Thursday, August 11, 2011

Full Marriage Equality is Better For Society

Arthur Dobrin references the conviction (on sexual assault charges) of Warren Jeffs and asks, “What’s Wrong With Polygamy?” Child abuse is wrong; polygamy is not, provided the adults entering into it are doing so by choice.
There is no defense for sexual assault, whether it is with a spouse or stranger, someone of legal age or a minor. So the conviction is valid and there is no standing behind the defense of freedom of religion. Religious freedom only goes so far; it doesn’t cover assault.

This should make sense to anyone.

But what about polygamy, the aspect of the case that made it headline-worthy, which has been banned in the United States by a unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1878? The FLDS is not alone in wanting to legalize polygamy here. The Libertarian Party wants to decriminalize it in the name of freedom.

Many other people do, too. Keep in mind polygamy is more than just polygyny.

Dobrin goes on to write about how, in some places, marriage seems to be customary mostly for reproduction and the spouses are usually closer to, and generally more affectionate with, other people, such as friends and siblings, than each other.

Polygamy was still fairly widespread when I lived in Kenya. I knew one man—the wealthiest person in the district—who had thirteen wives. I found nothing inherently wrong with such an arrangement. The problems were practical ones, not theoretical. The questions about polygamy were whether all the wives were treated fairly, whether each was treated with dignity and respect.

Monogamy is often executed poorly, but that doesn’t mean it should be banned.

Somehow, this is the conclusion reached…

In the Reynolds decision, the Court said, “Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.” Given what I know from experience, polygamy would not lead to the furtherance of social duties or contribute to good order. Let the laws against polygamy remain as they stand.

What? Maybe I missed something, but the last two sentences didn’t follow from the rest of the article. Polygamy can further social duties and contribute to good order, especially if it reduces cheating, divorce, and absentee parenting/abandonment. Let adults enter into the marriages they want, with the spouses they want. There will be more stability, more happy people, less cheating, fewer people trying to force themselves to be something they’re not, and fewer people used as beards. It will also be easier to get witnesses to come forward and prosecute abusers.
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