• Thu, Mar 10 2011

Poll: Do You Think Polygamy Should Be Legal?

OK, full disclosure: I’m addicted to “Big Love.” In fact, I’m about to watch the most recent episode, which I’ve DVRed and been holding out for all week. DON’T TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS.

Anyway, the show — and it’s reality cousin, “Sister Wives” — bring up the universal question: should polygamy be legal?

Generally, arguments against polygamy are either that it’s morally wrong, or that it leads to young girls being wed to old men against their will. Arguments for it are that polygamists are just like us, but with different beliefs.

Well, my thinking is this. There’s a big difference between consenting adults deciding to be in a relationship of their choosing, and children being forced to get married, and the two should not be considered in the same breath. I don’t care what anyone’s morality dictates — if a bunch of people want to marry each other, it’s none of our business to tell them they can or they can’t. If a kid’s being married off at the age of 14, the law should step in.

Now, there’s one other argument against polygamy, that goes something like this: women who are in polygamous relationships have been brainwashed, and so are incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not they should be in the marriages they’re in.

And sadly, it may be true that some women have never had the chance to consider a life outside of polygamy. But my opinion about the legality of it doesn’t change. We might not like how those women were raised (assuming they entered their relationships as adults), but guess what? There are plenty of people out there who might not like how you were raised, or how I was raised, and the choices we make because of our upbringings. That doesn’t mean they should be able to step in and outlaw those choices. (And I’m not just talking about shmashmortion — what about people who think women who work are ruining society?) In other words, whether we like it or not, we as a society shouldn’t be in the business of telling grown women (or men) what’s right for them and what isn’t.

What do you think?

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  • Futualon

    Is plural marriage morally wrong? I think no. Will it be legalized before the majority of people agree that it’s not? No. Should it be legalized? No, and here’s why. My fellow californians may recall the recent ballot initiative for legalizing pot for recreational use by adults. It didn’t pass because, even though most people here are for it in theory, the wording of the measure failed to address crucial legal questions. For example, it did not specify if it was legal to drive or operate heavy equipment high, or teach schoolchildren while high. These problems must be addressed before it will be passed.
    Similarly, no pro polyamory legislation will ever have a chance unless it clarifies how multiple spouses can, for example, inherit property, share custody, file taxes, claim health benefits, claim government assistance, and so forth.
    However similarly polarizing gay marriage legislation is sound because two men can deal with such problems in the same manner as a woman and man.
    Now here’s a question, how many men want a brother husband?

  • Lo

    Legislative problems aside, I’d be okay with polygamy if a) all spouses were consenting adults, and b) the marriage could involve any combination of sexes rather than being polygyny-only (or polyandry-only, but here I have to take a break to laugh). Same as a two-person marriage, really. The issue of consent is the main thing – in a secretive, male-headed, strictly religious community, it’s very hard to be sure that these women have more choices than to become sister wives.

  • LaLa

    Why is it that if an old man who lives in a mansion has three blonde girlfriends they get a TV show (Girls Next Door)? But people who want to have loving, committed relationships and raise their kids in a stable home are persecuted and charged with a crime? It doesn’t make sense.

  • Sarah

    Forced Polygamy and underage Polygamy I do not agree with. Consenting adults that want to to be involved in a multiple partner marriage, more power to them. I just have a hard time believing these women are happy. If they are happy, then why should we deny them the right to have a plural marriage. But if this is a forced situation I do not agree with it. Either way….I’m on the fence.

    I really like what you all wrote above me! Great Great points!

  • Carolyn

    Personally, I can’t imagine having to share a man with other women….. Creepiness and jealously issues aside, I need way too much attention for that to work out. How would he have time to listen about ALL the women’s days? Or have enough alone time? And how do sleeping arrangements work? One giant bed? Or does he rotate….. I want my man in my bed every night once I get married, to me that would be a very important part….. All that being said, I think it should be legal if it’s what people want to do, but I just can’t understand WHY they’d want to do it….

  • Eileen

    I agree with Futualon. I have no problem with people being polygamous, but since marriage bestows a ton of legal rights upon a person’s spouse, it will take a lot of work to make clear and fair laws about what rights each partner has. For example: In a situation where a man has two wives, are the two women equally “married” to each other? What if he has two wives and marries a third – do the previous wives have to sign the marriage license as well? Is one person in multiple marriages, or are several people in ONE marriage? – do multiple spouses have rights to each other’s property? What about children? Do people other than a child’s biological parents have parental rights, and who makes that determination? Polygamy can’t just be “made” legal; it needs to be codified in a way that is considered fair to all parties.

  • Michele

    i would never be part of a polygamous relationship but not everyone is like me, so who am i to judge what people want to do with their lives? i pretty much agree with everything said in this article.

  • Laura

    as said before, fine in principle but the devil is in the detail

  • Inez Deborah Emilia Altar

    I wonder if it would not be wise to allow Muslims and Sephardic Jews to practice polygamy for religious reasons, due to the Constitutional permission for freedom of religion, but they could bring this matter up themselves via lobby, the same might apply to Mormons but I am not impressed by the history of their sect, it does diminish the status of marriage on the spiritual plane, and it might lead to moral prostitution with polygamy among millionaires, it also would limit the availability of the husband to the woman, and would require for an economically fair basis working wives, polyfidelity on which there is a study from the Northwest University or similar is fairer but maybe dubious healthwise as long as focuses of prostitution remain, but maybe healthwise acceptable among partners who have not previously practiced random promiscuity, or grossly “serial monogamy”, i.e. too many partners in too short a space of time, however that also reduces the Western spiritual dimension of marriage in its conventional concept.

  • Inez Deborah Emilia Altar

    Besides as to polygamy it can easily represent not an admired prince or hero surrounded by impassioned women or women devoted to the point of losing self-respect but not lacking in sexual urges, but a master with females/whores, and it may be chosen by some women where there is a high female/male ratio otherwise it leaves men without partners which is undesirable in a large population, whereas where there is a high female/male ratio it may reduce population growth, and be satisfying to some types of women, but nonetheless it can lead to loneliness and disagreeable sexual proximity to women.