slope is becoming a cliff.

By Adam on 2012 11 19, 9:00 am CDT

@113 - That simply isn’t factually accurate.  A number of people have been willing (and even happy) to acknowledge that the same analysis has to apply to polyamorous marriage—is there a non-moral rational basis for the government to restrict it?

The mere fact that the debate is “robust” indicates that maybe what we’re doing here isn’t descending down some bizarre “slippery slope,” but maybe instead emerging into a new age where we apply critical thinking rather than the traditional analysis of “I don’t personally like where this goes so it therefore must be a slippery slope straight down into Hell because I say so.”

By Another Andy on 2012 11 19, 9:19 am CDT

@110 “[SSM cannot offer other benefits unique to heterosexual marriage: Propagating the species, raising/understanding the fruit of one’s own loins, and role-modeling the male/female relationship”

First, since when has propagating the species really been a concern? I think population-wise, we are probably all set and given the percentage of those who identify as homosexual and thus may not breed, this is really not a concern… in fact, producing kids who are unwanted, or are too much of a financial burden on their parents (or society, through social assistance) may be a unique detriment to ‘traditional’ marriage.. Of course, many SS couples who breed make use of a donor using one of the couples’ own gametes, so they do propagate and ‘raise/understand’ their own offspring (as to the one that does not, how are they less able to raise/know a child they have had since birth or shortly after simply because one of them was not the biological parent?). But on the flipside, SS couples may choose to adopt, which takes an unwanted child out of an unsafe or otherwise unsuitable home and realize that unique benefit—which a ‘traditional’ marriage may not yield.  Lastly, how is it a ‘benefit’ to ‘role model’ a male-female relationship? Gay children raised by straight parents see and reject this model b/c of their innate preferences, and plenty of gay parents raise straight children who then have ‘normal’ male-female relationships—with the added benefit that they are more accepting of those with different sexual preferences, less likely to participate in bullying, and less likely to ‘reject’ their own children should they ‘come out’ later in life, which can lead to that child’s depression, low self-esteem, suicide, etc.  That is also a benefit more ‘unique’ to SSM.  Other than using your own moral-religious filter to compare the two, it is hard to say that one is on balance ‘more beneficial’ than the other.

As to the polygamy issue, there are probably benefits but as others have pointed out, administrating a ‘divorce’ that may extend 5 ways and affect children by multiple partners would be a nightmare.. I tend to agree with those that support the complete ‘privatization’ or non-recognition of marriage by the government, period.  Let your god dictate your morality.

By JP on 2012 11 19, 3:48 pm CDT

The most potentially valid reason to avoid polygamy is the same one all American men learned as teens from their bachelor uncles and older brothers re monogamy:

Why buy the cows when you can get milk for free?

By AndytheLawyer on 2012 11 19, 4:34 pm CDT

@115, JP

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

You tell me whether we understand one another and/or agree/disagree.

Propagating the species is a good thing. Though you may be correct that there isn’t a danger in it not happening any time soon—that there isn’t a threat of population shortfall—nothing you wrote disproves the claim that it is good thing to propagate the species. (Note: tangentially related,  there are demographic concerns over whether America’s and Western Europe’s declining birthrates will make a social welfare state sustainable)

Understanding one’s own offspring—you did not deny that this is important. That such understanding isn’t always achieved does not in any diminish the importance of the goal. As an aside, there was an episode of The Simpson’s wherein Lisa meets her paternal grandmother: the hippie of the family. Lisa, having long felt out of place, says to her grandmother something to the effect of, “I never knew how I quite fit into this family until I met you.” The point is to find the relationship that is most conducive for a parent and child to understand how/why they fit in, how/why they feel the way they do. Perhaps shared biology, shared genes, are the first and best place to start in gaining that understanding, and that place shouldn’t be diminished.

Role-modeling a male/female relationship—again, that there may be substitutes or that there may be failures does not mean that the goal is unimportant. I learned what it means to be a good husband and father by watching how my father conducted himself. I learned what to look for in a wife and mother by watching how my mother behaved. Women are from Venus. Men are are from Mars. The first place to bridging that divide comes from the home, where the child can interact daily with both aliens.

I doubt you will agree with me. That’s okay. By all means offer a response. I don’t promise to reply, but I do promise to read with an open mind.

Thanks.

By LexLoci on 2012 11 19, 9:11 pm CDT

@117 Your statement: “Propagating the species is a good thing.” begs the question.  To put the onus on someone else to produce evidence contradicting it is inappropriate.

“Perhaps shared biology, shared genes, are the first and best place to start in gaining that understanding, and that place shouldn’t be diminished.”  Again, begging the question.

And again… “Role-modeling a male/female relationship—again, that there may be substitutes or that there may be failures does not mean that the goal is unimportant.”

You’re putting forth a great deal of assumptions and then asking someone else to refute them without first putting forth positive evidence.  I appreciate the civil tone, but you do not provide any substance along with it.

By Mole Mountain on 2012 11 20, 1:18 pm CDT

@ 117 - “Propagating the species is a good thing.” What is normatively good about reproduction? Is the reproduction of any species a good in and of itself, or is your assertion only limited to people? In either case, please explain.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 20, 1:31 pm CDT

@117, @118 is right—but I’ll try to answer anyway (and yes, we mostly disagree)...

1. Propagating species is not necessarily good.  Over-propagation is what brought about the ‘unsustainable welfare state’ in the first place.  Plus it depletes resources, harms the planet, and therefore diminishes the overall quality of life for all. But even taking your assumption as true, there is no evidence that the decline the rate of propagation is tied to SSM, as opposed to women in the workforce waiting longer to have kids, economic woes discouraging couples from breeding, etc. 

2. While I appreciate the Simpsons anecdote, no I don’t think one needs to ‘know’ a biological family to know onesself.  What of a situation where a child is born of violent rape—might the child be best raised by the non-criminal parent, or an adoptive family, and not subjected to the ‘knowledge’ of their origin or their biological parent’s propensities? There may be some medical advantage to having genetically related family in case you need an organ… but you can be just as enriched (or moreso) by the nurturing of family not related by blood.

3. Both sexes are from earth, and perpetuating antiquated stereotypes about domestic roles within the family or society at large does not assist anyone. I was raised by both mom and dad.. they fought constantly and ultimately divorced about the time I entered college. I have been divorced once already at 30—there are many factors but one is the poor example I had about how a loving relationship should work.  I see my friends in SSM raising their children in loving homes without all the strife and misery, which is infinitely more important.  Those children will grow to learn love, cooperation, mutual respect, and how to function as a good parent and romantic partner (whether they turn out to be hetero or homosexual).  I fail to see how traits that make one a good mother do not make one a good father, or vice versa (or a good wife vs. good husband)—perhaps you could explain that?

Anyway, I appreciate the discussion.

By JP on 2012 11 20, 1:44 pm CDT

@JP - 115 and 120 and LexLoci - 117:

I too appreciate the discussion, your thoughtful replies and the civility with which you disagree. Very good lessons being observed.

Thank you.

By thoroughly_disgusted on 2012 11 20, 2:54 pm CDT

How about this analysis:  Marriage has been recognized as a fundamental right.  A law that completely bars a class of people from marriage (e.g., prohibition against same-sex marriage) should be subject to strict scrutiny.  But laws that just regulate various aspects of marriage and are not based on suspect classifications like race (e.g., minimum age requirement, prohibition on consanguineous marriage, limit on the number of spouses) just have to have a rational basis.

By IndyCanary on 2012 11 20, 4:31 pm CDT

@122 - It is scary how many folks on the ABA website do not understand the concepts you just pointed out.

By NoleLaw on 2012 11 20, 4:44 pm CDT

# 122 and #123:  What is scarier is that there is no basis other than a judge imposing his or her personal values in order to adopt the two tiered approach #122 advocates. 

“We, the People. . .” at the start of the US Constitution is an expression of popular sovereignty.  If, however, judges can impose personal value judgments in general language of the US Constitution to override state legislative and state constitutional laws, then the Constitution should be prefaced “We, the Judges. . . .”

By Phil Byler on 2012 11 20, 4:52 pm CDT

@124 - It’s a tricky line.  What one man (or woman) thinks is the clear constitutional outcome, another thinks is judicial activism. 

Sometimes judges *have* to do that.  And their willingness to protect certain rights does change with the times. 

What I think we need to work on is staying in the happy medium between the extremes of blindly following the precedent of older times that were tainted by irrationality and bigotry (Dred Scott) or inventing new constitutional law because it suits a particular set of justices’ political preferences (Citizens United).

By Another Andy on 2012 11 20, 4:57 pm CDT

Mr. Witte needs to do his homework.  There are significant numbers of people today who practice egalitarian polyamory.  They are not fundamentalist Mormons, and their relationships have nothing to do with religion.  Community standards are very much based on equality for all those involved.  Many polyamorists have long-term love relationships that last decades.  Those whose families live in households of more than two adults find that there is more abundance of everything - more income, more love and support, more hands to care for sick partners and children. 

So when the time comes and the question of multi-partner marriage is addressed by the law in the U.S., there will be a great many people standing up and pointing out that if it is decided purely on the question of issues that are irrelevant to the non-religious, egalitarian polyamorous population, a great injustice will be done by denying the fundamental human right of family to those who love and commit to more than one adult, and in so doing, harm no one.

For the record, the Canadian case referenced in another comment included an intervenor non-profit group given status by the Court, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. 

Anita Wagner Illig
http://www.practicalpolyamory.com

By Anita Wagner Illig on 2012 11 20, 5:42 pm CDT

With polygamy we face various questions from different angles.  1) separatation of church & state—an area where the government has gone overboard: I strong abhor the fact that “In God We Trust” has been& is being removed from American currency, and the deletion of “God willing” or reference to God or a particular religious belief deleted from famous quotes & monuments, etc. Any overnment’s interference with what occurs in the bedroom “between consenting adults” is wrong.  Polygamy is as old as the Bible. The religions that uphold polygamy, in many cases contain within themselves ways and means for correction of abuse.  I do not favor child marriages or polygamous who abuse either wives or children—theirs or others.  Yes, the more successful males can & do support more wives & their children.  Even in a polygamous atmosphere, a male who can not successfully support more wives & children, do end up either not married or in a monogamous relationship.  In our over populated world today, I see no disadvantage to a male who cannot marry because he is unable to support a family.  Abuse of wives & children exist unfortunately in ALL religious & social circles.  Just because there are some bad individuals &  small groups, does not condemn the entire lot of a religious or social structure. Yes, there are those who abuse power & authority. For Fundamentalist Mormons, new wives must be approved by the existing sister-wives.  There are many benefits to the extended family that is created in such polygmous relationships, & it does not matter if you are referring to Fundamentalist Mormons or Muslims or any non-religious family who choose a polygamous relationship.

By YAT on 2012 11 23, 3:31 pm CDT

Add a Comment

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy.

Commenting has expired on this post.