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John 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.
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.
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.Published in