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Polyamory – at least be honest about it

Polyamory – at least be honest about it

I told you so:

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)?


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Ok, I gotta ask. What exactly is the problem with polygamous families? It isn’t anti-christian, there is plenty of Biblical evidence that it was practiced. And there are fairly obvious economic and child-care benefits for such a family even without any special tax treatment.

It seems to me that The government shouldn’t treat marriage as any different than any other contract. That is so long as the terms are spelled out, all parties are fully cognizant and legally competent to sign it should be allowed. That is a polygamist (includes polyandry) is distinct from a Bigamist. A Bigamist maintains multiple family units that are not aware of each other and that operate independently of one another( ie ‘He has a wife in every port’)

I disagree with the ‘Gay Marriage’ lifestyle on similar grounds (Biblical writings seem to prohibit such relationships) , but here again, is there a compelling State interest that justifies the State in Defining what a marriage is?

It seems to me that the definition of family should belong to the members of that family, not the State, not a hospital bureaucrat, and not a man on the street.

So what’s the big deal on this issue?

    retire05 in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    And the fact that in many, if not most, polygamist families, most of the women are on welfare, due to being single, unemployed mothers, how is that not a cost to the public? And what happens if the husband dies? Do all the women collect widow’s Social Security benefits from one man?

    In the days of the Old Testament, when polygamy was all the rage, it was for the purpose of taking care of women who had no property and no wealth. A woman did not inherit her deceased husband’s property, the eldest son did. Womem were left to fend for themselves. There was no social welfare net to fall into.

    That system went by the wayside a long time ago.

      I am curious as to the source of the assertion that And the fact that in many, if not most, polygamist families, most of the women are on welfare, due to being single, unemployed mothers, how is that not a cost to the public? Or are you saying that single mothers are de facto polygamists since the male in question probably has children by other women?

    BN_TX in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Sorry, but it is Anti-Christian. Jesus himself affirms the marriage definition of one man-one woman for life (Mark 10:6-9). As it contradicts his teaching, it is, by definition, Anti-Christian. ‘Biblical evidence’ for the polygamy exists–true; however, it is never condoned. In fact, if you look at the outcomes of those marriages, there are no happy homes as a result. Saying that it happened in the Bible, therefore it is OK, does not work. Moses and David were both (forgiven) murderers–that does not legitimize what they did.

      Steve in reply to BN_TX. | July 22, 2011 at 5:30 am

      Not really intended to have a bible argument , but I’ll give it a whirl:

      Old Testament:
      In Exodus 21:10, a man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry. (granted these were servant, possibly slaves)

      In Deuteronomy 21:15 “If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons….” Deals specifically with an unhappy polygamous marriage and matters of inheritance.

      New Testament:

      “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (the Old Testament) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (the Old Testament) until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)”

      So.. if it is lawful in the old testament, it is lawful in the new. Also Mathew 10:6-7 could be interpreted as you suggest… or as merely prohibiting divorce. As the Old testament describes marriage similarly , yet polygamy is lawful.

      ‘Being of one flesh’ may merely be a euphemism for ‘They shall be sexually active’ It is certainly possible to be ‘one flesh’ whether or not it means sexually active with more than one person. The remarried widow becomes one flesh with each successive husband for example. And if it does refer to the sex act , then it should be fairly obvious that such a relationship can be sustained between multiple persons.

      It is said that God is unchanging why would his laws change? Why would that which is lawful become unlawful and that which was unlawful become lawful?

      Jesus preached to many who may have been polygamists, yet no where was polygamy specifically denounced. Indeed most of the discussion seems to be the Catholic Church Fathers and Paul as a source.

      So I think it should be adequately clear that the Scripture can be interpreted either way. Therefore… we are left to use the knowledge of Good and Evil we stole from the Garden to determine the right course. I personally don’t really see a prohibition of polygamy that isn’t generally traceable to Church thought rather than direct ministry of Jesus. That dispenses with the Religious grounds … let each man counsel his own conscience for that part. The remaining part is demonstrating a reason of the State interest to prohibit the marriage. That too seems to have not been demonstrated thus far by anyone on the thread.

Agreed, Steve. Its nobodies business what one family does, so long as it doesn’t directly endanger others (incest).

I really have no problem with Polygamy, only that you don’t get to live that lifestyle on the taxpayer’s dime, nor do you get employer provided benefits for more than one wife and that wive’s children. If you can make you family work under those rules, have at it.

    Steve in reply to deadrody. | July 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Seems fair enough. However I think that each working member should be able to provide coverage for one other member. Or work with the employer(s) on a fair group rate. Such things as benefits and inheritance are more complicated but not insurmountable. Just like the relationship itself. More complex but not undo able.

LukeHandCool | July 21, 2011 at 11:36 am

Yep. Although both are important, I’d say the male/female part of the equation is more important than the one/one numerical part.

I personally don’t know anyone who has a problem with civil unions, in the case of homosexuals, or groups of adults living together in privacy. But demands to have their arrangements be deemed marriage? That’s something else.

LukeHandCool (who daydreamed as a young teenager of marrying both Angie Dickinson and Raquel Welch … at the same time).

In many polygamous marriages only one wife, number one, is the legal wife, unto Caesar. The others are religious wives, unto God. That makes it easy to divorce any of the other wives. Sunni Muslim men can repeat the triple talaq and be divorced. In any case it keeps them all in line.

It also helps to have a lot of wives so they can go out and work or be on welfare (as single moms, common with fundamentalist Mormons) and keep dad in the manner to which he is accustomed.

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Ok, but if it were not against the law would such outcomes arise? The Spouses would be responsible for each other , they as a family probably would have income that would disqualify for benefits in most cases ( where they are trying). If it were legal and binding simply saying “I divorce thee” three times isn’t gonna cut it… off to court you go. Or at least to the divorce attorney. Hey this could spark a whole new specialization and provide all the law school grads with new opportunities.

The Contribution of Polygamy to Women’s Oppression and Impoverishment: An Argument for its Prohibition

“There is a growing movement gaining momentum to contest the legality and legitimacy in a health and human rights context of widely accepted social, customary, traditional and religious practices – a problem complicated by the apparent division among native women on the very important question of the place of custom and religion today. Polygamy is important to study in even in countries which disallow it. It presents complex issues of multiculturalism and the issue appears frequently in contexts of immigration. Although civil law has banned polygamy in many nations, customary law still allows it. In many countries with multiple legal systems, the customary law on polygamy allows a man to take multiple wives and it prohibits a current wife from objecting to her husband’s marriage to a new woman. This practice treats women as inferior members of their families and as inferior in status to men. Polygamy also has a detrimental effect on children because when a man has more than one wife, he often has a large number of children in a short period of time. Conflicts often erupt among the families because several rivalrous wives and children are competing for resources. Although polygamy itself is not a prohibited practice under international human rights law, allowing it to exist legally permits it to violate fundamental rights including rights to dignity, equality, health, and equal protection under the law. It also perpetuates women’s already lower social and economic status by forcing women to share already scarce resources with co- wives and their children. In its complex role in divorce and inheritance law, for instance, polygamy negatively impacts a women’s health, including mental health, sexual and reproductive health and her death from AIDS.”

Social Science Research Network

You could apply another name to it: Islamization

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Thats sound like an alarmist position. 1) Polygamy on the same playing ground as traditional marriage would require all members to be aware of and consent to any additional members. 2) We are talking about equal partners so the opinions and needs of the members and children in a Healthy marriage would be taken into account. 3) AIDS? really? This would be of concern where one or more members practice deception and are copulating outside the agreed upon family unit. I don’t think the risk is any greater than normal marriage cf see divorce/cheating rates associated with traditional marriage.

    In short based on the abstract I don’t think the author’s position has any real merit of banning the ‘institution’ of such marriages. Rather the author brings up Cultural issues that might affect both traditional and polygamous marriages.
    That doesn’t answer the question of why should multiple adults be prohibited from creating a married family among themselves.

Women Speak Out Against Polygamy

“A woman who grew up in a polygamous family and lived for 28 years in a polygamous marriage says she’s shocked and saddened to learn Canada has quashed an opportunity to put polygamy on trial.

“If something isn’t done, women will keep on being abused and coerced into living lives that they don’t want to [live],” said Irene Spencer in a telephone interview from her home in Lodi, California. “It breaks my heart because I’ve been there.”

“Author of Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, she was born into a polygamous family in Utah, like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother also had been before her.

Raised in a fringe community of Mormon fundamentalists, Spencer was one of 31 children in her large family. “You can imagine being lost in the shuffle of 31 children,” she said”

“Taught to believe that polygamy was not only expected — but required — to receive the rewards of heaven, in 1953, she married Verlan LeBaron, a man who was already married to her half-sister. She was 16 on her wedding day. Spencer would go on to have 13 children with LeBaron, and to see him take another eight wives. She describes her life at the time as one of poverty, drudgery and despair.

“Girls are denied education. Many girls married at 14 and 15. The men always say ‘marry them young so you can train them.’ They’re told all they need to know is how to keep house and raise children, so it makes it impossible for women to move into the outside world. They can’t leave the family because they don’t have the skills to survive on their own. The men make the rules.”

National Post

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    None of that is intrinsic to Polygamy. That appears to be a religious issue within one family. If you recall ‘traditional’ marriage is/was much the same until relatively recently speaking. What i mean by Polygamy is consenting loving adults moving into a single family unit knowingly. I am not talking about child-brides, barefoot kitchen slaves.

    I see no reason why such advances traditional marriage has ssen towards equal partnership could not be transplanted into a polygamist setting. For example a triad could have two working spuses and one performing primary childcare, Or all three could rotate through the child-rearing duties.

    Your post is a single anecdote containing none of the elements I was referring to. There are bad marriges under any system; should traditional marriage be banned because welfare families exist? Because Child Abuse Exists? Because Spousal abuse exists?

      Viator in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Books about Polygamy in the USA Today
      Books on Polygamy

      The SSRN source is an academic study of polygamy around the world. It has nothing to do with one family.

        Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm

        So what. The IpCC has Climate scientists on it. Now you are arguing from authority. Which authority within the abstract has made emotional and nonsensical arguments. Why shouldn’t I disregard it?

common tater | July 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

Polyandry would be fine by me, two husbands would do, but my fiance won’t go for it, even if there were separate PCs, TVS, X Boxes and remote controls. Darn.

common tater | July 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

How would one personalize wedding linens for a polygamous unit? “His” and “Hers”, “No. 2 Woman’s”, “No. 2 Woman’s Sister’s”, “Oops She Got Pregnant’s”, “Midlife Palliative Girl-of-Age’s” “Latest Fancy’s”, maybe

    Ha, probably just use their names. I think the whole his-hers monogram thing was probably a commercial invention. Although, based on this
    it doesn’t look like it would be all that difficult to expand for a triad group. A harem or tribe level family would have some difficulty fitting into the space provided:P

      common tater in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      I see your point.

      But while monograms seem silly and a wee bit pretentious, there probably is good need for them in communal set-ups.

        Steve in reply to common tater. | July 22, 2011 at 5:39 am

        Heck in any family… just ask any brothers or sisters that share the same room, closet or bathroom. Labels help avoid conflict most of the time… but it also aids a member who decides to push buttons too. Relationships have to be worked.

People who shrug and say “I don’t have a problem with polygamy” have no knowledge of it.

It is destructive to a society – absolute poison to civilization. It always – ALWAYS – results in a loss of rights and education for women. It always results in younger and younger brides. Polygamous men are narcissistic psychopaths, and they are never satisfied.

In the Middle East, young men have to watch their prospective brides get snatched up by bearded old geezers who already have wives. This results in a large populace of frustrated, angry, unmarried men: the most dangerous thing you can possibly have in a culture. They are then turned outward from their own contries to fight “the great Satan,” America.

Steve… Good God. Just because something is “in the Bible” doesn’t make it Christian. People did all kinds of hideous things in the Old Testament – some God chastised them for, some that went unregarded in any way.

    Steve in reply to RKae. | July 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hmm, that seems like an emotional position. Are you certain that women had right in general in the culture you were referring to?

    ‘Polygamous men are narcissistic psycho paths’ ad hominem much? Is there any proof that all polygamist men are such creatures? I suspect that is your personal opinion perhaps backed up with anecdotal evidence from a different cultural norm for the rights of women/children.

    ‘In the Middle East, young men have to watch their prospective brides get snatched up by bearded old geezers who already have wives. ‘ Yes, well in the Middle East they still buy and sell slaves, don’t think women in general are people… That isn’t Polygamy as a cause, at best its ancillary or possibly enabling in a culture that already had these attitudes and norms. In the US you occasionally have an old geezer who dumps his wife for a younger model. So why would that be a superior outcome? Seems pretty similar to me.

    “Steve… Good God. Just because something is “in the Bible” doesn’t make it Christian. People did all kinds of hideous things in the Old Testament – some God chastised them for, some that went unregarded in any way. ”
    Granted… However, marriage ‘traditional, no polygamy’ was an invention of the church to make it easier to dispose of property. My point being that Polygamous marriage in and of itself is no more a threat to society than traditional marriage is. The Culture and views of the society it exists within will be reflected in the members thereof. and that is true of any marriage.

    “Husband is the head ” “Obey thy husband” and all that type of stuff has changed in traditional marriage to one of equal partnership… the same can be true of a polygamous (polyandrous) marriage.

      something in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Steve: I just wanted to say that I’m glad you’re taking the time to respond so thoroughly to all the moronic arguments on here. Keep it up!

      Sometimes I want to find myself a soapbox and loudly blame monogamy for every failed monogamous relationship, every instance of abuse in monogamous households, every time a monogamous woman is unhappy (often enough the failure _is_ due to monogamy being such an unrealistic idea, but I’d have more fun with the times in which it has nothing to do with the suffering). I wonder if anyone would understand the satire…

      I hope you’ve seen this:

Brainwash to Hogwash: Escaping and Exposing Polygamy
by Jenny Jessop Larson

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Anecdotal. I’m sure there are many books written on or about run-aways and abused children from the traditional family. Just because some folks have had a bad experience doesn’t merit the banning of something.

    Some Doctors kill patients. Ban doctors!

    Some Police Officers shoot innocents. Ban Police!

    Some thug uses guns to commit Crimes. Ban Guns!
    Heck he used a car and might use a horse to get away! Ban Horses Ban Cars!

    The actual family Unit of Polyamorous or Polyandrous concept itself didn’t cause any of the misery descibed in the book you are quoting from.

    Just as much misery can be found elsewhere in traditional one-one or even single parent families. The behavior described in the book is happening in traditional families too and is just as illegal and immoral as it is in a poly family.

    Polygamy != child bride Polygamy != Slavery Polygamy!= Religion

    Polygamy might be a component of any of the above but it is not the cause as each exists independently of polygamy.

@Viator and Rkae….I like your comments.

@Steve….I would like to give you my opinion on your comments but I try not to use bad language so use your imagination on what I’m thinking……

    Steve in reply to Joy. | July 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Joy, so does that mean you are giving the win to me? 😛 If the opposition has nothing but curses to hurl what does that say about their position?

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Well I’m not arguing from islam. I am asking about mutually consenting presumably loving adults… That isn’t what any of your examples was about.

    I am not trying to justify child brides. I am not attempting to justify enslavement of women. Neither of those have anything at all to do with Polygamy per se. Traditional marriage has the same historic roots as the poly version. Men married children, Men owned women. So Aside from ascribing to this sort of union the abuses that have been committed by some (in both forms of marriage btw) why should one be legal and the other illegal. I do not see any compelling State interests at work here to permit or prohibit.

    Islam and the practices and privileges of a family within it are not the basis of my argument as I am ignorant of them other than the fact that such exists.

    If the members aren’t co equal within the union and under the law, then that sort of union is to be opposed. However, where the members are co-equal in the eyes of the union and the law, then I have no issue with it.

I see the link doesn’t work above, try this…

You Tube

“That isn’t Polygamy as a cause, at best its ancillary or possibly enabling in a culture that already had these attitudes and norms”

Nope, Polygamy IS the cause of the widespread disenfranchisement of young men. It happens in EVERY polygamous community. It’s common in the polygamous communities here in the US and Canada. Use your brain, Steve. Given that the birth split between males and females is roughly 50/50, in polygamous societies there just aren’t enough women to go around. Older, established males take as brides young women, and young men are cut out of the picture completely. There’s an epidemic of young men, teenagers, turfed out of polygamous communities, homeless and impoverished, because they are no longer seen as kids, but competition. Do some research. Educate yourself. Stop coming here and spouting easily disproved nonsense because you think it would be neat to have multiple women to screw.

    Steve in reply to Weirddave. | July 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Also .. Polygamy isn’t the only theoretical proximate cause of such ‘disenfranchisement’. There is a distinct practice of female infanticide that is separate from polygamy that is part of the culture that skews towards too many males:

    Not to mention abortion.. although I haven’t been able to find any stats for fetal gender it is a possibility here in the US.

    on Average there are 105 men for every 100 women. So polygamy aside ( and by blaming it you ignore polyandry which is just as valid) there are already 5 ‘disenfranchised’ out there. Maybe Polyandry should be the norm to prevent that?

Polygamous Sharia marriages don’t belong in Britain

“A Government “discussion paper” seen by Paul Goodman of Conservative Home argues that, to create “the conditions for integration”, all religious marriages should be recognized by the state. The paper notes:

Similarly, religious marriage is not recognized by the State unless you choose for it to be so. This leaves an individual who enters into religious marriages unprotected if their partner enters a second or third religious marriage. This can be remedied by requiring both religious marriages and religious divorces to be registered with civil authorities. Likewise, there could be a duty on anyone conducting religious marriages and divorces to register with the state.”

UK Telegraph

Or, if we can’t stop polygamy, let make it official, all the marriages. I’m not sure this guy realizes, they don’t want to render unto Caesar.

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Well , then making them comply with the law is an obvious thing to do is it not? Make them legal and extend all the protections thereof to participants.

    Either it will discourage the practice or such marriages will be more genuine since they would be harder to get in and out of.

Weird Dave…

Hmm I don’t live in a poly family or in a ( as far as I know ) a heavy poly community. Yet I’m disenfranchised as you say… that is to say single. So there must be a large poly family sucking all the hotties into their nearby cult? talk about easily disproved non-sense.

It might be neat to have multiple women to screw as you crudely put it, however, I would not need a polygamist marriage to do so. All i would need is adequate charm and suave moves to convince the would-be conquests… or failing that one could turn to prostitution for the same result and no responsibility at all.

I am talking about a responsible familial relationship among multiple adults. Not just sex. And as far as ‘older more established men’ taking young brides.. you don’t need poly to see that happening.

I be glad to see some of the research you refer to. I find your purported shortage to be a bit hard to believe though as children tend to be plentiful among poly families. Meaning in a poly community there would be many people to compete with.
Barring a patriarch type scenario where ‘the man’ continually expands his household I don’t really see that as an issue. A true poly community would be practicing both polygamy and polyandry may have more than one man in the family. A ‘disenfranchised’ (women and sex is a right? When did that happen btw?) youth could conceivable become part of such a family.

    Weirddave in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    First, I must apologize for imprecise wording. I did not mean “you” Steve in particular, I was using the term in a general sense. “One” would have been more a more precise word to convey what I was trying to say.

    Second, there are lots of resources documenting the “lost boys” phenomenon, there’s a whole bunch right at this link:

      Steve in reply to Weirddave. | July 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks for the apology Dave. I read through a few of those entries. This appears to be an abusive type of phenomenon that isn’t restricted to Mormon Fundamentalist members of polygamist families.

      Just one example “: His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew. Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours’ notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road. ”

      This young man was exiled for violating parental religious views. Hardly unique among those most of us might consider “extreme.”

      In fact says that is #1 reason for ‘runaways’ in Australia.
      Echoed at

      In the United states
      ~45000 runaways each year since 200-2009 “Nearly half (48 percent) said they were thrown out of their homes.” So the ‘lost boys’ are not unique… they are just in a unique setting.

      So I don’t think there is enough there to say that polygamy does this all by itself; since young men (and women) are thrown out of all sorts of homes at ages ranging from 12 to 18 ( for some reason this report adds stats for people as old as 21 as ‘run-aways’ … I thought they were adults ) So this number is a slight non scientific round-down.

      The contributing factors seem to be lack of oversight of commune or at home school progress (article repeatedly says little education) ; it implies that the families involved don’t participate in public education. The site you sent me to was primarily focused on FLDS families. These appear to be structured like the ‘expanding patriarchy’ model I said could be a problem and isn’t the same flavor of beast I was referring to. Also all the members and victims appear to have a cult-level type of belief. Contrast those families with a couple from the vids I cited above who are also FLDS members.. so clearly the institution is not at fault since we have two outcomes using the same type of familial structure.

      Again saying i support polygamy should not be seen as the same as I support childbrides, or I support locking women in closets, or turning out my kids at the slightest provocation. Those offenses can take place outside polygamist marriage; outside traditional marriage. Marriage (of any type) did not cause those cases of misery, dysfunctional relationships did and do.

IMO discussion of what “should” or “should not” be permitted in the context of marriage needs to turn on a better public understanding of what “marriage” is under the law of a secular, landed government (versus what constitutes a “marriage” under the rules of an non-landed government, the religious organization.)

Some of the confusion stems from the European tradition in which religious law and sovereign law overlapped. But basically, for the “sovereign” (the state), “marriage” is merely the public declaration (sometimes implied, as in the case of recognition of “common law” marriage) of otherwise unrelated persons that “we are family”. Formal licensing (ceremony, state official, registration) of these marriages is for the state to ascertain “where the families are” in order to apply its laws to those families (inheritance of land and ownership of children being the original two major concerns.)

Given this, and separation of church and state in the U.S., who is or may be considered to be “married” under the law is not necessarily synonymous with who is or may be considered to be “married” under the rules of a religion. These are two different systems operating concurrently. When a religious official conducts a marriage ceremony, for state purposes, he is not actually “marrying” the individuals, or sanctioning their marriage, but merely acting as an official witness for the state. For state purposes, any two persons who are considered to be eligible essentially marry themselves, by making a public declaration.

What all this means is that decisions on whether or not to recognize particular declarations of family (religious or secular), or families in fact, as being legally married is going to turn on the pragmatics of it. No one is stopped from considering themselves to be married or “family” under any religion. The question for state (and federal) law is whether legal rights flow from that; whether there is some good practical reason for legal recognition of this or that family formation. In the case of polygamy, among others, I don’t think there is, but I’ll leave that to others to debate. That debate, however, it seems to me, needs to turn on “why” should such marriages be recognized, from a purely pragmatic and secular legal point of view, and not on what marriage is or is not according to any particular religion or the laws or culture of any other time or place.

    Steve in reply to janitor. | July 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    What legal rights do you actually get as a spouse that cannot otherwise be granted through a will, living trust, limited power of attorney, writ of guardianship, or even a partnership or corporate charter?

    As far as I know the only privilege ( not a right) is that of joint tax filing. Are there others?

    And if that is really the case what is special about Marriage?

      janitor in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      “What legal rights do you actually get as a spouse that cannot otherwise be granted through a will, living trust, limited power of attorney, writ of guardianship, or even a partnership or corporate charter?”

      Not a whole lot, but some. Certain pension and other tax benefits (also some detriments); right to hold property in tenancy by the entireties; presumption of legal parentage to children born to a spouse (although this is being chipped away in denigration of marriage in various states)…

      “And if that is really the case what is special about Marriage?”

      Now — or traditionally? As to secular marriage laws — or as to its religious meaning? That’s quite a broad question. For me, it has something to do with biological families being the building blocks of society, the joint venture of two committed people having children and making a life together. Marriages (families) that work do seem pretty special. But it does seem to me that the romantic ideal is not necessarily the historical description of marriage in all times and places (or of all marriages in any particular time and place), and also that the institution has been cheapened and damaged considerably in recent decades.

This is an object lesson in what happens when the Courts, not the Legislature decides what the Law is. All values practiced by society form the basis of what is acceptable, the legislature who represents the people’s wishes pass laws accordingly. Any changes to the Law must be mutually agreed upon otherwise it is tyranny. Polygamy, same sex marriage, abortion, etc. are judicial interferences in the proper order of things. If society at large doesn’t want these things, the judiciary has no right to impose it or allow it. The time is long overdue for judicial reform.

As mentioned on this thread, even same sex relations were “legalized” by the interference of the courts via striking down laws passed by the legislature. You either believe in the process or you don’t. The Courts have no right to do what they have, the only reason why they get away with it is because we let them. Look at the nonsense Obama has done, no POTUS before him would have dared do the things he has without being impeached and yet he is still in office. It’s called Usurpation and twice listed in the Declaration of Independence as part of the reasons for the separation from England. You can’t have an enduring Republic when the elites act with impunity changing the laws without the express permission of the governed. There is only one outcome for a society run by elites who disregard the wishes of the govened – revolution.

I recommend a reading of John Locke on government: Without this framework of understanding you really cannot see how truly damaging the Courts have become to the Constitution. They really are the enemy within.

    Steve in reply to dscott. | July 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    So how much power should a court have? Venturing a thought… I would say veto power. That is if they find a law unconstitutional or otherwise unpalatable in view of current jurisprudence, the whole of the matter at hand should be nullified pending a legislative vote.

    The power to make judicial law might be necessary today since Congress has ceded so much power to regulating authorities that are never required even cursory approval from a committee on the regs they just make up.

    How should the judiciary properly perform?

      Viator in reply to Steve. | July 21, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      What utter nonsense

      The power to make judicial law might be necessary today since Congress has ceded so much power to regulating authorities that are never required even cursory approval from a committee on the regs they just make up.

      How should the judiciary properly perform?

      The purpose of the judiciary is to adjudicate, carry out the laws NOT to create new ones by changing the meaning of words formerly understood. Creating laws by selectively striking down laws by reinterpreting the Constitution is judicial legislating and is unConstitutional as it violates the separation of powers. Judicial reform therefore is zeroing in on the abuses, the usurpation of the legislative perrogative. Only the legislature has a right to define the terms not the judiciary because the legislature are the ones to write the laws. You can’t write a law without knowing the meanings of word, once those meanings are set only the legislative branch has the right to change them.

      Secondly, judicial reform means actively removing those judges who abuse the system, you can’t have a credible wall of separation if you allow everyone to kick holes in it. Those who do the kicking must dealt with otherwise the wall ceases to exist. This is condoning the abuse. The 9th circuit court is a good example of a disfunctional judiciary which has most of its judgments over turned by the SCOTUS. Any judge who has 3 or more decisions over turned is clearly incompetent and should be removed.

      You make a good point regarding delegation of authority to bureaucrats who make regulations without the express permission of the governed such as the EPA, another object lesson in governance. Congress fell down on their job and it’s their responsibility to reign in on the EPA.

I recently watched the TLC show “Sister Wives”. These poor people are just trying to live their lives but they constantly live in fear. As a matter of fact, they get treated much worse than gays. While gays may not be allowed to marry in some states, they are free to practice the relationship of their choice without fear of someone beating down their door and breaking up their family. Why is it that a man can have children with five different women and leave it up to the welfare state to take care of them and that is socially acceptable, but if that man chooses to take care of all of those children and their mothers then he has to worry about the cops beating down his door. I don’t see how polygamy is a threat to family values. If a man is willing to take care of his own, then he is doing a service to society. If anything the cops should be beating down the doirs of the loser deadbeat dads and tell them to take care of their families. This is not meant to be racist in any way, one of the most famous polygamists who believed strongly in taking care of his families was Bob Marley.

When two people have a child together, they are essentially married forever anyways. Even if they get divorced, they cannot ever change the eternal bond that they will always have which is the child. So why not let a father be responsible for his family?

This thread is enough to make one weep. There is no hope for America.

    Steve in reply to Viator. | July 22, 2011 at 4:17 am

    On the contrary I should think. Here we have mostly rational people on both sides making their opinion known and interacting with one another in the hope of changing position based on thoughtful consideration of their own and other’s view points. This is what the American political discourse is supposed to be like. Did you think that all and sundry would agree with you? Or do you think that they are agreeing with me and this dismays you?

    While you have not swayed my opinion to oppose polygamy, you have shown me facts and information on dysfunctional families I did not previously know. I hope I have done at least as much for you on the positive side of the issue.

I Dont Exist | July 22, 2011 at 12:26 am

Before I will believe the “Sister Wives” tale of self determination and sacrifice I would like to see all 5 tax returns and their credit records. They could be receiving $28K a year or more in earned income tax credits. I have read that several of the wives have filed bankruptcies. Five credit histories can cycle through a bankruptcy every two years and always maintain a clean one.