Is Polygamy Next?

 

shutterstock_124665844-2John Roberts seems to think so. From his dissent in Obergefell:

Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.

He continues:

It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage. If “[t]here is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices,” ante, at 13, why would there be any less dignity in the bond between three people who, in exercising their autonomy, seek to make the profound choice to marry? If a same-sex couple has the constitutional right to marry because their children would otherwise “suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” ante, at 15, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to a family of three or more persons raising children? If not having the opportunity to marry “serves to disrespect and subordinate” gay and lesbian couples, why wouldn’t the same “imposition of this disability,” ante, at 22, serve to disrespect and subordinate people who find fulfillment in polyamorous relationships? See Bennett, Polyamory: The Next Sexual Revolution? Newsweek, July 28, 2009 (estimating 500,000 polyamorous families in the United States); Li, Married Lesbian “Throuple” Expecting First Child, N. Y. Post, Apr. 23, 2014; Otter, Three May Not Be a Crowd: The Case for a Constitutional Right to Plural Marriage, 64 Emory L. J. 1977 (2015).

I do not mean to equate marriage between same-sex couples with plural marriages in all respects. There may well be relevant differences that compel different legal analysis. But if there are, petitioners have not pointed to any. When asked about a plural marital union at oral argument, petitioners asserted that a State “doesn’t have such an institution.” Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 2, p. 6. But that is exactly the point: the States at issue here do not have an institution of same-sex marriage, either.

In theory, slippery slopes do not exist. Jonah Goldberg has argued that in democracies, the people draw lines where they want them. And in the case of SSM, I’ve heard arguments (albeit strained) from proponents as to why, in Roberts’s phrase, “the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not”.

But in practice, the slippery slope is real. Once people pushing for policy X get their way, they almost never stick around to help defend against the next encroachment. Instead they tend to lose interest, and vacate the field. Do you expect SSM advocates to now turn around and forcefully argue for “only two”? Neither do I. So down the slope we slide.

Exhibit A is an article in Politico, only the latest mainstream outfit to publish an op-ed endorsing the descent.

Polyamory is a fact. People are living in group relationships today. The question is not whether they will continue on in those relationships. The question is whether we will grant to them the same basic recognition we grant to other adults: that love makes marriage, and that the right to marry is exactly that, a right.

Civilization’s ultimate renunciation of polygamy was part of a strengthening of the rights of women and the protection of children. As traditional marriage erodes, whether through unmarried couplings, SSM, or polygamy, people may be surprised by the collateral damage wreaked on society’s weakest members.

Then again, maybe it will not come to pass. Roberts notes that there is no logical basis for failing to extending the Obergefell reasoning to polygamy. However, earlier this week, in King v. Burwell, Roberts demonstrated that reasoning and logic matter little in the law these days. So perhaps there is hope after all.

There are 141 comments.

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  1. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    The next issue is the liberal states outlawing freedom of religion. This will be not allowed nationally because of deference to Islam.

    But with regards to society’s weakest members, those not killed in utero, the damage is brutal already. The feminist movement in their quests undid their sacred place in our workd. They also undid their role in nurturing our future. We are done for.
    Nice post.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Doc, it is Christianity that will be outlawed.  Islam will be allowed to carry on unscathed.  I have said it numerous times here before, if you are not arming yourself, you are not paying attention.

    • #2
  3. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Son,

    This is a comedy of terrors. We are reinventing the moral wheel. Thousands of years of moral experience have been thrown down a well for the sake of a group of people who exhibit a form of mental illness and wish instead to be considered an oppressed minority.

    Only Heterosexual Monogamy qualifies as Marriage. After a very long period of the most hideous machinations we will get ourselves back to this. An a priori moral truth is not culturally dependent all. That means a great deal of damage will be done while we stumble around.

    So it goes.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    James Gawron:Son,

    This is a comedy of terrors. We are reinventing the moral wheel.

    Did he just talk about morality in a decision made by five lawyers?

    • #4
  5. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Though that slippery slope does exist, it will be impeded somewhat by historical context. Gay unions, formally recognized by the state, have no history to color the idea. Polygamy, on the other hand, is generally regarded as barbaric by modern Westerners who perceive most of antiquity as barbaric.

    Ironically, incest and pedophilia might gain ground first. The marrying of first cousins is already normal in some parts of England, as I recall, among immigrant populations. Steyn has written about those statistics occassionally.

    • #5
  6. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Arahant:

    James Gawron:Son,

    This is a comedy of terrors. We are reinventing the moral wheel.

    Did he just talk about morality in a decision made by five lawyers?

    Ari,

    OK OK. Lawyer jokes.

    1) How can you tell if a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.

    2) The Rabbi explained “Don’t ever tell lawyer jokes. The lawyers won’t like it and the rest of the congregation will think it’s the truth.”

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
  7. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Aaron Miller: The marrying of first cousins is already normal in some parts of England, as I recall, among immigrant populations.

    Members of those “immigrant” (often second- or third-generation Pakistanis) groups in the UK have actually filed for welfare benefits for second wives. So these things can go hand in hand.

    I’m less sanguine about the cultural barriers; they may be more flimsy than you think. As Roberts notes, “from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.” Those cultures include not only Islam and Mormonism, but my own Orthodox Judaism. The Bible and tradition discourage polygamy, but do not prohibit them (as they do homosexual unions). There are fringe religious movements that already seek to reinstitute domestic arrangements common to Abraham and Jacob.

    And since we already welcome immigrants from places that practice polygamy, it seems likely to me that the pressure to recognize their existing domestic arrangements will increase.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aaron Miller: Ironically, incest and pedophilia might gain ground first. The marrying of first cousins is already normal in some parts of England…

    That was normal for thousands of years in England, before the “immigrant” groups got there. My family tree meets itself coming and going.

    • #8
  9. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Two things. Yes, polygamy follows from the same logic. And it’s not that slippery slopes don’t “exist,” it’s that their existence doesn’t show that an earlier part of the slope is incorrect.

    • #9
  10. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    I don’t know if polygamy will become legal from this ruling or not.

    But I’m doubtful that polygamy will spread unless nature starts producing many more women than men.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Al Sparks:I don’t know if polygamy will become legal from this ruling or not.

    But I’m doubtful that polygamy will spread unless nature starts producing many more women than men.

    Or many more men die younger, as in wars. That was the old-fashioned cause of a surfeit of women.

    • #11
  12. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    The slippery slope is not a fallacy. Mid-applying it is.

    • #12
  13. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    I don’t really think this is a “slippery slope” argument.  It just comes down to if marriage means everything, it doesn’t mean anything.  If you take away the procreation/family aspect of marriage then really what’s the argument against SSM, polygamy or defining anything as marriage that isn’t illegal outside of marriage now?  There is nothing preventing multiple partners from being in a relationship now and they could define themselves as “in love.”  If that is the only requirement for the right to marry then I really don’t see any legal prevention of polygamy.

    • #13
  14. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Concretevol:I don’t really think this is a “slippery slope” argument. It just comes down to if marriage means everything, it doesn’t mean anything. If you take away the procreation/family aspect of marriage then really what’s the argument against SSM, polygamy or defining anything as marriage that isn’t illegal outside of marriage now? There is nothing preventing multiple partners from being in a relationship now and they could define themselves as “in love.” If that is the only requirement for the right to marry then I really don’t see any legal prevention of polygamy.

    Right.  That’s exactly a slippery slope argument, and it is not a fallacy.  It is a valid argument in this case.

    • #14
  15. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Mike H:Two things. Yes, polygamy follows from the same logic. And it’s not that slippery slopes don’t “exist,” it’s that their existence doesn’t show that an earlier part of the slope is incorrect.

    Well said.

    • #15
  16. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Al Sparks:I don’t know if polygamy will become legal from this ruling or not.

    But I’m doubtful that polygamy will spread unless nature starts producing many more women than men.

    Now *this* is a fallacy.  Polygamous societies adapt by empowering men to own women, and powerful men to dispose of juveniles.  This is a false dilemma.  “If not B, then A, because I claim that all not-B is A.”

    We have seen plenty of polygamous societies without biology changing.  I think it is reasonable to interpret “will spread” to mean “become culturally significant”, not “reach some as-yet unmentioned threshold far in excess of culturally significant”.

    • #16
  17. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    In my mind it’s not just easier to take things further and further (slippery slope) but a huge step where I don’t see any logical arguments disallowing it based on the reasoning of the court for ssm. I totally agree with the guys on the PowerLine podcast and others that this question should be decided democratically by the states, not by 5 lawyers.

    • #17
  18. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    I find it fascinating that anybody put any faith in “cultural barriers” after this week.  It is laughable.

    • #18
  19. user_998621 Member
    user_998621
    @Liz

    Son of Spengler:

    Aaron Miller: The marrying of first cousins is already normal in some parts of England, as I recall, among immigrant populations.

    Members of those “immigrant” (often second- or third-generation Pakistanis) groups in the UK have actually filed for welfare benefits for second wives. So these things can go hand in hand.

    I’m less sanguine about the cultural barriers; they may be more flimsy than you think. As Roberts notes, “from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.” Those cultures include not only Islam and Mormonism, but my own Orthodox Judaism. The Bible and tradition discourage polygamy, but do not prohibit them (as they do homosexual unions). There are fringe religious movements that already seek to reinstitute domestic arrangements common to Abraham and Jacob.

    And since we already welcome immigrants from places that practice polygamy, it seems likely to me that the pressure to recognize their existing domestic arrangements will increase.

    Excellent comment.

    • #19
  20. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    First cousins are allowed to marry in many, many states already (somewhat less than half): http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-laws-regarding-marriages-between-first-cousi.aspx

    I’ve been arguing, too, that the “Constitutional” arguments for same-sex marriage open the door wide for polygamy, and that polygamy has a much greater claim to legitimacy. In fact, while I’m against polygamy, I’ve got to disagree with the oft-repeated statements from our side that marriage “means” one man and one woman. Our own culture’s distant past proves otherwise.

    But I don’t know that that will be the next step taken in our slippery slope, because the [CoC redacted] decisions made a lot out of this concept of “identity.” That’s a recent innovation, and it’s not how most of us think of the world. But to the sociology students and the activists who eat up this kind of thing, these laws aren’t restrictions on clearly-defined *behavior*, equally applied to all (as we see them), but rather discriminatory laws aimed at clearly-defined *identity groups*, where those groups are defined by their desire to commit this behavior.

    So I think the next step on the slippery slope is finding the next-most-likely identity group. First cousins, married in one state, are not regarded as married in over half the other states. So there is a big split across the country there, but I don’t see people-who-want-to-marry-their-first-cousins as much of an identity group. Polygamists have a head start here, since there have been organized groups of polygamists in this country since the early Mormons, and fringe sects of them still today. The fights with the states and the Feds gives them a cache of oppression, and you’ve got the religious angle to complete the identity picture.

    But as for the “I feel born this way” aspect of “identity,” it might be the pedophiles next. The age of consent varies from state to state, giving them an excuse to push the Court for national uniformity. The problem here is that the gay-rights movement has long made a big deal of “two consenting adults,” and the age of consent laws are specifically written with the idea of protecting a vulnerable person. That’s going to be hard for them to overcome.

    But given its starkly ahistorical nature, I had thought the same thing about same-sex marriage fifteen years ago, and I was wrong.

    • #20
  21. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Son of Spengler: . Among conservatives, Jonah Goldberg has argued that in democracies, the people draw lines where they want them.

     Roberts notes that there is no logical basis for failing to extending the Obergefell reasoning to polygamy. However, earlier this week, in King v. Burwell, Roberts demonstrated that reasoning and logic matter little in the law these days. So perhaps there is hope after all.

    In this case, it may be less where “the people” draw the lines and instead where Anthony Kennedy draws the line.

    If you follow his reasoning consistently, I think that’s where you end up.  But I’m not sure how far even he will follow his own reasoning.  This was his goal — we don’t know if he has another.

    • #21
  22. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Son of Spengler: Son of Spengler Aaron Miller: The marrying of first cousins is already normal in some parts of England, as I recall, among immigrant populations. Members of those “immigrant” (often second- or third-generation Pakistanis) groups in the UK have actually filed for welfare benefits for second wives. So these things can go hand in hand.

    I’m currently working in a Middle Eastern country where it’s the norm.

    In my 30 years of medical practice I have never seen so many cases of hereditary genetic illness.  It’s quite the educational experience.

    Would not recommend it.

    • #22
  23. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Son of Spengler: Among conservatives, Jonah Goldberg has argued that in democracies, the people draw lines where they want them.

    Apparently it’s not the people who decide anything. It’s the Judicial Tyranny that does.

    • #23
  24. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Al Sparks:I don’t know if polygamy will become legal from this ruling or not.

    But I’m doubtful that polygamy will spread unless nature starts producing many more women than men.

    It’s quite common is countries already with balanced populations.  What happens is the powerful, the connected, the rich get to marry multiple women, the poor and powerless go without.

    • #24
  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Stay safe, Kozak.  Bring the goats in at night.

    • #25
  26. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Ball Diamond Ball:Stay safe, Kozak. Bring the goats in at night.

    I’m literally counting the days.  It’s been interesting, but I’m so ready to come home, even though I don’t recognize much of it as home anymore…

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Kozak:

    Ball Diamond Ball:Stay safe, Kozak. Bring the goats in at night.

    I’m literally counting the days. It’s been interesting, but I’m so ready to come home, even though I don’t recognize much of it as home anymore…

    Tell me about it.  I’ve been bouncing around overseas for about twenty years, and would like to make that LESS than an even twenty.

    • #27
  28. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Kozak:

    Ball Diamond Ball:Stay safe, Kozak. Bring the goats in at night.

    I’m literally counting the days. It’s been interesting, but I’m so ready to come home, even though I don’t recognize much of it as home anymore…

    Tell me about it. I’ve been bouncing around overseas for about twenty years, and would like to make that LESS than an even twenty.

    I’m going to live from now on by the motto “The best revenge is to live well”.

    • #28
  29. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Ball Diamond Ball:Stay safe, Kozak. Bring the goats in at night.

    There’s this pro tip too….

    To Avoid MERS don’t drink camel urine

    • #29
  30. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Kozak:

    Ball Diamond Ball:Stay safe, Kozak. Bring the goats in at night.

    There’s this pro tip too….

    To Avoid MERS don’t drink camel urine

    Check.

    • #30

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