Once society decides that one-man, one-woman no longer is the “arbitrary” standard, on what rational basis do we stop at one-and-one?
Jonathan Turley in The New York Times, One Big, Happy Polygamous Family:
…. Utah and eight other states make polygamy a crime, while 49 states have bigamy statutes that can be used to prosecute plural families. And they’re not a small population: the number of fundamentalist Mormon or Christian polygamists alone has been estimated to be as high as 50,000. When Muslim as well as nonreligious plural families are considered, the real number is likely many times greater….
While widely disliked, if not despised, polygamy is just one form among the many types of plural relationships in our society. It is widely accepted that a person can have multiple partners and have children with such partners. But the minute that person expresses a spiritual commitment and “cohabits” with those partners, it is considered a crime.
One might expect the civil liberties community to defend those cases as a natural extension of its campaign for greater privacy and personal choice. But too many have either been silent or outright hostile to demands from polygamists for the same protections provided to other groups under Lawrence [v. Texas].
The reason might be strategic: some view the effort to decriminalize polygamy as a threat to the recognition of same-sex marriages or gay rights generally. After all, many who opposed the decriminalization of homosexual relations used polygamy as the culmination of a parade of horribles. In his dissent in Lawrence, Justice Antonin Scalia said the case would mean the legalization of “bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity.”
…. We should fight for privacy as an inclusive concept, benefiting everyone in the same way. Regardless of whether it is a gay or plural relationship, the struggle and the issue remains the same: the right to live your life according to your own values and faith.
Turley is not making the same-sex marriage slippery slope argument; the polygamists in the case being handled by Turley do not seek to change state marriage laws, they simply seek to avoid prosecution for living together as a “family.”
Ann Althouse points out that Turley is attempting to frame the issue so that liberals can agree with Justice Scalia, without having to acknowledge that they agree with Justice Scalia:
I suspect Turley is reaching out to liberal readers, who presumably would be horrified by sounding like Justice Scalia. That’s a good rhetorical move if what’s really going on is that liberals resist showing favor to polygamy because it’s done by people they don’t like: Christianity-motivated traditionalists.
But isn’t the conclusion the same?
If society has no basis for making supposedly arbitrary distinctions such as “one man, one woman,” on what basis does society have a rational basis for one (man or woman), one (man or woman)?