Who’s Scared of Polygamy? A Restrained Case for the “Slippery Slope” Argument

Painting of King Solomon and his wives by Giovanni Venanzi di Pesaro (1627-1705).

Many rejoiced after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-same marriage nationally in late June. Others jeered. But whatever a person’s take on the Court’s ruling, Americans at this historical moment need to think about what, if anything, comes next for marriage.

Among other things, this is an opportunity to revisit the old slippery slope argument that some have pushed for so many years. In other words, now that same-sex marriage is legal, what’s next? According to a number of pundits, such as Fredrik DeBoer at Politico, it’s polygamy. I count myself among this group.

This question is pressing in light of the fact that support for polygamy has risen rapidly (from 7% to 16%) among Americans over the past few years.

Some liberal commentators, understandably, have been quick to insist that legalizing polygamy isn’t on the horizon.

Writing a few weeks before the Supreme Court ruling, Matt Baume at The Huffington Post pro-actively argued against the slippery-slope hypothesis because revising marital laws to include polygamy would be hard. In the wake of Obergefell, Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon points to polygamists’ apparently inalienable “fringe” status as a bulwark against the slippery slope. More recently, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic (and in response to DeBoer) makes a rather careful three-tiered case against polygamy, arguing that advocating for polygamy would be untimely for the international fight for same-sex marriage rights, that there are compelling state interests in not legalizing it (e.g. staving off practical issues around things such as visas for spouses), and that polygamy is essentially and damagingly patriarchal in a way that monogamy is not (or so we are to believe).

I must confess that I do not find these apologetics for monogamy convincing. I buy, in other words, a limited version of the slippery-slope position (and I’m not the only one—see this and this). But I would contend (similar to DeBoer) that the standard slippery-slope ends well before the plunge to bestiality or other “pro-family” bogeymen. And I do so, in part, for several reasons not currently being considered in discussions around the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Increasingly polygamy is being considered independently of things like bestiality (here is a recent example). In some of these newer discussions, noticeably, the key question is no longer about whether the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, but whether a national debate on it will come to pass and, if so, who will be responsible for this development.

These recent accounts of a possible polygamy debate do not seem to recognize that we’re in what I would call a reformation period of marriage. Nor do they seem to know that during the Protestant Reformation, which dramatically redefined marriage, polygamy was on the table. And, to me at least, it’s likely that (eventual) support from some branches of American Protestantism, drawing in part on this older Protestant debate, will complicate certain pundits’ models for how a debate around the legalization of polygamy will come to pass.

Intriguingly, both sides want to lay blame for this development on the other. Ross Douthat argues, in a surprisingly sympathetic and nuanced piece in the New York Times from a person opposed to polygamy, that the “new permissive consensus” built over the years by social liberals, most strikingly around same-sex marriage, is the primary driver for this uptick of support for polygamy. Douthat points to cultural developments such as the airing of certain TV shows (e.g. Big Love and Sister Wives), the growing polyamory movement, and the “logic of expressive individualism” to buttress his case. By 2040, he speculates, polygamy will be the law of the land, and it will be all the liberals’ fault.

Mark Silk, on his Religion News Service blog, responded by arguing that the uptick in support is actually due “the increasingly robust view of religious liberty being embraced [by conservatives].” Silk points to a federal judge’s 2013 decision, in favor of the Brown family (of Sister Wives fame), that weakened Utah’s bigamy statute as evidence—a position Silk elaborates on here.

In his reply, Douthat performs an interesting misreading of Silk’s position. Silk’s case rests on the extension of the legal logic of conservative religious freedom efforts to religious claims made by polygamist Mormons and Muslims (although the problem posed by the nineteenth-century Reynolds case is oddly missing). Douthat, however, takes Silk to mean that “Republicans and churchgoers” (with churchgoers overtly coded as Evangelicals) are  supporting polygamy in larger numbers, a strawman Douthat then refutes.

Unlike Silk and Douthat, I welcome this nascent debate—one that really has already begun (see this and this)—and I think there’s enough praise to go around for why we’ve begun to have it. Both point to important contributing factors, yet both are mistaken in focusing, when it comes to religious groups, only on polygamist Mormons and Muslims in the United States. Part of their error lies in taking what currently is for what will be, an interpretive move that Ed Simon has thoughtfully cautioned against.

Let’s think for a minute about how same-sex marriage went from novel idea to law-of-the-land in just a few short decades. The ascent of same-sex marriage in the United States gained much (but not all) of its initial support from churches.

Many local Universalist Unitarian (UU), Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations, and some Episcopal churches, for example, started blessing same-sex unions as far back as the 1970s, as work by Heather White and Mark Jordan has shown. Over the years the debate and activism by Christians continued to push the conversation until the national bodies of the UCC and Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) approved same-sex marriages in 2005 and 2015, respectively. The debate has been robust and increasingly supportive in other denominations. Some Evangelical Christians have even begun to embrace same-sex marriage. And this is not to even mention the ever LGBT-supportive Metropolitan Community Church.

This brief and incomplete recap of the rise of same-sex marriage among Protestant Christians in the United States reveals something important. Even though almost no American Christians support it (outside of some smaller LDS sects that currently practice polygamy), there is no reason to think they could not come to do so, and to do so as rapidly as they did with same-sex marriage.

One of the non-religious reasons these churches may embrace polygamy as they did same-sex marriage is that Americans, as a culture, may come to view polyamory (i.e. consensual, simultaneous sexual relationships with more than one partner) as a sexual orientation. Some of the implications of studies by evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden and psychologist Christopher Ryan and psychiatrist Cacilda Jethá certainly point in that direction, and other studies have found their way into popular media. To use Douthat’s timeline and term, it would be rather interesting to see what the state of polyamory will be among “churchgoers” in 2040.

Furthermore, the rise of same-sex marriage inside American Protestant Christianity is but a part (though a very crucial one) of a larger overhaul of marriage. Feminist developments have greatly changed the theological visions and practices of many Christian communities around marriage. And it’s easy to forget that laws preventing interracial marriage (which was often opposed on religious grounds), were only invalidated in the U.S. with Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

In other words, marriage has changed substantially and consistently over the past 70 or so years in the United States. Of course these changes have occurred both inside and outside of religious communities, but not necessarily in spite of them. There’s no reason to believe that this trajectory will suddenly change in the wake of the same-sex marriage debate.

And this is hardly the first time marriage has undergone a simultaneously rapid yet sustained change in history. In particular I see the Protestants’ reformation of marriage during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a particularly relevant historical analog. That reformation is important for, among other things, planting seeds inside the Christian tradition that may bear fruit in the form of pro-polygamy theology and practice.

The Protestant Reformation is famous for, in theory, leveling the spiritual playing field between marriage and celibacy while, in practice, giving marriage primacy. These Reformers permitted priests, monks, and nuns to marry, overhauled the Catholic system of marital impediments and kinship (dramatically reducing the number of people a person was related to in a way that barred marriage), and cracked open the door to divorce.

But as historian Lyndal Roper has taught us, these Reformers, by questioning the nature of marriage so thoroughly, helped to make more radical marital experiments possible. Roper points to both the short-lived polygamous city-state of Münster and, in much more depth, the Dreamers—both of whom were violently crushed during the early years of the Reformation. Intriguingly, the Dreamers, who claimed the Holy Spirit directed them, although already married, to enter into new marriages, might provide grist for a polyamorist theology of polygamy.

But neither was the end of thinking and doing polygamy during this period. Two prominent theologians penned pro-polygamy works under the Protestant principle of sola scriptura. Bernardino Ochino, the former head of the Capuchin Order and a famous Protestant convert, wrote a dialogue making a biblical case for polygamy (though he was subsequently exiled from most of Western and Central Europe for publishing it). About a hundred years later, John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, composed his own case for polygamy in his De doctrina christiana.

Yet even these hardly exhaust the options. Philip of Hesse, a major Protestant nobleman, married a second wife. He did so, moreover, only after getting the approval of a number of important Protestant theologians, including Martin Luther. This case and other developments around polygamy in the 16th and 17th centuries are chronicled by John Cairncross.

What Lyndal Roper has said about experimenting with marriage in the Reformation holds true for our time too. We have been busy overhauling our marital system at least as thoroughly as happened in the Protestant Reformation so we must ready ourselves for a debate on polygamy, as they had to. And the Reformation debates on, and experiments with, polygamy could be valuable resources—indeed, richer in this vein than they were for same-sex marriage. All of which is to say nothing of the easy biblical case that can be made for polygamy.

There already seems to be a very small (and possibly conservative evangelical) non-Mormon Christian effort to promote polygamy as a religious practice, as well as an active UU polyamory movement. If the polyamory/polygamy cause does indeed spread among Christians in the United States, the Reformation can provide resources to advance the cause.

Polygamy may well make for a coalition of strange bedfellows drawn from across the religious and non-religious spectrum in the United States. If the so-called “mainline” churches repeat their same-sex marriage trajectory, they could well provide polygamy some hefty cultural and political ballast (though the impact of that support may not be quite as big as it was for same-sex marriage in light of the continued demographic decline of these denominations).

These Christians would, of course, also need to square their religious heritage around polygamy with the kinds of feminist critiques that informed the overhaul of monogamy during the past 50 or so years. The Reformation proponents of polygamy, after all, only had polygyny in mind, and a very male-dominated version at that. Protestants today would almost certainly need to consider polyandry and, to use a clunky term, polygynandry.

I agree with Douthat and Silk that Americans are going to need to think seriously about polygamy. Douthat is probably right in arguing that many of the arguments liberals put forth on behalf of same-sex marriage will be deployed on behalf of polygamy, but Silk is probably also correct that religious freedom claims will play a role as well. In any case, rather than let fear guide the conversation, perhaps we should embrace an honest, thorough, and thoughtful debate that will likely generate a new set of pro- and con- alliances from a diverse range of people and groups in the United States. It wouldn’t be a reformation of marriage without one.

58 Comments

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    America has been increasingly becoming a nation where all laws are set up for the tiny fraction of 1% who are super rich. I can see how that could factor in here. A couple generations ago the heads of corporations used to make as much as about 30 of the average workers. Now it is more like 500. The rich who have been getting their way on everything might benefit from having about 200 wives each. This would end up about 500 times as many as the average man because in this new world order most of those others wouldn’t be married. One complication would be that fraction of 1% might end up having close to half of the kids in the next generation. I am not sure what they would do about that, but it is their problem, not mine.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    Polygamy being “legalized” (i.e. codified?) is a slippery slope to the ERA. We already have gay marriage and women in the armed forces; we won’t lose this time. Bring it.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    1. Polygamy has always been a heterosexual phenomenon, if anything were going to lead to heterosexuality, it would be straight marriage, not same-sex marriage. 2. The best reason to ban polygamy is that no one person should be given extra opportunities to screw up a marriage or to make more than one person miserable. 3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had another good reason that it would be a good idea when she told the sexist hog who bragged about his seven sons that no man should be reproduced seven times, polygamy gives such men too much of a chance to reproduce themselves and their view of women, making even more people miserable.

    Keep the polygamy talk about yourselves, straight folk, leave me out of it.

  • charles.hoffman@yahoo.com' Ch Hoffman says:

    opponents of polygamy should address the issue as a choice between children growing up without a father and those who might have to share on with another mother’s kids.

    in that light, there are far worse relationships that 2 women sharing a husband.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    From the kids point of view, if you are a girl then you know you will be married off to some old guy probably sometime in your teens, and if you are a boy you have to face the probability that you might not end up one of the favored, and get kicked out of the clan and have to move to the big city when you get older.

  • polyearp2@gmail.com' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Here’s an idea ,Christians: Why don’t we just all throe our Scriptures in the garbage bins and simply do whatever we all seem to be heading towards: Whatever we want! Obviously what need we of God? We’ve obviously remade Him in an image ready to cater our wants and needs,no need to pretend we have any real interest in obeying and honoring or glorifying Him as Lord.We’re our own gods now as Satan insinuated we longed to be and here we are.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    You are confusing God with the church.

  • polyearp2@gmail.com' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Really? Clarify, please Mr.Reed…

  • gr_sutton@hotmail.com' Graeme Sutton says:

    I’m not sure why the super-rich would find this necessary. There’s no law against adultery or unmarried sex. If anything the possibility of multiple wives would be bad for them as it could lead to multiple expensive divorces.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The church made the scriptures and chose what the beliefs would be.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I forgot about that.

  • carole645@rocketmail.com' seashell says:

    Just out of curiosity, has there ever been a time when a husband had multiple wives and those multiple wives also each had at least one or more husbands? If polygamy was to be made legal, would it be the kind where only one of the spouses had two or more spouses, or would all spouses be able to have multiple spouses? Because I’m not sure I can see the latter working out well 🙂 or the former passing without the latter.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    Ya, ummm…..I don’t think you understand the argument here. What you are talking about is crazies in utah, what we are talking about is what is legal for consensual adults.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    1) The homosexuals who have multiple partners would disagree with what you have to say.
    2) Who are you to get involved the the bedroom of consensual adults?
    3) What? So your argument is that some men sleep with multiple women outside of marriage so clearly they shouldn’t marry multiple women? I’m confused.

    Summation, I think its hilarious that now that you have “rights”, you so willingly and eagerly shut out others who seek similar rights.

  • polyearp2@gmail.com' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    The humorous part of that claim is that you,sadly,actually believe it,Mr.Reed.Tell me,what “church”are you referring to,exactly,and when you use the appellation church,who or what are you referring to?I await your reply.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    1. The number of GAY men and lesbians who have multiple sex partners, not SPOUSES, are a tiny fraction of the heterosexuals who have both multiple sex partners and who have had polygamy to themselves all theses millenia.

    2. I’m me. I can have an opinion about the screwy situation where one man marries a whole hell of a lot of women at once and breeds like a hog. No man should have as many children as polygamy produces.

    3. You don’t think very clearly so I’m hoping you are going for the nulygamy option.

    Just as I am a one-person, one vote person, I’m a one person, one spouse person. Generally, except in the most unusual of circumstances, a person can’t screw up too much if they cast a bad vote, they can do a lot more damage if they have a bad marriage so why multiply the chances of that happening?

    I have no problem with society limiting the number of spouses to one at a time. Gay folk would be better if they had practiced that as well. To begin by saying that monogamy is not a reasonable expectation is for Gay men (of whom I am one) and lesbians is to define our marriages as inferior, doing to ourselves what the gay bashers would do to us.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    I think you’re talking about the family life of cats.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Those who make up the religion that people believe.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Those are the polygamists. That is how polygamy works for real. The discussion of theoretical polygamy is different, but it is not real.

  • brison1014@yahoo.com' brisonc3 says:

    children are no longer to be a consideration in the granting of a marriage license. This was part of the argument made by the counsel for homosexuals wanting to marry since they gave the argument that many younger couples claim they don’t plan to have children and the reality that older, divorced or widowed men and women are now marrying without the possibility of children. What is best for the children is therefore no longer a consideration.

  • brison1014@yahoo.com' brisonc3 says:

    number 1, how do you know the number of gay men with multiple sex partners is tiny? Many homosexual men have spoken out freely saying the opposite. Mogogamy can only be maintained with extra affairs on the side. According to these homosexuals, monogamy is not compatible with the orientation.

  • brison1014@yahoo.com' brisonc3 says:

    “consenting adults” solve that issue. They confess they know what they are getting into. They are treated as adults and left to conduct their relationship as they wish. It is not the government’s business to say they can’t manage their relationship.

    The military, they can make their own rules as they do now. In monogamous relationships in the military, adultary is against military regulations, but not so in the civilian law and courts. So beyond monogamy could be restricted for the military as is adultery, but not for civilian law, for it would be covered under the concept of the right to privacy.

  • polyearp2@gmail.com' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Oh,well…this”dialogue”is already proving fruitless,Mr.Reed.I’m always baffled when unbelievers come on these sites; what is the purpose of attacking that which you simply don’t understand and cannot grasp? The truncated,finite mind of man wrecks itself attempting to delve into the Mind of He who is hidden from them.It’s just sadly pathetic.I may have said this before,Mr.Reed,but I’ll reiterate: Believe as you see fit(or not); one thing you can be sure of: THE LORD KNOWS THOSE WHO ARE HIS.We have His Word exactly as He intended us to have it.Sure,He used various individuals to compile and organize said Word—-That doesn’t mean that The Word of Almighty God is erroneous or somehow lacking(except to unbelievers.)—At any rate,Mr.Reed–Au Revoir,and be at peace—JESUS IS LORD!!!

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    “the best reason is that no one person should be given extra opportunities…” Like Liz Taylor and all the others who have married multiple times… I think we call it “serial monogamy?

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    First off, it’s a mischaracterization to call this a slippery slope argument. This is really about the right to marry. The Supreme Court, with liberals cheering all the while, said states have no business deciding who gets married and banning people from marriage. Now you liberal hypocrites want to start making up reasons why you get to ban the people you don’t like from marrying. It shows how many liberals really have absolutely no conscience and it is this lack of conscience that causes the right to win so often in American politics. Average Joe is not smart or rich, but he knows when the pigs start walking upright and taking booze in the farmer’s house in Animal Farm.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    What issue?

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    Are you gay? I am, I have been for well over half a century. According to this GAY MAN monogamy is as compatible with being a grown-up, honest, responsible gay man as it is with any other gender identity. That is grown-up, honest and responsible. For other people who refuse to grow up, be honest or responsible, I’m sure they find being responsible in sex is as hard as it is for such folks to be responsible, generally .

    I’m always so interested in having straight folk tell me all about being gay.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    That Hollywood life, if the rules of society were based on what they did everything would go to hell in less time than it takes to see the coming attractions.

  • fran.ota@hotmail.com' Fran Ota says:

    Canada has had same-gender marriage legal for lo these past ten years. No signs of polygamy. Everything still the same. However, as a religious scholar, sir, you are surely aware that polygamy IS biblical marriage, as is the Levirate marriage. I don’t see any signs of those coming about soon. The argument that ‘polygamy’ is next is specious at best, bigoted at its worst, and is based in nothing more than fear.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    Well perhaps you should stop being so bigoted and accept people for who they are. Ever think of that?

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    I don’t see any reason to accept selfish, irresponsible people for who they are now but for who they might become. Like all conservatives, you’re comfortable with a status quo that benefits you even as it disadvantages others. I’m not a conservative, I’m a liberal, a real one, not a libertarian posing as one.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    You need to stop being so bigoted. The things you say are the same thing conservatives said about gays and marriage. You are a bigot, you must accept that, its part of your identity. You should start voting Republican, because you’ve become one 😉

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    This is the issue right here. In 2015 America, polygamy can’t be a special privilege for men to have harems. It comes with gender equality, i.e. polyandry as well as polygyny (as well as same-sex polygamy of both kinds), and thus it comes with an unregulatable clusterf**** of marriage webs that will unavoidably change (and largely abandon) the legal meaning of marriage. Gay marriage does nothing of the sort. If people would just think for ten seconds about this, it’s clear that codified polygamy is not possible.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    Since we’re legalize polygamy after gay marriage is already legal, we could have children growing up with five dads, or five mothers, and none of the opposite gender. Polygamy will not be a straight male privilege. And without straight male privilege, it is completely incompatible with existing marriage law.

  • brison1014@yahoo.com' brisonc3 says:

    It isn’t straight men saying that, it’s gay men saying that and you may well be in the minority. I would say for example that mature teens refrain from sexual activity until they are ready for a permanent relationship and for children, but many don’t.

    It is the mature and responsible thing not have sex if you don’t want children(since intercourse is what makes children), but left wingers poo poo the idea. “It isn’t irresponsible to do what you want to do as long as you believe you are doing it safely”. However “safe” is doing what is smart and gives the best result if one doesn’t want to be pregnant, yet, the shaking of heads.

    Yes, there are the responsible ones, but the gay public is not that responsible as we found out when HIV was first being reported and it was fairly discussed that bath houses and places for casual and even anonymous sex should be shut down for health reasons. Battle cries broke out.

    Now where was this “responsible and mature gay majority” during that period? Not very vocal or not very large to the point of making a difference.

    But for responsibility, what is irresponsible about more than 2 entering a contract of commitment(marriage) if each is willing to accept all mandates and responsibilities that come with it? That isn’t irresponsible. What is irresponsible is to say you will, then don’t. Those that want to enter such relationships should be able to do so until it is proven such relationships are dangerous. Until they are allowed to “come out of the shadows” and are given an opportunity to prove they can have successful relationships, don’t keep them from the opportunity to try.

    However this is exactly what many who now have achieved the cause of “marriage equality” want to do. Rob other models of relationships from having the chance to be and show they can be successful.

    No homosexual should be against that since they just finished demanding that chance. “you should be able to marry who you love”. For many, “love” is big enough for more than one. They should have that right. It doesn’t hurt any 2 member marriage for others to have more than 2.

  • susanf.cameron@gmail.com' Susan says:

    It’s not that it’s no longer a consideration, but that it’s not essential. Children can be important to family arrangements, even though neither necessary nor sufficient.

  • susanf.cameron@gmail.com' Susan says:

    It is the laws of inheritance and property that make polygamy difficult to conceptualize legally. However, during the Reformation, there was a lot of overlap between the groups experimenting with polygamy and those experimenting with community of goods. In a Hutterite colony, which practices community of goods, there are few property and inheritance issues because nearly all goods and income are held in common. Polygamy would be far less disruptive to the usual order of things in that kind of community, particularly if it didn’t involve a few privileged men having harems, but applied equally to the genders. There’s precedent in the Oneida Community of 19th-century America.

  • carole645@rocketmail.com' seashell says:

    I’ve not seen anyone make this argument, yet it seems so obvious to me (and obviously you) that polygamy as it would have to be practiced today is unworkable in almost any type of legal arrangements that we are currently working from. Have you seen this argument anywhere else?

    Thanks for getting what I was saying!

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    You are lying about the lives of many, many gay men who don’t engage in promiscuity, who don’t engage in casual sex outside of a mature and mutually supportive and loving relationship. Gay men such as Dan Savage also tell lies like that, gay men who say that monogamy among gay men is impossible or, in the supreme irony of this discussion, “unnatural” are telling the same lies only more stupidly since they are confirming a widespread and false stereotype of gay men in order to promote irresponsible sex among gay men which, during my lifetime, led to the deaths of enormous numbers of gay men. Ironically, Dan Savage and his like share a degraded view of gay men with the very bigots who oppress us. Such sexperts who advocate unfaithful marriages for gay men and lesbians accept an already degraded view of marriage on our behalf. I reject their offer.

    So, you are advocating that for straight, married couples who experience a loss of fertility or infertility that they remain entirely chaste, that there be no sex for women and their husbands after menopause or after they have had the number of children they had planned on having. Yeah, let me know how well that goes over. Most people, the vast majority of people, don’t take that view of sex. It is a view of sex which is certainly not supported by the Bible. If it were then neither Abraham and Sarah nor Zachary and Anna would have had the children who played such a prominent role in the Biblical narratives they were a part of, Abraham would certainly not have begot the Nation of Israel and, if you take the genealogy of Jesus seriously, his mother would not have been born.

    If, as I suspect, you are a Catholic it is especially ironic that you take the view of marriage you do because in Catholicism it is the couple making promises to each other for mutual support and love that makes the marriage, not some outsider approving of it. Marriage is a sacramental act the validity of which hinges on the mature consent to that agreement, it doesn’t hinge on the fertility of the couple, entirely infertile couples, couples with no chance of conceiving due to biological impossibility are not barred from marrying or having sex within that marriage. The Catholic Church does not hold that such marriages are null and void, they do marriages in which one of both of the couple didn’t make a mature and sincere commitment to the marriage agreement.

    Your putting “love” into quotes when it comes to gay men and lesbians betrays your real thinking, which is motivated by hatred and bigotry.

    Polygamy is an immature form of marriage which is based on two or more lesser relationships than a marriage involving two people. There is no way in which a polygamous marriage doesn’t end up being an equal relationship in which, in all historical cases, the women suffer in the lesser role of that relationship. I don’t see any problem with a society not supporting that situation due to the inherent danger of inequality being a nearly fixed likelihood as being the result anymore than it doesn’t support a marriage in which an unequal relations is bound to occur if one of the members of it is too young to make a mature agreement. The age of consent is, in some cases, arbitrary, many people of that age are too unintelligent or immature to give meaningful consent, but the law has to pretend that they can, I would expect that there are people slightly younger than the age of consent who could give the decision the requisite intelligent, mature consideration that it requires. But the law can’t be that specific to an individual and uncharacteristic reality, it has deliver equal treatment, based on the most typical of circumstances. I don’t have any problem with it taking the more typical outcome of polygamy into account in which one man marries more than one woman and has more children than they can reasonably take care of and support and give enough attention to to raise them to become responsible, mature adults who respect all people equally. While that is possible within a monogamous marriage, it isn’t typical of straight monogamous marriage. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with society admitting that the likelihood of inequality arising within a polygamous marriage is multiplied. It’s bad enough when a father has a favorite among his children, to also give such people who play favorites an ability to have favorites among many wives, no doubt having that contribute to unequal treatment among their children, is nothing that society has any obligation to approve of.

    Monogamous marriages among gay men and lesbians is not the same as polygamy for any number of reasons, polygamy is bound to create inequality and unequal treatment, it will, as well result in unequal marriages of the type that gay men and lesbians rejected in the past decade when it was offered. I, actually, favored the state getting out of the marriage business altogether and only granting straight couples a legal recognition of their relationship as a civil union, marriage being a far higher and private aspect of such a relationship, one which the state has no role in consummating, reducing that relationship to a mere contractual and financial arrangement. If you want to see what has damaged straight marriage, it is that reduction of its sacred aspect by straight people, just as the inequality of marriages in earlier times degraded it. Marriage equality elevates the married relationship to what it should be, a human practice of the sacred endowment of equality. God has the capacity to practice such intimate equality to more than one person, people don’t share that same capacity.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    I am a liberal, there are no liberal Republicans. You see, I have the same view of economic justice that I do of all other aspects of equality, which is incompatible with being a Republican. And Republicans have also become the indigenous American criminal class, producing the most dishonest, anti-democratic politicians and judges in current America, I despise the party which any honest person left long, long ago.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    It might be difficult to apply it equally because the whole point is to apply it unequally.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    Bigots aren’t liberal, they are Republicans (just ask any liberal). You sir are the definition of a bigot, therefor you are a Republican. Congratulations on your new identification.

  • mr_hamilton@yahoo.com' Sven says:

    PS: “producing the most dishonest, anti-democratic politicians”
    You can blame the Republicans for a lot of things but in this case you are wrong because the Clinton’s aren’t Republicans.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    Look at the figures for how many members of the Clinton administration were found guilty of felonies while in office and in their conduct in office as opposed to those in the Reagan and Bush I and II administrations, the figures tell it all. The Republicans are the champions of criminality while in office, and that’s not getting to the international crimes of the Reagan administration in its terror wars in Latin America and the illegal invasion of Iraq during the Bush II regime.

    Republicans are the champions of political crime in the United States, they began that tradition during the Grand and Hayes administrations.

  • thinkingcriminal@gmail.com' Camera Obscura says:

    Your logic is as chopped as coleslaw and not nearly as wholesome.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    I never see it either. It seems that straight/male privilege is still a deep assumption, even after we spent the better part of a century dismantling it.

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    The problem is how to legalize polygamy for my hippie polyamorist friends, without also legalizing the nasty patriarchal version practiced by the Mormons and Muslims. Not sure there’s a good solution to that, other than restricting marriage to consenting adults and making divorce and child support and such available to polygamist women who can’t easily appeal to the legal system right now.

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    A slippery slope to treating women the same way as men under the law? Oh, noes!

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    What you’re really confusing is the Church’s moral teachings and the Constitution’s requirement that the government treat everybody equally and not establish any religion (even mine or yours!) as the official standard.

    My church will let people get married even if they can’t have kids. The Catholics down the street won’t, and it’s not their business to make it illegal for us to do it or ours to make it illegal for them not to. We probably wouldn’t have a gay wedding; the Unitarians around the corner would, and it’s not our business to get Caesar to forbid that. Several of my Hindu coworkers have gone home to India to marry people their families had picked but they hadn’t met; we think that’s a really bad idea, and they think marrying someone your family doesn’t approve of is a really bad idea, but neither of us gets to prevent the other from doing what they want, and none of us gets to tell City Hall who can get married there.

    There’s lots of room for moral teaching about marriage, and the epidemic of divorce and of couples living together without being married is evidence of that. There’s also lots of room for moral teaching about how bad government-regulated religion is for both government and religion – not only from Europe’s religious wars, but also from the near-total collapse of attendance at state-run churches in Europe.

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    On the other hand, the Oneida Community’s community marriage didn’t last much more than one generation, though part of that was from outside pressure.

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    If anything, the arguments about polygamy (and levirate marriage) go the opposite direction. Marriage has certainly not “always” been defined as “one man and one woman”, either at a time or forever, and isn’t defined that way in much of the world today; if anything, the traditional definition in most traditions has been “one man and as many wives as he can afford.”

    The Christian teachings on marriage are moral teachings, not legal definitions. Jewish law at the time of Jesus allowed easy divorce (for men); Jesus taught that was an immoral thing to do. Common law in parts of the Mediterranean allowed polygamy, and while St. Paul didn’t allow multiply-married people to be bishops, he also didn’t require them to divorce excess or unbelieving spouses. Emperor Nero was married to a eunuch; the joke at the time was that it was too bad his father hadn’t had that kind of marriage.

    Christians who try to get the government to ban same-sex marriage are asking Caesar to help us take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, instead of paying attention to the log in our own. Polygamy’s more complex, because in many societies it’s been an abusive male-dominated institution which women are forced into and can’t escape, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be legal options for it when it’s truly voluntary.

  • auto48017106@hushmail.com' BillStewart2012 says:

    One of the “not in Kansas any more” aspects of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area was finding out how many of my friends out here are polyamorists, in many different kinds of relationships. For some it was something they turned to after a divorce, not wanting to face the emotional risks of another monogamous marriage; for others it was something they’ve done either as single people or as married people. It’s not something you do if you want to avoid drama, but it’s something that happens, just as lots of non-polyamorous people aren’t really good at monogamy either.

    Codifying the legal aspects of polygamy’s obviously harder than monogamy, but people are going to have those relationships, often they’re going to have children, often they’re going to have jointly-owned property, and often one or more people will need to be financially supporting one or more other people, whether it’s health insurance or child care or one spouse staying home to care for the kids instead of working, and unlike the similar issues for multiple divorced and remarried people, it’s usually not in as acrimonious and conflict-ridden situations, so there’s a place for some legal recognition.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    I know some polyamorists, and in principle, I have no problem with their having a right to make legal contracts with each other. But I don’t see a way of codifying polyamorous marriages as such without changing so much existing marriage law that we might as well (and probably would) abolish it completely. If people can have multiple spouses, then spouses are sure to lose privileges, starting with inclusion in health care, because insurance companies and employers are not going to put up with the cost, and they are the ones with lobbyists. I don’t think there’s any significant moneyed interests in polygamy, but I do think there is potential for exploitation and significant steps backwards. I’ve heard that even most actual (Mormon) polygamists would prefer to settle for decriminalization, and avoid the responsibility of actual marriage. You’re absolutely right that we have more issues to deal with, especially since now over half of American children are being born to unmarried parents, but I don’t think polygamy is a solution.

  • etseq@live.com' etseq says:

    I stopped reading at “This question is pressing in light of the fact that support for polygamy has risen rapidly (from 7% to 16%) among Americans over the past few years.” Wow – support for polygamy has doubled so polygamy must be the new black – gays are so passe! Except going from single digits to barely double digits still makes it a highly unpopular position – its right up there with snake handling! Mark Silk is correct – same sex marriage is part of a general trend of egalitarianism in marriage and polygamists are the exact opposite of egalitarians. Sure there are some hippie polyamorists but the religious polygamists outnumber them 100 to 1.

  • etseq@live.com' etseq says:

    Thanks for pointing this out – I’ve noticed that there is not only male privilege but to the extent that polyamory is actually practised in urban liberal enclaves, as opposed to the way it is theorized by academics and activists, despite the egalitarian and “queer” friendly rhetoric, it is overwhelmingly heterosexist in that the vast majority of groupings consist of a straight man and multiple straight/bi women. Even without the patriarchal religious baggage of traditional polygamy, heterosexual men still seem to be the main beneficiaries. Non-heterosexuality certainly exists in these relationships but it seems to arise only among women almost as a byproduct to the gender imbalance as a form of sexual novelty rather than a primary identity. The non-sexual ties seem to be almost exclusively between men and women. And male bisexuality still seems to be stigmatized while female bisexuality is encouraged for the benefit of heterosexual men. Lesbian poly is extremely rare and while there is some gay male poly arrangements, most gay men seem to prefer emotionally monogamous couplings with various degrees of negotiated sexual non-monogamy. I’m not sure how much of these patterns are the results of nature or social forces and it may vary according to gender. Long story short, polyamory seems to be practiced by a small subset of heterosexuals and that is skewed greatly towards privileged white, middle class, college educated liberals who cluster in urban areas that are extremely tolerant. I just don’t see this group forming a strong social movement approaching anything like gays or other oppressed minorities. It really does take intense persecution to forge identity movements to motivate people who have nothing in common except for a shared racial or sexual characteristic to force social change. Also, the odds of religious polygamists and liberal polyamorists forming any sort of effective coalition is highly unlikely and even if they did, the religous polygamists would outnumber the polys overwhelmingly and religous fundamentalists would most likely reject any support of the polys based on morality. In Canada, the religious polygamists drove the political and legal efforts at law reform, which was tainted by their extreme sexism and homophobia.

  • etseq@live.com' etseq says:

    I think you need to go back to Briebart where they love that making crude jokes about those sissy liberals. Real bunch of he man…

  • etseq@live.com' etseq says:

    Piss off you homophobic troll! The fact that u blocked your discus profile proves you are nothing but a coward who doesnt even have the balls to be proud of your bigotry.

  • GregAbdul@comcast.net' GregAbdul says:

    your reply is to tell me what websites I visit? How does that address the substance of my statements?

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