Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nothing is Inherently Wrong About Polygamy

At an atheist forum, Mike Long asked, “What's Wrong With Polygamy?”

Personally, I'm in favor of marriage. The public declaration of fealty steers the focus of any marital problems onto resolution rather than dissolution. However, I don't think the question should be, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?". It should be, "Why is the government involved, AT ALL, in how people wish to structure their households?".

We should be relying on government for assistance in enforcing contracts. But how these contracts are structured should be entirely up to the people involved. This, of course, includes people who wish to structure their households around participation by more than two individuals.

I guess there needs to be a set of default contracts (to protect children and establish ownership of chattels, etc.) which are deemed to be in effect when people share a household; but, other than that, the government should have no role.

I know that polygamy facilitates some injustices that never occur in "traditional" marriages , but is polygamy sufficiently evil by its nature to require the government to ban it?

I would add that the government should not prevent close relatives from marrying, either.


1.) When people say "polygamy" they nearly always mean polygyny. One husband collecting many wives. That's deeply patriarchal and mysoginistic.

Women in a polygynous marriage can be treated well and equally to the man. If a woman wants a polygynous marriage, she should not be denied her choice by law.

2.) Legally it's also the only form that works because the women are relatively powerless and there is a clear structure.

What? Does Steve have a low opinion of women?

There is nothing morally wrong with polyamory and it works nicely for some people (better than monogamy).


But recognizing such relationships legally is a nightmare and all but impossible.

Ah, Discredited Argument #11.

You just can't account for all possible constellations.

Why would you need to?

What if one partner in a triangle becomes ill? How gets to make medical decisions?

We could make the default the longest married spouse, and if they all married each other at the same time, then it could go to the elder spouse. But this is something that we could make part of the original marriage paperwork.


What you really want is a social acceptance of polyamory. Once that's happened we might talk about the legal issues

Mike Long responded…

I agree with everything you said except the chicken and egg. As with virtually all social injustices which have been addressed in the last 50 years, the legal changes PRECEDED social acceptance. Not to say that we've fully achieved social justice, but where would women and blacks be if we'd waited for social acceptance before proceeding with legal changes?

Robin is an ally…

Marriage being a civil contract can be done with more than one person. They would just need to put in some new provisions for it, or the people involved could draw up their own deal.

It could be five men and one women too..The boss is up to them not us....

Whom ever has the healthcare proxy would decide what would be done in medical decisions.

People deserve the right to do what they want in life...

Thanks, Robin! She later adds…

Women in a plural marriage are not automatically the submissive mate or mates.

They can be independent, work outside the home, and basically run the ship with the husband as the equal or submissive role.

Some women might find it better to have the other wives help with all the responsibilities of being a wife, mother and the list goes on and on...

Just because it's not for me, doesn't mean it's not for you.

To be able to have a choice is what it's all about


Joreth InnKeeper is also an ally…

Banning polygamy is ridiculous. We already have laws against rape, against child molestation… against marriage to a minor, and against abuse. These are the problems that are usually responsible for polygamy making the news. What we need is better enforcement of actual abuse, regardless of the relationship structure.

It is very simple: allow adults to marry (and, if they want, cohabitate without marriage, or have sex with our without cohabitation) any consenting adults, having the marriage(s) and relationship(s)they want, including whatever religious ceremony (or not) they want. Whether three people want to form a “V” or a triangle, that is up to them. If four people want a marriage, more power to them. Prosecute abusers and rapists.

More people of different religions or no religion are coming to the agreement that the law should not interfere in the love and sex lives and families of consenting adults.
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