Polygamy: The Next Marriage Fight

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The push to legalize “gay marriage” is about far more than equality. It’s about dismantling the institution of marriage altogether.

Marriage only makes sense as a societal construct when it is defined as the union of one man and one woman. Marriage is valuable to society insofar as it creates familial stability and brings about the conception and education of new citizens. It behooves the state to incentivize the continuation of the population, and thus, the flourishing of the nation.

This is why those pushing to redefine marriage really just want put an end to it. As it stands, the institution of marriage excludes those relationships that do not provide a demonstrable benefit to society. Those in unconventional relationships seek not only inclusion, but legitimacy. They want the same rights, the same incentives, as are currently provided to those in traditional marriages. And they know the only way to make that happen is to take the existing system apart. Taken further, they want to ensure that anyone opposing the push to legitimize and sanction non-traditional sexual behavior under the misnomer of marriage is ostracized and treated as a bigot.

It is my belief that the fight to resist gay marriage in America has already been lost. I know there are many who disagree. But even now, as I write this, I just received a notification that a federal judge in Norfolk struck down the gay marriage ban here in Virginia today, saying that it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

The states are falling like dominoes. Even the ones that formerly held fast.

We know that the push for universal acceptance of gay marriage will lead to the inclusion of other relationships formerly considered deviant. We’ve even seen efforts to de-stigmatize criminal sexual behavior like pedophilia.

But the next fight is already here, and it’s about something else. It’s the push to legitimize and decriminalize polygamy. And it’s happening now. Why? Jillian Keenan made the case last April at Slate:

While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.

If you’re like me, you may be thinking, “Surely, a female writer at Slate doesn’t think that a polygamous marriage — which almost always involves a multiple-wife, not a multiple-husband arrangement — fits the standards of post-modern feminism.”

Evidently, that’s not a problem for Keenan.

[P]rohibiting polygamy on “feminist” grounds—that these marriages are inherently degrading to the women involved—is misguided. The case for polygamy is, in fact, a feminist one and shows women the respect we deserve. Here’s the thing: As women, we really can make our own choices. We just might choose things people don’t like. If a woman wants to marry a man, that’s great. If she wants to marry another woman, that’s great too. If she wants to marry a hipster, well—I suppose that’s the price of freedom.

And if she wants to marry a man with three other wives, that’s her damn choice.

We have a tendency to dismiss or marginalize people we don’t understand. We see women in polygamous marriages and assume they are victims. “They grew up in an unhealthy environment,” we say. “They didn’t really choose polygamy; they were just born into it.” Without question, that is sometimes true. But it’s also true of many (too many) monogamous marriages. Plenty of women, polygamous or otherwise, are born into unhealthy environments that they repeat later in life. There’s no difference. All marriages deserve access to the support and resources they need to build happy, healthy lives, regardless of how many partners are involved. Arguments about whether a woman’s consensual sexual and romantic choices are “healthy” should have no bearing on the legal process. And while polygamy remains illegal, women who choose this lifestyle don’t have access to the protections and benefits that legal marriage provides.

Keenan’s observations, however, seem odd when contrasted against those of women who have actually been through it. At LifeSiteNews this week, Kirsten Anderson relates a different perspective on polygamy:

A woman who lived in a polygamous ‘marriage’ in Utah for 18 years has spoken out to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, telling the paper that despite practitioners’ increasing push for public acceptance and legal recognition, all is not well behind closed doors.

“The only way that I can explain it is like living with adultery on a daily basis, and having the woman come home,” said Marion Munn, who spoke to the Daily Mail after a federal judge struck down Utah’s anti-cohabitation law, which the state had previously used to prosecute polygamists.

Munn says that although she despised the idea of polygamy, she was convinced by her religious superiors that she risked God’s wrath if she failed to submit to the lifestyle.

“Certainly within Mormon-based polygamy, it’s not really much of a choice, because Mormon scriptures teach a woman that if she doesn’t consent to living in polygamy, God’s going to destroy her,” Munn told the Daily Mail. “So for me going into it, I didn’t personally want to live it, but I felt compelled to as a matter of faith.”

The experience that Munn relates is hardly shocking. It’s pretty obvious common sense. In their respective articles, both Keenan and Anderson refer to the TLC reality series Sister Wives, which features the Brown family, who live in an openly polygamous relationship. But the experience of real sister wives certainly seems less polished and presentable. And these opinions aren’t new. Some of them have been in print for well over a century.

‘Better off dead’ is a concept revisited again and again in the gripping 1882 treatise The Women of Mormonism: The Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves, which is filled with firsthand accounts of suffering by ‘sister wives’ in polygamous households.

“The house was a perfect hell, and every polygamous household is,” wrote one woman. “I defy any man or woman in [Utah] Territory to cite one instance of a polygamous household where there is anything approaching harmony – where there is not bickering, constant jealousy and heart-aches, even where the semblance of good relations is most rigidly observed.”

“[Polygamy] renders man coarse, tyrannical, brutal, and heartless,” wrote another woman.  “It deals death to all sentiments of true womanhood. It enslaves and ruins woman. It crucifies every God-given feeling of her nature. She is taught that to love her husband as her heart prompts her to do, and to feel the natural jealousy that comes from seeing her husband marry another woman, is wicked, and springs from her innate depravity; that she must crush out and annihilate all such feelings.”

Yet another wrote, “How can a wife have those holy and tender feelings which should always be associated with the marriage tie, and which are inseparable from a true union, when she can speak, and to all appearances calmly, of her husband’s having ‘gone to stay with some other woman?’ What ideas of home love and home associations can children have who talk about ‘father’s week at the other house,’ and who discuss freely which woman is his favorite, and why she is so, and which woman’s children he is most indulgent to, and provides for the best?”

We’ve been hearing a steady (if surreptitious) drumbeat in the media about those misunderstood “polyamorous” relationships for years now. And here we are: the push for polygamy as an accepted societal institution is upon us, following close on the heels of the successful campaign to legitimize and legalize gay marriage.

To my mind, only God, and His Church, can define what marriage truly is. Despite my belief that the state has a legitimate role in incentivizing marriage and the procreation of children as a societal good, my inclination to find a way to get their grabby hands out of the marriage business remains strong. I worry that the power they wield over the institution of marriage is the very reason it is being so aggressively redefined. Perhaps if the government had less to do with telling people who can married and who can not, its recognition of marriage would be less of a prize to be sought after, campaigned for, and used as an ideological cudgel to destroy the true institution. Then again, perhaps not.

As for now, the barriers are about to get pushed even further. Brace yourselves.

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Categories:Marriage

36 thoughts on “Polygamy: The Next Marriage Fight

  1. Ann boylan says:

    Why do we have to change everything to let it fit into our desires.

  2. sally says:

    @Eric Johnson “All human beings are born in a state of love and magnificence.” Many human beings are born from one-night stands, passion-driven interludes, control-driven rapes, and children curiosities. A mother giving birth to her baby endures much pain. That I believe is love, that’s how Jesus showed his love as well. And then he said, follow me.

    1. Eric Johnson says:

      sally, perhaps you mis-understood me. All new borns are in a state of magnificence and love. This is an internal state within the child and has nothing to do with how they were conceived. Each new born is also sin free.

  3. May says:

    Hey Steve, these people a blind. Remember, sin blinds the minds and heart to evil. Only grace will enlighten them and grace is a gift which they do not want so will not receive. Pray for them. Let us all pray for one another. It is going to be a wild ride these next decades.

  4. Jules says:

    God made Adam and Eve, Man and Woman and put them together. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one body.
    Gen 2:24
    We can also find this in the New Testament, in Matthew 19:5. So God made man and women and put them together.

    God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, why? Because of the wickedness of the cities. Sodomy, which was homosexuality. A Homosexual marriage is wrong because it is not open to procreating children and also it doesn’t make them one flesh. The Catholic Church has no problem with a gay person , the church ask that they are single and celibate.

    Jimbob- When you take away traditional marriage, one man one woman, that open up all possibilities for who knows what. Its common sense to see that if traditional is ban, this opens up ideas for, gay marriage which we see now, polygamist is not far behind and then lowering the age for men, MEN to marry girls!!!!

    The Church has always won!!! I will win again.

    1. jimbob says:

      Who is taking away “traditional marriage”? Can you show me one case where a US state has embraced civil marriage equality and marriage between a man and a woman has been taken away? I believe fervently in marriage between a man and a woman. My parents were married for nearly 50 years until death did its part. My heterosexual siblings are all happily married to opposite sex partners. My state, NY, has had marriage equality for over 2 1/2 years now and it has not impacted anyone’s opposite sex marriage. Just as I happily attended a cousin’s opposite sex marriage last month, I will happily attend a friend’s same sex wedding tomorrow. The issue is civil marriage in a land which embraces the concept of equality. Render to Caesar what is his. The Church is still free to exist according to its teachings. Show me when the Church has been sued for refusing to ordain a woman to the priesthood or for refusing to marry a person who has obtained a civil divorce. The debate in the HHS mandate issue is over what is and what is not a Church organization. Some may claim the issue is religious freedom. Ironically, the only argument one could make before a US court in support of polygamy would be a religious freedom argument. Most all countries that embrace polygamy are theocracies, most of whom have no tolerance for those born gay. The argument for marriage equality has been made embracing the equal protection clause of the constitution. As I mentioned in another post, no teen or young adult struggles to come out to a parent to say that they are a polygamist.

  5. Stacie McKay says:

    For the problem is that government is in the ‘marriage’ business at all. Marriage is a religious institution, not a governmental one.

    The government needs to be able to offer civil unions for the purposes of benefits, rights, etc. There are many hetero couples who have no business being married – but they were married by the government, not a church.

    You would be surprised at how many people would support gay civil unions who oppose gay marriages.

    The other concern is that once gay marriage is ‘acceptable’ and the norm, there is nothing stopping the government from imposing this onto religious institutions. Who would have thought just 5 years ago that churches and religious businesses would be forced to pay for things that go against their beliefs? Who would have thought that 5 years ago a business owner could be sued for refusing service to a customer [which used to be a business owner's right].

    If people would stop trying to change the definition of marriage and instead confine the government to civil unions, we would see a change in the discussion.

  6. Catherine says:

    The Catholic stance on many things has been countercultural from the beginning. I believe as Catholics we are called to lead by example and accept and love our neighbors. We’re here in the United States to enjoy the benefits of freedom of religion. While you can practice apostolate in your community, other people deserve the same freedom of religion. The fight for gay marriage rights is definitely NOT a fight to break down marriage. They want MORE marriage! Their right to civil marriage benefits does not in any way impact the Catholic sacrament of holy matrimony which will still be exclusive to male and female couples. We live in a country where we are blessed to have freedom to practice our faith. Give to Cesar what is Cesar’s! Let’s focus on the bigger issues at hand. Children growing up in gang ridden neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe walking to school, the absolutely deplorable state of mental health care in this country…. So many other things that are so important yet most Catholics are running around screaming about gay marriage.

    Polygamy? It’s not going away and it even has roots in the bible! Better to bring it out into the open so we can keep tabs to make sure young women and children are not being abused.

    1. Perspective says:

      Jesus Christ was countercultural ,the Catholic Church is countercultural does not make it wrong though. I think G.K. Chesterton put it this way in regards to the Catholic Church ” You need a church that is not right when everybody else is right you need a Church that is right when everybody else is wrong”

      We as a country ( possibly as a world )are headed down the same path as Rome Empire we just cant see it b\c none of us live for hundreds of years we are in a new dark ages today.

    2. Jules says:

      @ Cat
      To reply to it does not impact the Catholic sacrament, IT DOES!!!! Priest will have to perform the gay marriages and that goes against the will of God and Catholic conscience! When a Priest does not conform to law that would be passed to marriage a gay couple, the priest would then lose their marriage license number and could not marriage anyone. so YES IT DOES AFFECT THE CATHOLIC SACREMENT!

      1. jimbob says:

        Who says priest will have to perform same sex marriages? Have priests been forced to marry persons who have obtained civil divorces? Have priests been forced to marry non-Catholics? Has the Catholic Church in the US – a country that accepts equality among the sexes – been forced to ordain women to the priesthood? Marriage equality has been legal in parts of the US for close to 10 years now. Can you show one instance where any clergyman has been forced to perform a same sex marriage?

    3. Jules says:

      God made man and woman to be one flesh…. We find that in the Old and New Testament. God did not make man, woman and woman or whatever order or number you want to add. God didnt intent for polygamy. Jesus brought marriage back to one man one woman in Matthew.

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