Monday, April 18, 2011

Editorial Attempts to Recap Polygamy Trial

There’s an editorial in a Canadian newspaper about the trial over the polygamous freedom to marry. Section 293 of the Criminal Code outlaws certain marriages.

That raised an unsettling possibility. If forced to decide, our courts might find that religious freedom trumps the ban on polygamy.

What would be unsettling about this? Freedom of association should be a basic human right, regardless of religion.

If the ban on polygamy is upheld, that means religious freedom is only a qualified right. Other interests must be weighed. However, if the ban is struck down, values such as gender equality and the rights of children take a back seat.

This is not the case. The rights of children would be improved. More children would grow up in a legal marriage, and wouldn no longer have to hide their family life from others. Gender equality is in no way compromised. The law wouldn’t mandate polygyny-only. Polyandry and other forms of polygamy would also be legal.

Of course, there have always been limits in matters of conscience. Doukhobor groups who used arson to publicize their goals in the 1960s and 1970s were prosecuted.

Wait, are people who love more than one other adult being compared to arsonists? Polyamory can be hot, but not that kind of hot.

Supporters of polygamy argue it is merely a willing transaction between adults.

Isn’t that undeniable?

Some have compared the ban to laws that once made homosexual activities a crime.

Both bans try to control the marital and sex lives of consenting adults.

But government lawyers point out that polygamy often leads to abusive practices.

Any human interaction “often” leads to abusive practices.

The court heard testimony that one of the Bountiful leaders took his 15-year-old daughter to the United States to be married, and brought back with him a bride of the same age.

I fail to see why this should be used to prevent three 30-year-olds from marrying.

In many countries where polygamy is lawful, women are treated as second-class citizens.

In many of those countries, people ride bicycles.

And how are the interests of children to be protected?

The same way they are in any other situation. Actually, the polygamous freedom to marry will make it more likely the child abusers will be caught, because witnesses can come forward without fear of being criminalized for simply being in a polygamous marriage.

Monogamous marriage has proved a vital and useful institution. We should think long and hard before weakening it.

How does allowing polyamorous people the freedom to marry hurt anyone else’s marriage?

Canada must keep moving towards full marriage equality. Let it do so, and let this shame the countries that still deny the freedom to marry to same-sex couples and polyamorous families, especially its neighbor to the south.
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