The Slippery Slope to Polygamy and Incest

AP Photo/Jonathan Ray Ward

Young girls outside a school in the polygamous commune of Bountiful, British Columbia

It’s been a few weeks since the victories in the marriage cases at the Supreme Court, and maybe it’s time for the political left to own up to something.

You know those opponents of marriage equality who said government approval of same-sex marriage might erode bans on polygamous and incestuous marriages? They’re right. As a matter of constitutional rationale, there is indeed a slippery slope between recognizing same-sex marriages and allowing marriages among more than two people and between consenting adults who are related. If we don’t want to go there, we need to come up with distinctions that we have not yet articulated well. 

The left is in this bind in part because our arguments for expanding the marriage right to same-sex couples have been so compelling. Marriage, we’ve said, is about defining one’s own family and consecrating a union based on love. We’ve voiced these arguments in constitutional terms, using claims arising from the doctrines of “fundamental rights” and equal protection. Fundamental-rights analysis says that marriage is for many a crucial element of human flourishing, or as the Court said almost fifty years ago “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.” Because it’s so important, government can restrict marriage only by showing a truly compelling justification. The equal protection argument is simply that the marriage right should not be taken away from groups unless the government has good reasons to exclude those groups. 

When it comes to marriage, the fundamental rights claims and the equal protection arguments often intertwine. For example, Justice Kennedy’s opinion last month striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act said that DOMA’s injection of “inequality into the United States Code” violated the “liberty” protected by the Constitution. The “inequality” part is equal protection language; the “liberty” wording is fundamental rights stuff. The analytical box is not all that important. What it boils down to is that when the government wants to exclude groups from something important like marriage, it has to show good reasons for the exclusion. And prejudice—simply thinking something is “icky”—doesn’t count as a reason.

The arguments supporters of same-sex marriage have made in court do not sufficiently distinguish marriage for lesbians and gay men from other possible claimants to the marriage right. If marriage is about the ability to define one’s own family, what’s the argument against allowing brothers and sisters (or first cousins) to wed? If liberty protects, as Kennedy wrote ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas, the case striking down Texas’s anti-sodomy law, the “right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” why can’t people in polyamorous relationships claim that right as well? If it’s wrong to exclude groups because of prejudice, are we sure the uneasiness most of us feel about those who love more than one, or love one of their own, shouldn't count as prejudice?

In private conversations with leaders in the marriage movement, I often hear two responses. The first is that there is no political energy behind a fight for incestuous or polygamous marriages. The second is that they would be fine if those restrictions fell as well but, in effect, “don’t quote me on that.” The first of these responses, of course, is a political response but not a legal one. The second is to concede the point, with hopes that they won't have to come out of the closet on the concession until more same-sex victories are won in political and legal arenas.

Can we do better? What are the possible distinctions?

Ickiness.

This argument goes something like this: “Well, gay marriage is one thing. But incest and polygamy are icky.” I understand this visceral response. But of course this is the same kind of repulsion that has been standing in the way of LGBTQ rights for decades, and which motivated anti-miscegenation statutes before that. This kind of argument makes us sound dangerously close to those who oppose same-sex marriage by claiming it is “unnatural.” 

Think of the Children!

This argument is more relevant to incest than polygamy. Incest raises the risk of birth defects, or so we’ve been told. But the risks are reportedly small, and probably less than for parents over forty, or smokers, or those with certain hereditary diseases. If the government stepped in to regulate the decisions of potential parents on those grounds, we’d rightly dust off our “nanny state” bromides. This is the kind of thing we usually leave for people to decide for themselves. Here, too, the argument that marriage is about protecting the children sounds eerily familiar to the arguments trotted out against same-sex couples for years. And even if we wanted to intervene to protect the potential offspring of incestuous couples, there are things we could do (mandatory genetic counseling, for example) short of outright bans on their marriages.

Polygamy and Incest are Coercive.

Perhaps polygamous and incestuous bonds are more likely to be coercive, especially for the women involved. Polygamy is often used to bolster a misogynistic, male-dominated family structure; incest is frequently the product or symptom of abuse and subjugation. To the extent coercion is present, then polygamous and incestuous marriages do not result from the exercise of free will and genuine choice. 

This can be a strong argument, when borne out by facts. Father/daughter incest, for example, is surely so likely to be problematic on consent grounds that a government can ban it. But the further you get from that kind of genuine power imbalance, the weaker the coercion argument becomes. First cousins, it seems to me, are no more likely to be wrapped up in a coercive relationship than any other couple, related or not. (About twenty states, in fact, allow first cousins to marry—more than allow same sex couples.) And while polygamous marriages may more likely embody traditional stereotypes and roles, since when has that been a matter of government concern? As long as each individual who enters into a polyamorous relationship does so freely, and as long as divorce is available if they want out, then arguments from coercion are not particularly powerful.

Polygamy and Incest are Choices.

If the coercion argument doesn’t persuade, we could swing the other way and say sexual orientation is hard wired, but polygamy and incest are choices. In equal-protection analysis, the Court has suggested that discrimination based on immutable characteristics is more suspect, meaning the government has to show a more significant justification for the classification. 

But arguments from immutability are awkward in this context. Maybe I am speaking out of school here, but arguments for marriage equality do not really depend on the claim that people have no choice about who they are. Rather, the argument that resonates most with Americans is that LGBTQ people have the same right to make choices about their families as straight people. Let’s be honest: If science revealed tomorrow that sexual orientation is fluid and changeable, the arguments in favor of marriage equality would essentially be the same, wouldn’t they? Just like our arguments for religious liberty do not depend on whether people are destined by biology to be a Methodist, our arguments about the liberty to marry need not depend on science. In any event, if we throw all our eggs in the “it’s about the hardwiring” basket, are we sure we have made the distinction we want? Are we confident that science will show that people who are polyamorous or who are attracted to a cousin are not hardwired that way? 

LGBTQ Groups are Less Politically Powerful.

The conventional view of the equal protection clause is that it empowers courts to step in to protect—in the words of the leading Supreme Court case on point—“discrete and insular” groups that are systemically disadvantaged in the political process. So to make this argument, we’d have to say that gay-rights groups are less influential in mainstream politics than those who advocate for polyamory and consensual incest. That seems flat wrong. Political successes with regard to same-sex marriage are only recent, to be sure. But the political trend is clear, and marriage equality will be a reality for most same-sex couples in America in the foreseeable future. If anything, the argument from political disenfranchisement cuts the other way—that polygamous and incestuous couples deserve more constitutional protection than same-sex couples. 

If these distinctions do not hold water, we have two options. We can continue to search for differences that make sense as a matter of constitutional principle. Or we can fess up. We can admit our arguments in favor of marriage equality inexorably lead us to a broader battle in favor of allowing people to define their marriages, and their families, by their own lights.

Comments

The elected government officials and those that write about it need to be educated in the difference between LGBT and those that practice polygamy. LGBT is the way a parson is born... polygamy is taught through religion. BIG difference! People can read the bible or any other religious doctrine and interpret it and then choose to teach it the way they want... this is how polygamy was born... through religion... the people of the LGBT community are just born…they are not taught to be who they are, they are who they are and should be proud!
Polygamy is NOT all “Sister Wives”, “Big Love” or even “Polygamy USA”… As for decriminalization of polygamy… isn’t it already? I don’t see the Browns or the Dargers being thrown in jail for breaking the law … do you?? The reason for that… the law “enforcement” is getting their piece of the pie… even though the tax payers are paying on average $13,800 per MONTH in public assistance for an average polygamous family… one man, five wives and five children each… it is called “Bleeding the Beast” and YES, YOU are paying for it… an LGBT couple is NOT trying to take your money… they just want to have the same rights as any other couple….

As a resident of So. UT for almost 20 years it was very obvious to me that the law turned a blind eye to the FLDS where girls (some as young as 12) were being married off to older men. It was always sad to me to see a young FLDS girl with a baby in her arms and wonder if it was her sibling or her child.

My husband worked at the local paper in St. George, UT (The Spectrum, a Gannett paper) for 16 years as the local news editor (including the years of the Jeffs trials). With all the research he did during that time he found many instances of the "lack of law" in this area and the corruption going on. He wrote 'plygs' a fact-based journalistic novel of the FLDS.

As for the “slippery slope” … there should be none. What the people
of the FLDS and the UAB practice as their “lifestyle” is SO far from it. People
want to look at polygamy along with the LGBT and it is a totally different
world. The LGBT just want to marry ONE person and have a life the way other
monogamous couples live. The Polygamous world is based on religion. They hide
behind it, they survive on the words of a prophet that has ended himself and
several others in jail. What good can come of a “religion” that 12, 13, 14 yr
old girls are “married” to the “highest bidder” (tithing and favors) within a
“church”?

Polygamy that is taught through religion is NOT a choice.
They live it or they are forever damned. They live it or they will not see
their children in the afterlife. They live it or they will be cast out with
nothing… no home, no food, no family, no children, no friends… NOTHING…

Tell me where this is a choice! Tell me how this should be legal! Explain how
this is so slippery… those that speak of this slope have NO idea what true
polygamy practiced by the FLDS and the AUB and other groups are doing to these women and children… there is no slope… there is a mountain and our politicians are terrified to climb it!

Nothing in your bigoted diatribe is relevant to the discussion.

Polygamists are heterosexuals and they deserve marriage equality just as much as homosexuals do.

Polygamy is a coercive, bad approach. Not only is it bad for the women and young female children who are forced into marriages, it is very bad for young men, who are thrown out of the community since they are competition for the old perverts.

Polygamy is neither coercive nor a bad approach. It is not bad for women or children either. It is not bad for young men either since they are not thrown out of any community.

I'm gonna call you out - you're trolling. I'm new here, but I'm guessing "ConservativeSmasher" doesn't mean "one who smashes conservatives," but "a conservative who smasheth others."

I'm ok with incest and polygamy--as long as the latter entitles women to have multiple husbands too. However the mistake of the whole movement for "marriage equality" is defining the kinds of family formation the state recognizes as essentially sexual. Arguably the state should get out of the "marriage" business altogether and instead provide legal recognition, with exactly the same rights and privileges that attach to "traditional" marriage to any group of people that want to set up a permanent household--including, e.g. spinster sisters living together, adult children caring for elderly parents, or friends, who have no interest in any sexual relationship. Those that want to call their arrangement "marriage" or want to have it solemnized in a church are free to do so--that isn't the state's business.

I understand why gay and lesbian people fought for their relationships to be recognized as "marriages" rather than civil unions, even where civil union would have guaranteed exactly the same rights. That was an important symbolic gesture. But it was one with costs, because it made it harder for plural marriages and "incestuous" ones to get comparable recognition, and worst of all, completely excluded committed household partners whose relationships aren't sexual.

Civil unions would not have guaranteed exactly the same rights. They are different institutions, even if at times there is significant overlap.

I don't know how it made it "harder" for plural marriages and incestuous ones to get recognition. The equality and liberty arguments obviously (see this very article) can be raised, at least in support of non-marriage benefits, for such groups. The fight for marriage equality overall promotes equality and liberty overall in other areas too. So to the degree there is some will to provide benefits "beyond marriage," the effort doesn't appear to have hurt it.

I'm not suggesting that the aim should have been "civil unions" as they were presented, but arrangements in which participants WOULD get exactly the same rights--not backing down on the substantive issues, but compromising solely on the nomenclature. As far as consequences, this article outlines the potential push-back.

But same-sex couples don't have the same rights and shouldn't have the same rights - they should be prohibited from reproducing offspring together. Reproducing offspring together is the essential right of marriage. People do not have that right with siblings, with more than one person at a time, or with someone of the same sex. Marriage means approving of conception of children, and it would be very bad public policy to approve of same-sex conception because it would require government to regulate and research and make it affordable and it would be risky and is unnecessary. There is no right to attempt it that overcomes any of those objections.

Polygamy and incest among ADULTS would not cause a significant number of social problems. But the frequency of child molestation by parents or adult relatives is now so high that the very WORD "incest" has connotations of father-and-young-daughter rather than adult-brother-and-adult-sister. And the only current polygamous subcultures in America and the technologically sophisticated countries are the religious "cults" in which the husband with all the wives is also the "prophet" or "apostle" who makes the religious rules, and he defines marriage as whatever HE wants it to be, forcing the cutest little girls in the colony, whether or not they are related to him (or even his daughters) to be his newest "wives." So the question of whether a teenage girl in one of these cults holding her sibling or her child ... probably BOTH.

The kind of polygamy and incest that we all want to restrict can be restricted by age of consent laws and child molestation laws (which, thanks to sex offender registration, can also be used to keep "Daddy" from coming home even AFTER finishing his prison term). If the Dionne quintuplets, after growing up, decided they wanted to marry the Prime Minister of Canada, that sextet, or one like it, should be welcomed.

Incidentally, I know of a pair of conjoined twin sisters who have been featured on TV, who would not be able to get married AT ALL unless they could marry the same man at the same time, since they share all externally visible body part except their heads, making them two persons. They are now grown, and they are entitled to their privacy, so I will say nothing more about them specifically, but it is obvious that persons LIKE them, persons in their situation, cannot get married without being polygamous or one of them being guilty of adultery.

" one of them being guilty of adultery."
Many states have no crime of adultery just live there.

That would still be a problem for conjoined twins who are devout followers of their religion (the documentary about these two sisters implied that they are, I believe, devout Lutherans).

Wow, you could not be more wrong. Polygamy already in Utah/S CO causes huge problems. Young men are thrown out of their houses. Young women are forced into marriage with older guys. The entire households are on public assistance.

The polygamy per se is not the problem, it is the "harem" mentality of the men who dominate these cult communes. Ideally, any reasonably small group of jointly amorous ADULTS who wish to get married should be able to do so. But no father, stepfather, uncle, "priest" or "prophet" should be allowed to coerce even ONE underage child into "marriage" or even into concubinage. Ditto for a grown woman, naturally.

Ironically, the same groups of religious nuts who OPPOSE public assistance for families who really need it are gaming the system. And yes, I have seen TV documentaries that bring attention to the "excess" boys being discarded, and in some cases killed. No one should be able to use a religious cult as an excuse to build a racketeering enterprise and break the law.

OK. You can make an exception for all conjoined twins -- all three of them. Next argument?

There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults, regardless of consanguinity. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality "just for some" is not equality. All the objections raised against polygamous or polyamorous and consanguineous marriages only apply to specific cases, not in general, and aren't applied consistently to other relationships. Plenty of people have horror stories about supposedly monogamous, heterosexual, nonconsanguineos marriages (and plenty of children born to such marriages have had genetic problems) but we don't ban them, do we?

Consensual incest is legal in Rhode Island and New Jersey. Data does not indicate a problem (well, other than "Jersey Shore"). Why should marriage rights be denied? I personally know triads and close relatives (some of them didn't meet until they were adults) who would legally marry the day it became legal. They have beautiful, healthy, lasting relationships and should not be denied, no matter who finds any given relationship disgusting. Look up consanguinamory.

In 2011, Chief Justice Bauman of the Supreme Court of British Columbia heard a constitutional reference about the anti-polygamy provision in s. 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The Court received evidence and heard exhaustive argument from intervenors (represented by able legal counsel) on both side of the issue. The decision – online at http://canlii.ca/t/fnzqf – comprises 1367 paragraphs, structured with numerous headings and subheadings, and, of course, a table of contents.

The Court concluded that the anti-polygamy provision was constitutional (except when applied so as to criminally charge minors).

Chief Justice Bauman summarized his findings on harm as follows:

[6] Based on the most comprehensive judicial record on the subject ever produced, I have concluded that the Attorneys General and their allied Interested Persons have demonstrated a very strong basis for a reasoned apprehension of harm to many in our society inherent in the practice of polygamy as I have defined it in these reasons.
. . . . . .
[8] Women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse. Competition for material and emotional access to a shared husband can lead to fractious co-wife relationships. These factors contribute to the higher rates of depressive disorders and other mental health issues that women in polygamous relationships face. They have more children, are more likely to die in childbirth and live shorter lives than their monogamous counterparts. They tend to have less autonomy, and report higher rates of marital dissatisfaction and lower levels of self-esteem. They also fare worse economically, as resources may be inequitably divided or simply insufficient.

[9] Children in polygamous families face higher infant mortality, even controlling for economic status and other relevant variables. They tend to suffer more emotional, behavioural and physical problems, as well as lower educational achievement than children in monogamous families. These outcomes are likely the result of higher levels of conflict, emotional stress and tension in polygamous families. In particular, rivalry and jealousy among co-wives can cause significant emotional problems for their children. The inability of fathers to give sufficient affection and disciplinary attention to all of their children can further reduce children’s emotional security. Children are also at enhanced risk of psychological and physical abuse and neglect.

[10] Early marriage for girls is common, frequently to significantly older men. The resultant early sexual activity, pregnancies and childbirth have negative health implications for girls, and also significantly limit their socio-economic development. Shortened inter-birth intervals pose a heightened risk of various problems for both mother and child.

[11] The sex ratio imbalance inherent in polygamy means that young men are forced out of polygamous communities to sustain the ability of senior men to accumulate more wives. These young men and boys often receive limited education as a result and must navigate their way outside their communities with few life skills and social support.

[12] Another significant harm to children is their exposure to, and potential internalization of, harmful gender stereotypes.

[13] Polygamy has negative impacts on society flowing from the high fertility rates, large family size and poverty associated with the practice. It generates a class of largely poor, unmarried men who are statistically predisposed to violence and other anti-social behaviour. Polygamy also institutionalizes gender inequality. Patriarchal hierarchy and authoritarian control are common features of polygamous communities. Individuals in polygynous societies tend to have fewer civil liberties than their counterparts in societies which prohibit the practice.

[14] Polygamy’s harm to society includes the critical fact that a great many of its individual harms are not specific to any particular religious, cultural or regional context. They can be generalized and expected to occur wherever polygamy exists.
. . . . . .
[230] The harms against women include: exploitation; commodification; social isolation; the inevitable favouritism of some women and deprecation of others within the household; discrimination; and, impoverishment.

[231] The harms against children include: the negative impacts on their development caused by discord, violence and exploitation in the marital home; competition between mothers and siblings for the limited attention of the father; diminishment of the democratic citizenship capabilities of children as a result of being raised by mothers deprived of their basic rights; impoverishment; and, violation of their fundamental dignity.

[232] The harms against men include: the unequal distribution of spouses and related ostracism of younger men forced to compete for a scarcer supply of women; the creation of a false appetite for patriarchy; inflammation of male lust; and deprivation of the essential bond of mutuality that is unique to the marital institution.

[233] Finally, the harms to society that flow from polygamy include: threats to the social order and a greater need for social supports as women lacking education and opportunity to enhance themselves, as well as their children, find themselves impoverished upon divorce or the death of their husbands; harms to good citizenship; threats to political stability; and the undermining of human dignity and equality.
. . . . . .
[1316] The evidence demonstrates that polygamy is associated with very substantial harms. The prevention of these harms is salutary. Some of the beneficial effects of the ongoing prohibition of polygamy include:
a) Increased per-child parental investment, with the expected increase in the mental and physical wellbeing of children overall;
b) Reduced social strife, conflict and crime expected from more uneven distribution of the opportunity to marry;
c) Reduced average age gaps between husbands and wives, increasing equality in marriages;
d) Reduction in sexual predation on young girls;
e) Reducing incentives for male control over women and their reproductive capacity; and
f) Consistency with Canada’s international treaty and legal obligations.

The ruling from the B.C. Superior Court that you cited was nothing but a kangaroo court exercise in bigotry and hypocrisy.

All those arguments against polygamous marriage could be made and indeed, were made about gay marriage. Did that stop Canada from legalizing gay marriage? Nope.

What Canadian jurists forgot was that, by giving homosexuals the right to marriage equality while denying that same marriage equality to heterosexuals, they made a mockery of their own justice system.

Apparently, in Canada, some people are little more 'equal' than others.

I doubt the U.S. justice system would be as hypocritical and corrupt as that.

This is ridiculous, disgraceful, and totally irresponsible. A piece completely harmful to the hard work of human rights and women's rights activists.

First off, no chooses to be LGBT - and remember LGBT people include LGBT children too.

Things like polygamy and incest on the other hand ARE chosen.

While marriage equality will bring equality to society, things like polygamy and incest will bring societal problems.

And remember, marriage equality exists in CIVILIZED and DEVELOPED democracies, and is a MODERN and PROGRESSIVE idea.

Where does polygamy exist? In BACKWARD societies! It is a tool of PATRIARCHAL societies.

Lastly, LGBT rights are human rights (as confirmed by the UN Human Rights Council).

Where does polygamy stand in relation to human rights? As something which human rights organizations have called to be ABOLISHED throughout the world! Indeed polygamy is a VIOLATION of human rights, AND TWO globally binding human rights conventions (the ICCPR and the CEDAW).

As the world moves forward backward things will be abolished, and modern equality will prevail!

EQUALITY FOR ALL means the right of every person to marry ONE OTHER PERSON with the usual reasonable requirements.

"First off, no one chooses to be LGBT - and remember LGBT people include LGBT children too. Things like polygamy and incest on the other hand ARE chosen."

emmaisnice, could you please explain how polygamous marriage is anymore of a choice than gay marriage?

"distinctions that we have not yet articulated well"

What BS. This matter is raised in like any thread, however narrow, that discusses some SSM issue. There are distinct differences, articulated quite well, between discriminating based on a personal characteristic like sex in monogamous relationships and incest and polygamy. This is so even if there is some broad ability to apply equality and liberty to include them all.

Just because some argument in some broad sense (e.g., concern about children) is raised in one context, it doesn't mean it is the same. SSM do not threaten children on the merits. OTOH, incest can threaten children in various ways on the merits. Ditto coercion and other things. Just because such and such a group is politically powerless (let's say those who wish to marry ten year olds) isn't the end of the question. No wonder a prime anti-SSM advocate linked this article.

Discrimination by sex specifically must meet a high degree of scrutiny that is not shown here. Discrimination by number or immediate family member, often not so much. Jonathan Rauch, William Estridge [both in well argued books], Ted Olson in oral argument, et. al., ad nauseam has in detail explained the differences here.

How tiresome.

Look, I'm totally neutral on the polygamy issue, but it seems to me there is a very simple point to be made here. The strong argument about same-sex marriage is and always has been an equality argument, as in: equal protection of the laws. The Massachusetts SJC, for example, noted specifically that there simply were no aspects of the law governing marriage that depended upon the spouses' being of opposite sexes. So no laws had to be changed or updated or anything when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Only the wording on certain forms had to be changed. And it is the same everywhere else. Why? Because if there were gender biases in marriage law, that would clearly be objectionable, since it would amount to sex discrimination.
This argument simply does not apply to the case of polygamy. So there is no parallel, and there never was one. Maybe there is a case to be made the polygamous marriage should be legally permitted. But that case will not be an equal protection case.

"The strong argument about same-sex marriage is and always has been an equality argument, as in: equal protection of the laws."

Sorry, rgheckjr but your argument holds no water. If 'equal protection of the law' protects those who desire gay marriage, then it must protect polygamous marriages as well.

Why would homosexuals benefit from the notion of equality under the law when heterosexuals don't?

A homosexual can't marry three or four people at once, or her mother, any more than a heterosexual can.

The best reason that polygamy can't be reached via the slippery slope is that it would require so many changes in law that are not required by the introduction of same-sex marriage.

For example, currently there is no need to determine which husband has the right to make end-of-life decisions for his wife. But if there were multiple husbands, the law would somehow have to pick one to be the decision maker. What property settlements would be appropriate for divorces in polygamous households? Would a divorcing wife be entitled to half of both husbands' property? Or just a third? Would a divorcing wife be entitled to a property settlement from another wife, in addition to a property settlement from the husband? How would custody and child support work in divorces? Which of the non-custodial parents would have visitation rights? Does the biological father have more rights than a non-biological co-father? If so, how wold things work in an adoption situation? If a husband has two wives, and then he dies, are the two widows married to each other? How would social security survivor benefits be divided? Could a wife with a co-wife and several husbands divorce only one of them? Could a person be part of two different polygamous unions?

I don't know of any easy or clear answers to these questions. Most societies that have polygamy have only polygyny, that is, multiply wives, and as importantly wives who are comparatively powerless. Divorces are easy, and no property settlement is expected.

"The best reason that polygamy can't be reached via the slippery slope is that it would require so many changes in law that are not required by the introduction of same-sex marriage."

What disingenuous nonsense! The introduction of same sex marriage would require numerous changes in estate, property division and tax laws.

Now, let's examine your arguments against legalizing polygamy.

1) "For example, currently there is no need to determine which husband has the right to make end-of-life decisions for his wife. But if there were multiple
husbands, the law would somehow have to pick one to be the decision maker."

No, the law would not have to pick one to be the decision-maker. The wives would make the decision together based on the wishes of their ailing husband.

2) "What property settlements would be appropriate for divorces in polygamous households?"

Equal division of assets, which is exactly what happens now.

3) "Would a divorcing wife be entitled to a property settlement from another wife, in addition to a property settlement from the husband?

No, the women are married to their husband, not to each other.

4) "Which of the non-custodial parents would have visitation rights? Does the biological father have more rights than a non-biological co-father?"

Since every child in a polygamous family has a biological mother and father, this would not be an issue at all when it comes to polygamy. However, it
would certainly be an issue in a homosexual marriage where, at best, only one of the homosexuals could possibly be related to the child. Usually, neither
of them is related to the child.

5) "If a husband has two wives, and then he dies, are the two widows married to each other?"

No, the wives are married to their husband - not each other.

6) "How would social security survivor benefits be divided?"

Social security benefits would be divided equally amongst the wives.

7) "Could a wife with a co-wife and several husbands divorce only one of them?"

That's quite irrelevant since it involves group marriage and not polygamy.

8) "Could a person be part of two different polygamous unions?"

No. Again, since we are talking about polygamy and not group marriage, your point is a non-issue.

No, in fact, other than a few changes in printed fiorms, same sex marriage has not required any changes in other laws in New York. If you think otherwise, please cite a few examples.

In a state with same sex marriage, what's the difference between group marriage and polygamy? In New York, a woman can marry a woman and a woman can marry a man. Under a polygamous system, why can't a woman marry one of each?

It's sort of weird that you say that same sex marriage requires a lot of change in law, but polygamy doesn't. Lesser included case, and all.

Don't hold your breath on a response.
You're right - same sex marriages require little change in legislation - taxes, benefits, etc. Change some wording and it's done. There's nothing else to be done.
Polygamy would require many more changes. That being said, it could all be worked out.
As long as all parties are adults, I have no problem with it. I don't see that both situations are the same. As others have posted, one is a choice, one isn't. But, if three or six individuals all love each other and want to get married, I'm all for it. We're supposed to be smart in this country, we can figure out how to determine which husband has power of attorney and how a divorce from a polygamous marriage is handled.

"You're right - same sex marriages require little change in legislation - taxes, benefits, etc. Change some wording and it's done. There's nothing else to be done.
Polygamy would require many more changes."

Both types of marriage would require changes in the law but gay marriage would require more than polygamous marriage mainly because polygamous marriage is heterosexual marriage, which is the way of the world since the beginning of time. Gay marriage, on the other hand is a concept virtually unknown to humanity, except for two insane Roman emperors.

"I don't see that both situations (polygamous marriage and gay marriage) are the same. As others have posted, one is a choice, one isn't."

Really? Perhaps you would care to explain that remark. Which one of those marriages is a choice and which one isn't?

"No, in fact, other than a few changes in printed fiorms, same sex marriage has not required any changes in other laws in New York. If you think otherwise, please cite a few examples."

RobNYNY, have you ever heard of Edith Windsor? Research that case and get back to me on that claim of yours. I haven't even mentioned all those 1300 benefits of legal marriage that gay marriage supporters claim they're deprived of. All these benefits are written into law somewhere and they would have to be changed in order to accommodate the notion of gay marriage.

"In a state with same sex marriage, what's the difference between group marriage and polygamy? In New York, a woman can marry a woman and a woman can marry a man. Under a polygamous system, why can't a woman marry one of each?"

Well, Rob, clear logic should tell you that if a woman marries a man AND a woman, then it would be a polygamous marriage. If a woman marries two men and a woman, it would be a group marriage.

"It's sort of weird that you say that same sex marriage requires a lot of change in law, but polygamy doesn't."

I think it's sort of weird that you say that polygamy requires a lot of change in law, but same-sex marriage doesn't. So I guess we're even.

History goes like this:

repeat
Left wants X.
Right says no, X will lead to Y.
Left says that's ridiculous.
We get X.
Left says now we have X, its time to get Y.
until Hell freezes over

Succinct Observation of the Hour Award winner, Cromulent.
Perhaps you were thinking of other historical precedents such as,
The Wimpy appeal -- We'll gladly cut deficit spending Wednesday for a tax-increase burger today , and
The "deal" they're still laughing about -- amnesty now, and we'll seal the borders so it'' never happen again.

Absolutely correct, Cromulent. That's exactly what we leftists will do until every vestige of unjust privilege is gone. "Freedom is but privilege extended, till it's enjoyed by one and all." Conservatives didn't want free blacks to have the same civil and political rights as free whites because it would lead to mixed marriages. It took a century for mixed marriages to be legal everywhere, but it came eventually, despite all the kicking and screaming. And you know what? Society hasn't collapsed, nor has the world come to an end.

"Maybe I am speaking out of school here, but arguments for marriage equality do not really depend on the claim that people have no choice about who they are. "

Mr. Greenfield, you should stick to corporate law. Immutability and innateness may not be the forefront of the argument for LGBT equality, but it is the foundation upon with the it is built. That is the distinction that you seek.

Coming up: dogs and cats, living together - real wrath of God stuff.

More to the point:: human "marries" pet.
That seems to meet the rationale explained above.
Deconstructive relativity. Rational thinking gone off the cliff.

I'm curious as to what others opine on , where does the "I did not chose to be" but "was born to be" begin and end?

I'm gay, so maybe I don't get the whole thing with some rich dude taking all the women. But I also find it kind of ironic that Abraham, the common link between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, was sleeping with his slave woman because his wife was apparently infertile.

To "chitan" in answer to the comment that "immutability and innateness may not be the forefront of the argument for LGBT equality, but it is the foundation upon [which] it is built": if that's the case, it's a very shaky foundation. The very existence of Bisexual and Transgender people proves that sexual orientation and gender identity are NOT innate, immutable characteristics, but are fluid, changeable over time and circumstances. The Queer civil rights movement has, I think, reached the limits of what it can achieve by the analogy to race and racial discrimination (indeed, with the increasing numbers of mixed-race people -- including our current President -- even the struggle for racial equality needs to be rethought in ways that move away from race as an inborn, immutable characteristic). Religion is a better analogy for the movement than race; it's obviously a choice, though (as previous commentators in this thread have noted) one heavily conditioned by upbringing and parental and community influence, and yet it's specifically protected by the Constitution. If humans are body, mind and spirit, and if the Constitution protects expressions of the mind (freedom of speech and press) and spirit (freedom of religion), then surely we should also protect the freedom of the body to express itself sexually as long as there is both the capability and reality of mutual consent.

Like it or not, Kent Greenfield is absolutely right that there are no rational grounds for distinguishing the argument for legalizing same-sex marriage from the one for legalizing polygamy. (I'm not so sure about incest; I think Greenfield too lightly dismisses the public-health rationale for avoiding the conception and birth of inbred children.) Warren Jeffs wasn't prosecuted for polygamy, but for facilitating statutory rape by forcibly "marrying" underage girls to adult men -- something that would (and should) be prosecutable even if genuinely voluntary, consensual polygamy were legal. If the government is going to be in the business of recognizing certain intimate relationships and giving their participants special legal rights, it should not discriminate based on the number of partners any more than it should based on their gender.

I don't see asexual marriages as falling outside the discussion. The marriage ceremony, religious or not, does not require there to be any sexual relations. There is no prescribed amount of sexual relations for married people, and nobody checks to see if a quota is filled.

This was not always the case. In medieval times, a wife could take her husband to the "church court" if he was consistently having a problem. There were tests on occasion in which one or two priests witnessed the couple attempting to consummate their marriage. Other tests involved the husband being placed with a prostitute while being observed by priests. If he could not perform EVEN with the prostitute, the wife could get a divorce (I assume that if he COULD, he could be charged with adultery, so there was no way an accused husband could win).

It is true that the form of polygamy that is seen most commonly is the patriarchal polygyny, which may be worse today than it was in ancient time (or maybe the accounts of ancient families that have come down to us, as in the Bible, were a bit whitewashed). There is also polyandry, one woman having multiple husbands or lovers, and "group marriage" such as three of each all living together. Any of these arrangements might be legalized in the future, but one key restriction would be that ALL men and women involved must be ADULTS when they begin the relationship (or when an additional member joins it), and that the rights of ALL members must be protected, in terms of property, etc. if the family partially or totally breaks up. This would be the most difficult part of writing multiple-marriage laws.

You've bought into the progressive, deconstructionist rationale. The bottom line is, "multiple relationships" being re-defined as "marriage: would make the institution of marriage meaningless. ... and salt is really pepper. Oh la

Another thing which is persistently ignored by the attempted arguments is that "polygamy" is not a synonym for "polygyny". (Now, write that a hundred times!)
I know living, breathing polyandrists, and they seemed unimpressed by assertions that they do not exist. Much less that they are being "coerced".

No. 1 -- "Gay" and "Homosexual" are not interchangeable words. Gay means happy & carefree. You know what homosexual means. I wish people would stop trying to ruin a perfectly good word (gay) by connotating it with something which has no relationship to it (homosexuality).
No. 2 -- Homosexual people are NOT born that way, it is a choice they make. My reason for stating this irrevocably is because God condemns homosexuality in His Word (the Bible), and tells all people to abstain from it (and all other sexual deviation and immorality.) God does not tell someone to not do a thing if it is impossible for them to not do it. It is a matter of morals, not a matter of being "hard-wired" a certain way.

If the author believes inbreeding doesn't create birth defects he hasn't been to Saudi Arabia where arranged marriages within families has created whole industries of medical specialities. As with many societal mores, "not marrying your cousin" is grounded in hard lessons.

Absolutely nice comments guys.....It makes me inform about this particular problem or situation.

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When you realize that marriage means approving of the conception of offspring together, we can make all three decisions separately, just like they did interracial marriage in the 60's. The question then was obviously about prohibiting people from making interracial children in order to preserve the system of racial categorization and white privilege. No one considered de-linking marriage and procreation rights, no one said maybe the Lovings could marry but not be allowed to procreate, or be allowed to procreate but not be allowed to marry. Everyone recognized it is the same issue. Same with incest an polygamy - everyone recognizes that the issue is letting them reproduce or not. But few people recognize that same-sex procreation is a possibility, they think it is impossible when in fact labs are working on making sperm from a woman's bone marrow and eggs from a man to enable same-sex couples to have biological offspring. So allowing marriage again means allowing procreation in principle. But, as with incest and polygamy, it is bad public policy to allow same-sex couples to procreate offspring, and there is no right to that overcomes the costs and risks.

"But few people recognize that same-sex procreation is a possibility, they think it is impossible when in fact labs are working on making sperm from a woman's bone marrow and eggs from a man to enable same-sex couples to have biological offspring."

Sperm from a woman's bone marrow?? Eggs from a man?? Put down the crack pipe, John. Even the tin-foil hatters are laughing.

I still can't understand how "allowing procreation" in polygamous marriages is bad public policy.

Yes it is ridiculous but what's most ridiculous is that it is legal and people want to do it.

We consider approving a man to have children with multiple women at the same time to be bad public policy, so we prohibit polygamy. It's probably because it is exploitative of women and harmful to the kids, and harmful to society. We think it is better for people to only reproduce with one other person exclusively, hopefully for their whole life but at least properly divorcing before starting with the new.

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