Same sex marriage will pave the way for polygamy

(*for those who have already read this, please scroll down to read a clarification I made later in this post regarding polygamy*)

Katherine Kersten writes a spot-on piece about what legalizing gay marriage will eventually lead to on down the line: legalization of polygamy. She opines:

The Minnesota Legislature is considering proposing a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Many opponents claim that definition is antiquated and discriminatory. A committed relationship should be the only criterion for marriage, they say.

But wait. What if a person loves two people, or three or more? If “one man-one woman” is a discriminatory limitation on the choice of a life partner, on what grounds can the state logically restrict marriage to two people? The fact is, once you adopt same-sex marriage — legally changing the standard for marriage from one-man, one-woman to a “committed relationship” — there is no principled way to prevent its extension to polygamy or other forms of “plural marriage” or partnership.


Did you catch HBO’s new prime-time series, “Big Love,” which premiered Sunday? It’s about a Utah man married to three wives.

The creators of “Big Love” are a gay couple, Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, who say that the same-sex marriage debate spurred their interest in the topic.

They seek to normalize polygamy by treating it in a “non-judgmental” way.

“It’s everything that every family faces, just times three,” Olsen told Newsweek. “We’d like them to be America’s next great family,” Scheffer told the New York Times.

“Big Love” is just a TV show, you say? But cultural expression can pack a powerful wallop – witness the much ballyhooed bid by “Brokeback Mountain” to normalize same-sex attraction. Influential voices are already calling for allowing polygamy. Last week, New York Times libertarian columnist John Tierney endorsed itslegalization in a column titled “Who’s afraid of polygamy?”

Acceptance of polygamy might already be on the horizon in Canada, which recently recognized same-sex marriage. In January a Canadian Justice Department report called for the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy, and warned the nation to prepare for a court challenge to two-person marriage. In a 2003 survey, 20 percent of Canadians said they are willing to accept polygamy.

Here in America, professors at elite law schools such as Yale and Columbia are laying the groundwork for legal recognition of committed relationships of three or more. Drawing on concepts borrowed from civil rights law, they say they aim to protect “sexual minorities” from discrimination.

Redefining marriage to include people of the same sex will open a Pandora’s box. As a New Jersey appellate court judge wrote recently, if “marriage [is] … couched only in terms of privacy, intimacy, and autonomy, then what non-arbitrary ground is there for denying the benefit to polygamous … unions whose members claim the arrangement is necessary for their self-fulfillment?”

What’s the likely endpoint? Marriage may be redefined out of existence, and replaced by a flexible, contract-based system of government-registered relationships. So get ready. Today gay marriage supporters’ mantra is, “How does my same-sex marriage harm your marriage?” Down the road it may be, “How does my marriage of two men and a woman harm your marriage?” If we don’t answer the first question with resolve — making clear that “one man-one woman” is at the heart of marriage in Minnesota — we may not have a chance to answer the second.

Charles Krauthammer is on the same page:

As Newsweek notes, these stirrings for the mainstreaming of polygamy (or, more accurately, polyamory) have their roots in the increasing legitimization of gay marriage. In an essay 10 years ago, I pointed out that it is utterly logical for polygamy rights to follow gay rights. After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one’s autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement — the number restriction (two and only two) — is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice.

Here are some snippets from the Newsweek article he references:

Not anymore. Hammon, who’s involved in a polygamous relationship, is a founding member of the Centennial Park Action Committee, a group that lobbies for decriminalization of the practice. She’s among a new wave of polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement—just as a federal lawsuit challenging anti-polygamy laws makes its way through the courts and a new show about polygamy debuts on HBO. “Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle,” says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy. Henkel and Hammon have been joined by other activist groups like Principle Voices, a Utah-based group run by wives from polygamous marriages. Activists point to Canada, where, in January, a report commissioned by the Justice Department recommended decriminalizing polygamy.

There’s a sound legal argument for making the controversial practice legal, says Brian Barnard, the lawyer for a Utah couple, identified in court documents only as G. Lee Cooke and D. Cooke, who filed suit after being denied a marriage license for an additional wife. Though the case was struck down by a federal court last year, it’s now being considered by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Barnard plans to use the same argument—that Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 sodomy case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals have “the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention,” should also apply to polygamous relationships.

And there you have it.

I wrote about the slippery slope of redefining marriage back in July 2005, echoing similar points as Kersten and Krauthammer.

The Pandora’s box has been opened. Proponents of same sex marriage have long argued that legalizing gay marriage would not pave the way for legalization of polygamy. With the legalization of gay mariage in Massachusetts as well as Canada, the pro-polygamy crowd is gearing up for a battle of their own, using the Massachusetts and Canadian laws as (as well as Lawrence V. Taylor 2003) for their inspiration and ‘legal backing.’ And for those who think just because gay marriage is legal in Canada doesn’t mean it will be legal here because US law is the sole guiding force behind court rulings, think again.

Bottom line: Once you start redefining marriage, you can’t stop. Don’t let they gay marriage proponents’ arguments that you are a “bigot” for being against the redefinition of marriage deter you. Bigotry denotes intolerance for other groups outside of your own. Being desirous of keeping the definition of marriage as being that of the union between one man and one woman is not “intolerance for other groups.” Gay couples and polygamous families [Edited to add the following clarification: My wording on this was poor – I don’t support polygamy. What I should have said was “groups” of people involved in polygamous-like relationships (one “boyfriend and several girlfriends” or the opposite) can do what they want in the privacy of their own homes as long as they aren’t breaking the law. — ST] can do what they want to do – just don’t ask the state to legally recognize it … and don’t ask me to “accept” it. I’ll be tolerant about it, but I won’t accept (read: be ok with) it.

Read more commentary via Powerline

Related Toldjah So posts:

Comments are closed.