Sunday, June 9, 2013
Bucket Of Worms: If Gay Marriage Can Be Legally And Morally Justified, Then Why Not Plural Marriage (Polygamy)?
As you can see in the Wikipedia graphic published above, gay marriage will be legal in 12 U.S. states effective August 1st, 2013. They are Washington, Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Yet despite this, some gay marriage advocates don't believe plural marriages can be justified.
Back on March 23rd, 2006, Slate published an article by William Saletan in which he justifies gay marriage but opposes plural marriage. Saletan writes "Here's the answer. The number isn't two. It's one. You commit to one person, and that person commits wholly to you. Second, the number isn't arbitrary. It's based on human nature. Specifically, on jealousy". However, this explanation in and of itself is arbitrary. Who empowered Saletan to define human nature for the rest of us? In fact, many make the case that a considerable number of men are, by their very nature, polygamous. And women, too, which explains why adultery is so commonplace in contemporary society. In fact, some religions, particularly Islam and the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints, insist that plural marriage is ordained of God, although the Quran imposes a limit of four wives upon Muslim men. Worse yet, Andrew Sullivan, a gay man himself, wants legal gay marriage for himself but would selfishly deny legal marriage to polyamorous groups, writing in 2006 “Legalizing [polygamy] is a bad idea for a society in general for all the usual reasons (abuse of women, the dangers of leaving a pool of unmarried straight men in the population at large, etc.)”.
The bottom line -- if gay marriage is morally and legally justified, so is plural marriage. To claim that gay marriage is O.K. but plural marriage is wrong is intellectually dishonest. It is selfish for gay marriage advocates to get their brand of marriage legalized but freeze out those who believe someone should be allowed to marry more than one spouse. In contrast, bestial marriage could never be justified because only one party, the human, is capable of knowingly consenting to the arrangement. Animals are not capable of giving informed consent.
If the federal government was to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and declare gay marriage to be legal nationwide, they would be opening themselves up to lawsuits to be filed by plural marriage advocates. Both the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints and Muslims would have grounds to sue to get plural marriage recognized, at least for religious purposes. While it is possible that such lawsuits would be rejected since neither religious group recognizes the right of women to have more than one husband, this may not stop them from suing. And although the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has indefinitely suspended the solemnization of plural marriages, there would be a demand for Congress to formally repeal the Edmunds-Tucker Act and other anti-polygamy legislation used by the federal government to oppress Mormons during the latter half of the 19th century.
If you think gay marriage is complicated, think about the additional complexities of plural marriage. How would the law mandate property rights and responsibilities in partial poly divorces? What about the rights and responsibilities of marriage that merge into preexisting marriages? And how about setting default laws for multiple inheritance in the absence of a will, allocating Social Security benefits, etc.
This is just another reason why gay marriage should be rejected. It opens up a big bucket of worms.