A constant bubble-up in the same-sex marriage debate is that legalizing same-sex civil (not religious) marriage would lead us down a slipperly slope ending with 3-year olds marrying dogs and Karl Rove being frog-marched out of the White House wearing a diaper. And usually polygamy is brought up as the first slip down the slope… but I’m not sure what polygamy, on its face, has that is so bad. My understanding is that it is the polygamy that exists – that it subverts the power relationships between men and women and opens the door to domestic abuse and violence – because polygamy in theory – not practice doesn’t seem terrible to me. That it is more likely to mean minors married into the unions and child abuse. Anyone have historical context to help me out? I may sound like a dumass. I just always thought the argument was that polygamy engenders certain relatinonships and power plays that almost always mean less equality for women.
What About Polygamy?
5 responses to “What About Polygamy?”
Can’t help you on the historical front, but I know a lot of people who might be described as polygamous, and not on a patriarchal, abusive basis — some who have formed large intentional families, and others in open marriages and other less-structured polyamorous relationships. In every case that I can think of, the women involved are powerful individuals who wouldn’t accept any situation in which they were “less equal”. I suspect that your concern arises from the most highly publicized and not necessarily the most common, benign forms of polygamy going on. Myself, I just celebrated my 20th anniversary in a very old-fashioned, monogamous, heterosexual, legal marriage, but I’m all in favor of legalizing polygamy for whoever wants it — with the proviso that minors are protected, of course — but that applies to any kind of marriage.
Unfortunately the problem here is one of feasibility, and little else. As it stands now, marriage as a union entitles a spouse to the majority of the benefits his or her partner receives. Take Health Insurance as an example. If Angelina marries Tom, Angelina’s Health Insurance now covers both Angelina and Tom. Ditto for like, 8,382 other now-shared factors.
Consider now what would happen to Insurance companies if I, David, could free anybody in the world from the financial heartache of not having medical insurance, by paying a one-time fee of $25.00 to become married to them in Delaware. Indeed, how would Insurance Companies respond to a man who claims that his 27 wives are all married to him, and therefore all entitled to Health Insurance? As well as their 63 children.
And does the man collect the social security from any of his wives who die before him? Or is that social security split between all the remaining people under the ‘marriage umbrella?’ In fact, is it possible for Tom to marry Angelina, and for me to marry Tom, without me being married to Angelina? Does that mean there’s two types of polygamy marriages? Individual and Group?
And if we Group Marry and adopt a child, which two of the three of us are its parents? Do we all get visitation? Does the man with 27 wives have to pay (63*100) over $6300 dollars a week in child support? Or does every wife and husband have to pay (63*100/28) $225 dollars a week to each other wife? Or would it depend on whether they’re group-married or all individual-married to the man? And what if 18 of the wives were all together group-married to the man — how much child support do the other 19 who are individual-married to him get?
Can you be involved in more than one group marriage? And if there are two group-marriages whose only shared factor is me, what happens to each if I divorce one of them?
Can you see the insanity that results from this? I’m not in favor of disposing of marriage as a whole. Between two people, it’s a manageable social contract. Beyond two people, it is a NIGHTMARE.
It’s a SIN, Andy. That’s why! 😉
David, you raise some valid concerns, but I don’t really see all that as a nightmare — just a lot of administrative details to be worked out. Sure, we’ll have to retool a few laws and a few conventions. But are you suggesting that we shouldn’t embrace social freedoms because they’ll be inconvenient for the bean-counters and bureaucrats? Or do you have more substantial objections?