Thursday, January 24, 2013

Still No Good Reason to Keep Polygamy Ban

Over at, a good question was asked: "Why is polygamy illegal in America?"
Although 92 percent of Americans say adultery is morally unacceptable, there are no legal sanctions against those who indulge anyway. But if two (or more) women are happily simultaneously married to a man or a man is happily simultaneously married to two (or more) women, not only will they likely be ostracized, but they also can face criminal charges in many places in the United States and Canada.

It's convoluted, to be sure.

But I was curious why polygamy — which is legally practiced and accepted in some 850 societies across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands — is illegal here.

The short answer is persecution of religious minorities, intrusion of church into state, and sex-negative laws. There were laws that criminalized birth control, sex with anyone other than your spouse, oral and anal sex, gay sex, sex with the lights on, sex toys, "dirty" talk during sex, erotica, so on and so forth. Most of those laws have been overturned by the courts, repealed, or rendered unenforceable, but the ban on the polygamous freedom to marry remains, for now, in more places than the ban on the same-gender freedom to marry.
Well, that’s because the Supreme Court doesn’t much like it, determining more than 100 years ago that polygamy was “an offence against society” (Reynolds v. U.S.) and compared it to “murders sanctified by religious belief, such as human sacrifice or the burning of women on their husbands’ funeral pyres,” or so writes lawyer and social critic Wendy Kaminer.

Yet it seems somewhat hypocritical of us that although we seem to be OK with serial monogamy, we aren’t OK with people who seek alternative lifestyles to get their needs met while also being committed, loving and honest with their partners.
Our laws and attitudes aren't often consistent, but we can work towards full marriage equality. Readers are asked for their opinions, so if you click through, consider sharing yours.

A comment was left by someone identifying as Jancis M. Andrews, who apparently thinks patriarchal religion-based polygyny under a system of gender inequality is the only form of polygamy that exists...

It is clear that in the 21st century, polygamy is a matter of the equality of women. Canadians do not want concubines and harems in their country. The year is 2013 AD, not 2013 BC, and polygamy belongs to the dark ages when women were considered nothing but chattels.
Yes, there are patriarchal societies that have gender inequality and allow religion-based polygyny only, and people cite problems in those societies, but the problems are not caused by polygamy. They are caused
by sexism and gender inequality under the law.

An adult, REGARDLESS OF GENDER, sexual orientation, race, or religion, should be free to share the fundamental right to marry with ANY consenting ADULTS. It is ridiculous that in most of the US, it is perfectly legal for a woman to love with, have sex with, and have children with two men at the same time, but isn't free to legally marry both at the same time even though they all agree. A woman, like a man, should be free to marry a woman, two women, two men, or men and women.

All the paperwork issues can be resolved. And if paperwork issues could be an excuse to deny fundamental rights, we wouldn't have the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Polygamy and polyamory should not be criminalized nor kept in the shadows. Victims of abuse and coercion would be MORE likely to work with law enforcement if the polygamous freedom to marry was legalized. We need FULL marriage equality! Equality just for some is not equality.
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