FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Polygamy is here.
Now that a small group of people have succeeded in trashing several millenia of human culture for the sake of satisfying their libidos and egos, a curious civil war has broken out. It it between those who actually believe in “marriage equality” (and to grasp this concept you really have to buy into the old time progressive mantra of “all cultures are equal”), that is, that marriage is some sort of human right that exists to make the participants feel good about themselves — you might call this the “Kennedy Position” after his reasoning in Obergefell — and those who simply want homosexuals to be able to marry so they can stick a finger in the eye of people who opposed homosexual marriage.
From the first camp, we have Fredrik DeBoer writing It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy:
To be clear: our lack of legal recognition of group marriages is not the fault of the marriage equality movement. Rather, it’s that the tactics of that movement have made getting to serious discussions of legalized polygamy harder. I say that while recognizing the unprecedented and necessary success of those tactics. I understand the political pragmatism in wanting to hold the line—to not be perceived to be slipping down the slope. To advocate for polygamy during the marriage equality fight may have seemed to confirm the socially conservative narrative, that gay marriage augured a wholesale collapse in traditional values. But times have changed; while work remains to be done, the immediate danger to marriage equality has passed. In 2005, a denial of the right to group marriage stemming from political pragmatism made at least some sense. In 2015, after this ruling, it no longer does.
While important legal and practical questions remain unresolved, with the Supreme Court’s ruling and broad public support, marriage equality is here to stay. Soon, it will be time to turn the attention of social liberalism to the next horizon. Given that many of us have argued, to great effect, that deference to tradition is not a legitimate reason to restrict marriage rights to groups that want them, the next step seems clear. We should turn our efforts towards the legal recognition of marriages between more than two partners. It’s time to legalize polygamy.
DeBoer is right. The progressive mantra that homosexual marriage would not, inexorably, lead to polyamorous marriage (both polygamy and polyandry) was a political tactic designed to get the Great Unwashed to go along with the idea. Hooray. It worked. But as a matter of law, Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell, but particularly in Windsor, made it very clear that marriage is a Constitutional right — never mind that historically marriage has been a privilege bestowed by either the Church or State — and as a right it is difficult to limit its scope.
At the same time, homosexual activist Jonathan Rauch tries to stuff the toothpaste back in the tube… though that may be viewed as a ‘homophobic’ metaphor by some. From No, Polygamy Isn’t the Next Gay Marriage
Yet again, polygamy is very different. Would-be polygamists are not constituted to be capable of loving only groups rather than individuals. Like most people, they can love multiple individuals, but, unlike most people, they want the supplementary option of marrying them all. Their hardship is hardly comparable to exclusion from the institution of marriage; and likening the two claims is as much of a non sequitur as saying that if women get the right to cast one vote, men should have the right to cast two.
So, when the fundamental right at issue in gay marriage is properly understood as the right not to be excluded from marriage, the polygamist claim is not fundamental. I’m sure that won’t stop polygamists and polyamorists from filing lawsuits claiming that the law impermissibly excludes their preferred type of marriage, and that there’s a fundamental right for every type of marriage to be available, and that polygamy is a wonderful thing, and so on. But their case is trivially easy to distinguish from Obergefell, which was based on a very different kind of moral, social, and legal proposition.
Indeed, the two cases are not merely distinguishable: they are antithetical. The principle on which gay marriage won social and judicial approval—the principle that individuals and society are better off when everyone has the opportunity to marry—militates against polygamy, not for it. I think the public and the courts will have the sense to see as much—as will Chief Justice Roberts, when he gets around to thinking a little harder about it.
It might be possible to write a more incoherent screed but it would require Herculean effort. Rauch’s arguments are 1) I say it so it is and 2) it isn’t fair for one high status man to have multiple wives and relegate some underachieving hipster to a life of masturbation while playing on his XBox in his Mom’s basement. No really:
Here’s the problem with it: when a high-status man takes two wives (and one man taking many wives, or polygyny, is almost invariably the real-world pattern), a lower-status man gets no wife. If the high-status man takes three wives, two lower-status men get no wives. And so on.
This competitive, zero-sum dynamic sets off a competition among high-status men to hoard marriage opportunities, which leaves lower-status men out in the cold. Those men, denied access to life’s most stabilizing and civilizing institution, are unfairly disadvantaged and often turn to behaviors like crime and violence. The situation is not good for women, either, because it places them in competition with other wives and can reduce them all to satellites of the man.
I’m not just making this up. There’s an extensive literature on polygamy.
While he might not be literally making up the ‘social science’ literature on the subject… keeping in mind that there are absolutely zero controlled studies in the area… he is making up the arguments he has developed.
First. either from dishonesty or stupidity (your choice) decides the argument is about polygamy, per se. No one, as far as I can determine, has ever made the case that homosexual marriage, which covers ‘males’ and ‘females’, is only limited to one gender, or whatever the cool kids with that smoking hot BA in sociology are calling it this week. In reality it is about multiple partner marriages, a concept that embraces both polygamy and polyandry (for a sad and pathetic take on polyamory read this in The Federalist).
Not only is Rauch’s argument illogical, as Ann Althouse points out, he views women as a commodity to be exploited.
In this view, women are society’s tools, to be used to tame men. If some men are successful in winning too many women — if, after getting one woman, they can continue to take additional women out of the pool of potential wives — then there are fewer women left over to do the dirty work of civilizing the less desirable men, men who, undomesticated, run wild and do destructive things.
The situation is not good for women, either, because it places them in competition with other wives and can reduce them all to satellites of the man.
But that’s just offering the advice to women that, in general, polygamous marriages are a bad choice. It’s not an explanation of why the choice should be denied to individual women who decide that a particular polygamous marriage they’re considering is a good one, better than their other options.
Rauch says there might be “competition with other wives.” But the idea of his bag-limit theory is to put more women in competition with all the other unmarried women and thereby to make the competition for women easier for men. Why can’t the individual woman choose which kind of competition she prefers (competition with other wives or competition with other unmarried women)? The answer seems to be: Because we want to preserve the supply of women to increase the odds of matching them up with less desirable men lest these low quality men wreak havoc on society in general.
In fact, Althouse’s critique works just as well across the board. Rauch is assuming that the first practitioners of polygamy would be heterosexual. There is really no reason to believe that would be the case. A better model would be a ‘high status’ homosexual male gathering a harem and leaving ‘low status’ homosexual males, like, for instance, Rauch, with their Xbox and a Costco-sized container of Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion. Indeed, for a relationship based completely upon sexual gratification, like a homosexual marriage, a harem system is a logical and reasonable outcome.
Back in 1878, the United States Supreme Court, back when it was concerned with law and stuff and not with where it ranked on the latest Gallup Poll, ruled in Reynolds versus United States that it was not only allowed to criminalize polygamy, even though it was a religious practice, but that is was laudable to do so.
Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void (2 Kent, Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offence against society. After the establishment of the ecclesiastical courts, and until the time of James I., it was punished through the instrumentality of those tribunals, not merely because ecclesiastical rights had been violated, but because upon the separation of the ecclesiastical courts from the civil the ecclesiastical were supposed to be the most appropriate for the trial of matrimonial causes and offences against the rights of marriage, just as they were for testamentary causes and the settlement of the estates of deceased persons.
In passing it refers to several federal acts that specifically outlawed polygamy, see note 28, page 9 for more detail on those laws. When reduced to its essence, the legal reasoning used by the Supreme Court was soundly rejected by Anthony Kennedy in Windsor.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.”
But both DeBoer and Rauch are approaching this from the point of view that polygamy is the next step. They are wrong. Polygamy exists in the United States. It was ushered in on Friday by five unelected judges. It is difficult to see how Anthony Kennedy’s pathetic cri de coeur in Obergefell:
Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. See Windsor, supra, at ___.
is any more applicable to homosexual pairings that are biologically incapable of producing children — and which do a poor job of rearing them — and polygamous groupings that produced children the old fashioned way and have not been shown to be detrimental to the welfare of children.
As conservatives we should embrace this brave new world where the 14th Amendment has taken on the stretchability of a super-size condom. Polygamy is at least understandable socially, historically and biologically.