Why should it be limited to just two individuals?
July 1, 2015 4:28 PM   Subscribe

 
Hey, think of it this way --
legalize it, and every divorce proceeding will require one lawyer per person.
$$PROFIT$$

(or LO$$, of course, depending on where you sit)
posted by hank at 4:31 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that the only feasible way that poly-marriage is going to not end up being a vehicle for the oppression of women and poor men (cf. the Fundamentalist LDS and their (effectively) harems and "lost boys") is to require total community property, and prenuptial agreements should be absolutely unenforceable.

It doesn't matter how much you brought into the marriage, you have precisely the right to a share of 1/N (where N is the number of people in the marriage) of the total property of all the participants.

Want to marry 2 women? You won't even get half, buddy. You get 1/3.

This also brings up the notion of how to conduct a divorce. A single participant that is to be "kicked out" of a polymarriage not by their choice should receive something more than their 1/N share. The precise amount i haven't thought of, but it should be something more.

The first condition prevents people from simply gathering a harem of other participants as their share of the property dwindles rapidly, and the second discourages someone from scamming someone INTO a marriage simply for a majority of participants to strip them of their property.
posted by chimaera at 4:34 PM on July 1, 2015 [39 favorites]


Gay marriage does not have a long history of buoying up domestic abuse, oppression of women, and disenfranchisement of young and/or poor men. So there's that.
posted by schroedinger at 4:37 PM on July 1, 2015 [84 favorites]


In addition to the point schroedinger highlights, it seems like it'd be difficult to argue an equal protection claim, since a desire to marry multiple people isn't a trait that marks any kind of protected class.
posted by chrchr at 4:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Well if Big Love taught me anything, it's that Bruce Dern and Harry Dean Stanton are still alive.
posted by item at 4:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


I don't think I'm in favour of legalizing polygamy, though I am in favour of decriminalizing it. People should have the right to live communally if that's what they want, and it'll make it easier for the government to police and prosecute and/or for those living in such a situation to seek help for any actual abuse that's going on.
posted by orange swan at 4:43 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I suppose in a poly marriage, the partners would have the ability to vote someone "off the island". With equal property rights, that becomes a real threat to one's welfare.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


We had a great victory for gay marriage. But it's still quite fragile. We won by winning the middle. Coming on too fast for other alt-marriages will alienate the middle. Best to let them get more comfortable with it first. Now is not the time to forge forward. Better to sit back a while and let it bake in. I would prefer to see our next efforts focus on GLBT anti-discrimination instead.
posted by BentFranklin at 4:47 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a hopelessly monogamous person, I admit to being torn. There are some marriage rights -- central to the SSM movement -- that I totally sympathize with poly folks wanting (needing): hospital visitation is the first to spring to mind. Inheritance laws and insurance are close behind, but that edges towards the sticky financial territory people have been pointing out.

Perhaps if it were an all-or-nothing communal marriage model-- a married couple wants to jointly marry a third, they have to divorce first, with all financial complications arising from that. A triad breaks up, kicking one out of the group, the remaining two are divorcing just as much as the third. I really haven't thought out the consequences of that, though.
posted by supercres at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how the question of kinship would be resolved. With two spouses, spouse 1 is automatically the next of kin to spouse 2, and vice versa. When you throw spouse 3 into the mix, it gets more complicated. And, if spouse 1 is the biological father of spouse 3's children, does spouse 2 have any kinship with those children?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:50 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gay marriage does not have a long history of buoying up domestic abuse, oppression of women, and disenfranchisement of young and/or poor men.

I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure it's a good argument against poly marriage. I mean, straight, monogamous marriage has a long history of bouying up domestic abuse and the oppression of women, but we're still happy to hold it up as a right for folks. Plus, historical polygamy in this country cannot be untied from the religious aspect, and I'm not sure that's really going to be as much the case for the possible future of poly marriages.

The finer points of the legal/financial issues will be a tough thing to work out, but, I dunno - if it's all between consenting adults it's all good in my book.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [29 favorites]


Gay marriage does not have a long history of buoying up domestic abuse, oppression of women[...]

I'm not for or against. I see why it's a totally different beast, like Rauch points out, and fundamentally disagree with "slippery slope". But I see why some, who are able to form sexual/romantic/life-partner bonds like this, would want it.
posted by supercres at 4:54 PM on July 1, 2015


That'll learn me not to click "show new comments".
posted by supercres at 4:55 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


A better solution is decoupling the rights of marriage from the social institution of marriage.
posted by French Fry at 4:58 PM on July 1, 2015 [51 favorites]


Nice post! My girlfriend, her girlfriend, and I were discussing all the polygamy talk popping up online last night. It does have a super problematic history, and I think it would almost certainly be used to subjugate women is legalized. I think we would need to take a good, hard look at laws protecting women and defining coercion and consent before this could happen. Unfortunately I'm not holding my breath for that one.
posted by a hat out of hell at 4:59 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Historically, marriage has always been a business arrangement. Plural marriage is just a more complicated business arrangement - it's a difference of degree, not kind.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:14 PM on July 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


Plus, historical polygamy in this country cannot be untied from the religious aspect, and I'm not sure that's really going to be as much the case for the possible future of poly marriages.

I think it's hopelessly naive to believe that, within the next century, we'd see The Ethical Slut-inspired polygamists compromise the majority of polygamists in the USA, as opposed to the millions and millions of Mormons and other religion-based polygamists.
posted by schroedinger at 5:17 PM on July 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm ambivalent on Kennedy's reliance on the Due Process clause in deciding Obergefell, for some of the reasons Roberts raises in his dissent. Kennedy's Equal Protection argument made far more logical sense, and if that had been the primary rationale he had used instead of an afterthought, then the legality of polygamy is much easier for me to understand.

Equal protection of the laws should only be overridden by the state by showing a compelling interest and an absence of malice or intent to cause harm by its discrimination. It's pretty clear state bans against gay marriage failed both of those tests.

With regard to polygamy, the case for a compelling state interest is present, and I have not seen evidence of a concerted, prolonged social and governmental discrimination of polygamists in the way we saw against LGBT folks in this country.

I think the Slate article linked raises some pretty good points about why Kennedy could have done better than he did (and also why Robert's slippery slope arguments were dumb).
posted by Room 101 at 5:17 PM on July 1, 2015


One of the reasons the state carries about marriage is that two-person marriage is good for the state, since it makes administering a lot of things a lot easier -- you have a caregiver of first resort, you have more financially stable families who can earn two incomes, you have an automatic medical decision maker, you have an automatic heir, you have an automatic guardian for the children of the marriage. (Traditionally one of the reasons is the creation of children, which has been to some conservative commentators the most important reason, but as many courts have pointed out we have long allowed the infertile or post-menopausal to marry for companionate reasons ... create of children is a good reason for the state to support marriage, and care of those children is a good reason for the state to support marriage, but neither of those is a determinative norm for a marriage to be valid and hasn't been for a very long time.)

Decriminalization, no question to me, obviously decriminalize (consensual) polygamy (and give a long, hard stink-eye to FLDS with a history of using it for abuse and subjugation). But state recognition? I'm not sure. What's in it for the state? Would it tend to simplify or complicate state administration of those aspects of family life in which it is compelled to intervene? (i.e., custody of children, distribution of assets, life-end medical care, unemployment insurance, etc.) My instinct is that it would complicate those things, but maybe I only think that because it would require a lot of changes in bureaucracy and a lot of new default procedures.

The Netherlands has something called a "Household Contract," maybe? (Oh, here we go: samenlevingscontract.) Which is used by some people as an intermediate step between a roommate agreement and a marriage or civil union ... any number of people can decide to form a household, under a range of acceptable agreements as to how it will be funded and cared for and dissolved. That might be a thing to try, which could provide atypical families with a variety of state-facilitated legal tools to form households and organize their lives as they choose, respecting their autonomy, without linking in things like child custody and inheritance and the necessity to divorce to break up the household. The lessons from that would help inform whether polygamous marriages would tend to help the state or make problems for the state, and whether it would tend to protect the state's citizens or harm the state's citizens.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:17 PM on July 1, 2015 [64 favorites]


I agree that polygamy has basically been used for oppression in the vast majority of human history - and continues to be - but at the same time, people are already doing informal poly marriages regardless of the legality, in which the women (victims?) receive all of the negatives with no protections or legal benefits (Their mileage may vary).

The problem isn't marriage for these people, it's patriarchy and religion (in the U.S.) and oppressive governments/cultures elsewhere.

I don't know what the fix is for those problems, or if there is a fix other than time. I know we usually have cause to be cynical, but the younger generations are the generations most likely to respect women and minorities and least likely to engage in violent crime. I want to be optimistic.

I think we can all agree that the only real solution to any of these problems is better people.

I hope there is enough time for the better people of today and the better people of tomorrow to fix our most intractable problems before we go backwards.
posted by Strudel at 5:18 PM on July 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree with your overall point chimera, but I'd be somewhat hesitant to have a hard and fast penalty for kicking someone out. What if the party being voted out has been abusive, etc? If polygamy were legal, the biggest problems with polygamy as it is generally practiced now could become less prominent. Either by proportion because the people participating aren't fringe groups (or are at least different fringe groups) or by legalizing it someone(s) trapped in an abusive situation may feel more able to seek help.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:18 PM on July 1, 2015


If it is okay for consenting equity holders over the age of 18 to get together and form a limited liability partnership with legal rights equivalent to personhood, I don't see any real logical reason why polygamy should remain illegal.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:19 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I mean, straight, monogamous marriage has a long history of bouying up domestic abuse and the oppression of women, but we're still happy to hold it up as a right for folks.

99% of public acceptance of gay marriage involved convincing people it wasn't going to hurt anyone or destroy society. Polygamy, as it has been historically practiced and would be practiced by the vast majority of potential practitioners, has a long history of fucking up communities to a degree that monogamous marriages have not.
posted by schroedinger at 5:23 PM on July 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


Plural marriage is just a more complicated business arrangement - it's a difference of degree, not kind.

True, but those arrangements are going to be have to made differently than those of pair marriages. Spousal insurance through an employer, for example, is unlikely to expand to all members of a poly household or marriage, if only because of the cost implications. Likewise, the extension of citizenship pathways or even residency opportunities through marriage becomes far more complex to negotiate in poly marriages. Sharing and disbursing assets within the marriage or in the event of a death or divorce is actually one of the easier parts.

None of this means committed poly relationships should not be treated like any other committed relationship by the government or by society. It does mean that legalizing polygamous marriage requires more legal architecture than legalizing same-sex marriage.
posted by kewb at 5:26 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I work at a law school where two of our professors have just published a paper on the subject (we're a Canadian institution, so YMMslightlyV for Americans).

The abstract:
In this Essay, we argue that civil marriage should not be opened up to
multiple parties. Our focus is on civil, not religious, marriage, and we address
polygamy in general, rather than any particular form of it. We highlight the
important distinction between opening up civil marriage to multiple parties on
one hand and recognizing valid foreign polygamous marriages on the other.
We contemplate how a country can coherently recognize valid foreign
polygamous marriages, while at the same time decline to open up civil
marriage to multiple parties.

We distinguish decriminalization of polygamy, which we advocate, from
opening up civil marriage to multiple parties. We then explain why we believe
the rights of children should be a non-issue in deciding whether civil marriage
should be opened up to multiple parties.

We consider the state’s continuing interest in marriage in the context of
changing social norms and legal developments and conclude that there is a
compelling state interest in preserving and supporting civil marriage as a
monogamous institution.
posted by Shepherd at 5:29 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The main reason gay marriage doesn't have a history of being an instrument of patriarchy is surely that gay marriage doesn't have a history*, so I'm not sure how this can be drafted in as an argument to distinguish between the two, really.

*yes, with a few exceptions
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the best points I've seen made is that, for people who claim that this decision "irreparably damages Traditional Marriage", the concept of "Traditional Marriage" is one where the Man (the Husband) is given control over the Woman (the Wife). Not an equal partnership, more of an Employer/Employee relationship. Which is pretty much null and void when there are two Husbands or two Wives. Maybe the 'Traditionalists' would actually end up supporting a legalization of Polygamy as a step toward bringing that back.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:41 PM on July 1, 2015


One of the key aspects that would need to be worked out regarding poly marriage is the third relationship. If Spouse A, married to Spouse B, wants to also marry Spouse C, then the relationship and rights between Spouse B and Spouse C needs to be defined. You'd also need to determine the rights of Spouse B to allow or block the second marriage, and if it is possible for Spouse A to divorce either Spouse B or C without the approval of the third partner.

It's very complicated, and very messy. I can see it being possible, but incredibly tricky to implement.

And of course all the talk of patriarchy would be moot in the case of three women getting married. Very interesting times for civil rights.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:44 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


As many others have already pointed out, the legal machinery for marriage would have to be tweaked first. From a logistical perspective, SSM is super easy to implement: adjust the gendering on some forms, websites and statutes -- it's fundamentally the same otherwise. The extension from pair marriages to poly marriages is not obvious in that respect and would need to be worked out in the legislature.
posted by anifinder at 5:51 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jonathan Rauch: "Gay marriage won't lead to polygamous marriage."
Predictably, the Court's decision led to another of countless rounds of forecasts that the marriage-rights movement will now expand to multiples. (Like this.) Again, we'll see, but I'm willing to stand by what I've long said: the case for gay marriage is the case against polygamy, and the public will be smart enough to understand the difference.

Gay marriage is about extending the opportunity to marry to people who lack it; polygamy, in practice, is about exactly the opposite: withdrawing marriage opportunity from people who now have it. Gay marriage succeeded because no one could identify any plausible channels through which it might damage heterosexual marriage; with polygamy, the worries are many, the history clear, and the channels well understood.

I won't repeat the reasons...
Sam Hughes: "Looking into the realistic future, it seems as if the next major change in this area is going to relate to polygamy."
This kind of change is apparently trivial in NoSQL databases because these are explicitly not relational databases, and lack structure, foreign keys, check constraints and so on. In theory there is nothing stopping a NoSQL DBA from creating a "marriages" collection and then just adding any kind of data to it. This includes self-marriages, convoluted weighted, directed, polygamous graphs, things not involving humans, structures not recognisable as marriages at all, and so on.

Of course in practice, it is well-understood that for NoSQL databases, the structure is still there but it is implicit, imposed by the way applications interact with the database. The analogy is like a jigsaw puzzle piece, versus the rest of the jigsaw with that one jigsaw puzzle piece missing. The shape of the missing piece (the data in the database) is determined by the edges of the hole (shape of the applications).

In other words, in this situation, the DBA has nearly nothing to do. It's the application developers who needs to pick up the slack.

[...]

These changes will be more complex than the ones we've seen here, and I'm not going to go over them for several reasons. Firstly, I kind of already did. Secondly, it doesn't strike me as being so imminent at the time of writing...
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


IN principal I am not against this, in practice I think we have to seriously strengthen gender equality protections and practices before it can be reasonably expected to be a good thing*.



*am willing to entertain the idea I may be wrong
posted by edgeways at 6:10 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


What's all this I hear about legalizing polyphony...
posted by neroli at 6:13 PM on July 1, 2015


What the polygamy argument really highlights is something I tried to bring up back when the gay marriage thing was just getting rolling, and I got slammed hard for it and called an anti-gay bigot in all kinds of nasty ways, particularly on dailykos. The problem with gay marriage isn't that gays can't (or couldn't) get married, it's that so many social services and privileges are inextricably tied up with marriage, so that if you can't get married you can't get tax advantages, you can't guarantee that the person you want to will be able to visit you in the hospital or attend to your funeral arrangements, and so on.

The proper solution is to disconnect all that from the idea of marriage so that regular contracts can provide those guarantees, and then marriage becomes a social decoration like a Christmas tree or menorah which you can display if you want to, but whose absence does not oppress you if you find you can't. Make the joint property arrangements independent too and with disconnect formulae and redress mechanisms that aren't specific to one on one (much less man with woman) relationships. We already have models for this in the form of business partnerships.

The quaint religious and romantic idea that two people somehow become one via matrimony has been proven by ample history to be stupid. Yes a partnership will need common property but nobody enters a business relationship all-in in the way marriage partners are forced to. Get all the stuff done by marriage in a form where it can be done with normal and sensible contracts, free from the hysteria of moral panic, and then let whoever wants to take advantage of them do so.

I love my wife dearly and have been with her for over thirty years, but we will both admit (and without needing a few beers) that the main reason we did the marriage thing was health insurance. We'd probably have done it by now also for the guardianship and succession things. But for many years we told people who asked and asked and asked and asked when we were getting married, "We have a perfectly good relationship, why should we let the government screw it up."

Good on ya gay folks for gaining those privileges, which are real and important, that we hets have enjoyed for so long. But doing it this way has still left a lot of things needlessly overcomplicated and stupid.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:44 PM on July 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm a stepmom. I know firsthand how contentious co-parenting can be, even after a relatively amicable split. All the logistics, the comparisons, the competition. I certainly don't miss it now that my step kids are grown. So I'm trying to imagine how the state would handle custody arrangements for kids with more than 2 parents. Splitting custody among 3 or more adults would seem pretty anxiety-producing for a child.
posted by Biblio at 7:05 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


The 1/N solution needs a lot more subtly to work. You aren't thinking nearly mean enough.

I do a fair bit of family law and, several times, I've run into an abandoned spouse who suddenly has the old spouse show up wanting a divorce. Why? Because the old spouse wants to get remarried.

In a 1/N solution why shouldn't the new spouse just get married? And THEN demand a divorce. Suddenly the abandoned spouse goes from getting 1/2 of the community property (which could be a huge amount) to getting 1/3 of the community property. And the newly married couple get's 1/3 more than they would have had they gotten divorced before they married.

And I think making prenuptial unenforceable is the wrong way to go if we are trying to let people manage their own affairs. I think there should be court approved prenuptial agreements that EVER couple has to fill out before they get married for common issues. Want a community property presumption? Check box A. Want only mixed accounts to become community property? Check box B.

I know a lot of people would say, "But, people wouldn't know the consequences of getting married! They wouldn't understand the forms!"

I'd agree with that. They are likely not to understand the forms. But my experience shows me they don't understand how marriage rights effect properties now, and I'd trust a large community of lawyers and judges to come up with a set of 3 or 4 fairly fair set of options listed from "Assets more separated" to "Assets less separated" and "Lots of Spousal Support in the case of divorce" to "Not much Spousal Support in the case of divorce" than two people trying to work it out for the first time with some adversarial lawyers helping them out.
posted by bswinburn at 7:06 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, in states with No Fault divorce and no "anti-adultery laws", poly-marriages are effectively decriminalized.

You don't get any legal benefits for living together as a threesome or greater group, but you don't get in trouble for it.
posted by bswinburn at 7:12 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jonathan Rauch: "Gay marriage won't lead to polygamous marriage."...the case for gay marriage is the case against polygamy, and the public will be smart enough to understand the difference...

I won't repeat the reasons...


It helps to see some reasons because I don't think enough Americans are smart enough to understand the difference, especially since the Chief Justice can't seem to, or is willing to classify gay marriage as a special right simply because they are demanding an ordinary right that wasn't an ancient right. The back story is that monogamy is a modern accommodation of ancient marriage, an institution where women were formerly owned or needed permission to marry. Polygamy abused this arrangement the most, because it alienated young men, and impoverished families, simply by the numbers. (Regardless, it stops being monogamy the moment it becomes polygamy.) Modern life now means that every citizen has the equal right to mutually choose a spouse in order to enjoy modern spousal benefits, which are generous and perhaps too numerous to mention. Polygamy, however, cannot expand those spousal benefits on someone's choice without destroying the notion of equal rights by tradition. But what if people are demanding a modern polygamy? This is where it gets meaningless for all sides, such as deciding how to dispose of property if a simple majority agree to it, though the polygamous marriage was intended to be biblical in scope. The point is that we don't need to accommodate polygamous marriage just because it is lumped by conservatives as a common deviance alongside gay marriage.
posted by Brian B. at 7:18 PM on July 1, 2015


In a 1/N solution why shouldn't the new spouse just get married? And THEN demand a divorce.

In the framework I'm thinking of, new "spouses" can only enter into a poly-marriage with the full consent of all members. So someone couldn't just go off and have another marriage and force an existing spouse to end up dividing the property.

I also feel that any sort of prenuptial agreement that preserves the pre-marriage assets of any member is an opening for coercion and favors rich and powerful people. There needs to be a mechanism whereby, for example, a rich man doesn't collect a "harem" of wives and can simply divorce all of them in one fell swoop and take all his toys home. I can't think of a better way to prevent this type of abuse of a poly-marriage system than an absolute community property rule that cannot be waived by poorer spouses.
posted by chimaera at 7:38 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the US I have only known a couple of poly households, but I spent a bit of time in a country where polygamy was common (in the traditional form of one man with several wives). From talking to people it seemed to work really well for some people and really poorly for others, and I suspect that it is more difficult to mitigate the bad parts than some people are giving credit to.

I do wish we gave less special treatment to marriages -- economic reasons were an impetus to our marriage, and that is just silly. I mean, it has worked out ok and we are happy, but there isn't any reason why marriage should have the economic benefits that it does.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


But while dismantling all the current arrangements of marriage, and allowing all these rights to be contractually laid out by the individuals is all well and good, so much is already legally taken care of with a marriage, all that unwinding will take a really long time.

If not for the history of abuse, I'd say why not. But a lot of details, and again, time.
posted by Windopaene at 7:59 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know a fair number of poly families, and so my knee-jerk reaction is to say "well, sure, why not?", but I'll be honest, I'd never considered the legal ramifications thereof. I've seen some tri-somes end badly, with one partner suffering much more significant financial loss than the two who vote the one off the island, as it were, so yeah, it would be an entirely new set of family law to be determined. Whereas gay marriage/gay divorce will not be any different, legally, than het marriage, it would seem to me. (Ianal)

That said; I do think there should be some avenue by which multiple partners could commit to each other, much like the Dutch contract referenced above, so that things like buying property and managing taxes would be easier.
posted by dejah420 at 8:12 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Freddie DeBoer once again succeeds in showing the world that he's a lot less clever than he imagines. How is allowing two people of any gender to marry like allowing polygamy? (Helpful hint: it isn't!) And in a liberal society, the biggest argument against legalising polygamy is polygamists (who tend to be not polyamorous middle-class urbanites but scary fundamentalist Mormons and Muslims for whom polygamy is a means of asserting male dominance and ownership of women). Polygamy as traditionally practised is very patriarchal and regressive and I can't really see legalising it leading to anything good (unlike same sex marriage). Anyone who's like "yeah I have poly friends", or whatever, should just pause and consider Warren Jeffs for a moment.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:37 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


In a 1/N solution why shouldn't the new spouse just get married? And THEN demand a divorce. Suddenly the abandoned spouse goes from getting 1/2 of the community property (which could be a huge amount) to getting 1/3 of the community property. And the newly married couple get's 1/3 more than they would have had they gotten divorced before they married.

This is a real problem, and saying that the existing members need to agree just doesn't cut it: we know that family members can use unfair pressure against each other.

I think the necessary model for this is (business) partnership law. The way a business partnership works in common law (this may be overrriden by legislation in your jurisdiction) is that it consists of a particular set of people which cannot be changed without dissolving the partnership and forming a new one. E.g., if Alice and Bob form a partnership to sell software, and they want to bring Charlie in, they are notionally dissolving their old partnership and creating the new partnership of Alice, Bob, and Charlie. The old partners are legally liable for the old partnership's debts, and the new partnership will probably need to renegotiate its contracts with its suppliers.

So a polygamous marriage would work the same way: if you want to add members you would need to divorce, dividing property and responsibilities among the partners under court order, and then reform the union with the extra people. The existing members might still use unfair pressure against each other, but at least there would have been a clear accounting of rights and duties, and the existing members will be free to walk away.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:42 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Except you're not talking about suppliers, you're talking about children.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:03 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


I really like Freddie DeBoer. I like that he (used to, at least) blog regularly during formative years in his adulthood and through his Ph.D defense and how it showed his pattern of thought.

I enjoy his spirit of challenging assumptions and presumptions. I agree that "logistics" or "its too hard" shouldn't be rate limiting steps towards recognizing human dignity. I disagree that the "immutability" argument is condescending and wrongheaded. And I think Freddie DeBoer's insistence of sketching out the "immutability argument" in a manner that casts non cis-gendered heterosexual couples as "less than" is needlessly angry and a borderline straw-man argument.

Anyways.

I'm not going to support legal protections for multiple marriages anytime soon. A lot of heavy lifting went into reducing the effect of heterosexual marriage in turning women into chattel. DeBoer argues that legal protection would bring these abuses into the public. That's a controversial proposition. The evidence doesn't support this. DeBoer argues the evidence isn't valid and we shouldn't make decisions to allow equality based on flawed or limited evidence. But when one of the best arguments (to me) for changing the law is that it will protect spouses when history has shown it has done the opposite, it'd be nice to have evidence on your side.

Two other things: Medical ethics has a significant focus on the limits of autonomy. One thing it's easy to overlook is the ways social and economic pressures will limit autonomy. Being a partner to more than one person compounds the social and economic pressure. Maybe legal protections will mitigate this, but I'm also sympathetic to those who worry that autonomy and group marriage are inherently contradictory.

Lastly, De Boer frames his article along the lines of polyamory being the next item on the agenda. How about this? Why not the next item on our agenda being ensuring legal protection for non cis-gendered individuals facing discrimination in areas other than marriage? Why not continue to focus on kindly persuading our friends and family that non-cisgendered individuals deserve respect. There's a lot of un-equivocal good to be done. In the mean time, we can work on becoming a society that better understands polyamory, and if that's something we want to actually support.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:20 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


This "next thing" framing is total bullshit. It's not like we've run out of ways to make society more equal and more inclusive and have to dream up something new. There are plenty of issues that individuals and groups all over the country have been working on for decades, and there's no reason that we need to pick just one of them.
posted by chrchr at 9:37 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think the necessary model for this is (business) partnership law.

Except you're not talking about suppliers, you're talking about children.

Marriage and procreation are separate things.

We effectively have serial polygamy (and polyandry) now, which is why many children's parents do not live with each other. The laws about child custody and responsibility wouldn't need to change: they would still be aimed at the child's parents. I hope those parents would consider their child's interests, but as the law stands right now: children cannot force their parents to marry, or prevent them from getting divorced, or stop their parents' marriages to third parties. None of this would change just because people could now enter multiple marriages.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:04 PM on July 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hey, I'm all for it, if only because I might be competing to be CEO of Mozilla someday against you intolerant assholes.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:05 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


denying existing families legal protection just so we can use the law as a blunt club to (possibly, sometimes, partially) break up toxic cults... it just doesn't seem like the best way to actually protect children. religious minorities and the ultra-granola set wouldn't be the only people who might take advantage of new ways of legalizing family relationships — we live in a world where co-parenting, found families, donor parents, and more are in need of real support.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:13 PM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Do you want cults in North America? Because polygamy is how you get cults in America.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 PM on July 1, 2015


Surely cults are how you get polygamy?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:41 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


No worries, we already have cults! Take the Quiverfull movement. Please. Take it far, far way.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, I'm a poly person who heartily supports midmarch snowman. Why not the next item on our agenda being ensuring legal protection for non cis-gendered individuals facing discrimination in areas other than marriage? Why not continue to focus on kindly persuading our friends and family that non-cisgendered individuals deserve respect. Yes, please, let's focus on that. Let's win that vitally important struggle on behalf of non cis-gendered folks before we worry about poly families and marriage.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:53 PM on July 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


My only objection to multiple-partner marriage is the prevention of subjugation of women. (Which, yes! Is absolutely a problem in two-partner marriage as well). If some legal mechanism can be emplaced to ensure that any women entering into a multiple marriage are doing so of their entirely free will and won`t be abused, fucking go for it.

Until then, given the history of polygamy (and let`s be real it`s always polygamy, never polyandry, and rarely equal-gendered), I feel like this is a thing that would perpetuate patriarchal abuse of women.

Funny enough, entirely same-sex multiple marriages are likely to avoid that trap.

Again I want to say I am in favour in principle. We need to figure out some practicalities before we can implement this. That is to say, it`s a matter of time, not a matter of moral objection to the idea.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:17 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think we can all agree that the only real solution to any of these problems is better people.

That's the only real solution to ALL problems.
Metafilter: the only real solution to any of these problems is better people.

It's very complicated, and very messy. I can see it being possible, but incredibly tricky to implement.

I say this as someone in favor of polyamory: I don't think multiple marriage is ever going to legally happen because even beyond social norms, freaky polygamous marriages with 12-year-olds-type crap, and all of that: it'd just be too damn complicated to figure out legally, both to wed everyone and then the issues with divorce.

I'm thinking of the Zell-Ravenhearts right now (disclaimer: I saw the family speak in the late 90's) and if you read the book about them, they had gone through a fair number of people that they considered themselves "married" to over the decades and then eventually their other partners moved on, usually into more monogamous/monogamish relationships as far as I could tell. I'm all for love is love and people working things out, but the more folks you throw in, the more complicated things get to figure out. And our legal system ain't even close to attempting it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:27 PM on July 1, 2015


jenfullmoon: "I think we can all agree that the only real solution to any of these problems is better people.

That's the only real solution to ALL problems.
Metafilter: the only real solution to any of these problems is better people.

It's very complicated, and very messy. I can see it being possible, but incredibly tricky to implement.

I say this as someone in favor of polyamory: I don't think multiple marriage is ever going to legally happen because even beyond social norms, freaky polygamous marriages with 12-year-olds-type crap, and all of that: it'd just be too damn complicated to figure out legally, both to wed everyone and then the issues with divorce.

I'm thinking of the Zell-Ravenhearts right now (disclaimer: I saw the family speak in the late 90's) and if you read the book about them, they had gone through a fair number of people that they considered themselves "married" to over the decades and then eventually their other partners moved on, usually into more monogamous/monogamish relationships as far as I could tell. I'm all for love is love and people working things out, but the more folks you throw in, the more complicated things get to figure out. And our legal system ain't even close to attempting it.
"

Once again, I just want to say theoretically I support poly relationships all the way. Practically, people broke those relationships and caused me no end of emotional fallout and agony. So, we'd better make sure that if we are going to make this legal, we need to think good, and hard, and long and basically get it right the first time. If we don't, it will wreak such epic havoc, I think it will pretty much kill the issue dead and we won't see it come again.

As always, I might be completely full of shit, and YMMV.
posted by Samizdata at 11:46 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Polyamory Is Next, And I’m One Reason Why: Here's how libertarianism has led me and my partner into polyamory, and why America will have to grapple with this issue next.

I meant to include this article in the post, and I accidentally left it out.
posted by andoatnp at 12:00 AM on July 2, 2015


This has been an issue in British Columbia for years. A breakaway Mormon group established a community at Bountiful (near the south end of Kootenay Lake). No one (outside the group) liked it -- there was a Warren Jeffs connection -- but the BC government could not determine how to prosecute polygamy. Finally, the government went for a trial based on the notion of sexual abuse. It seems to everyone who looks at this and similar groups, that there is a connection, but how to make the law work here is not obvious.
posted by CCBC at 3:33 AM on July 2, 2015


Marriage should be limited to just two individuals. We can't even figure out how to make it fair for both. It's beyond dumb to enthusiastically complicate things further by adding unnecessary variables when society has not yet created adequate legal architecture to ensure justice within a pairing. Automatic community property seems like a fine solution, but good luck enforcing that with more people in the mix.

Full transparency about health records and who is sleeping or socializing with whom at all times would be essential to determine whether everyone is being treated equally, but for example, HIV exposure will preclude a clean bill of health for six whole months. Admitting new people into an existing union would be a logistical nightmare, something that royalty and nobility who benefitted from the support of slavery could handle.. but normal Americans? Yeah, right!

Most of us can't even keep the kitchen sink clean.
posted by knowgood at 4:15 AM on July 2, 2015


"[Various arguments]...

... and that's why you can't marry this person you love."
posted by Drexen at 4:23 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


... and that's why you can't marry this person you love."

It's more like "and that's why we don't currently have a working legal structure that extends you financial and legal benefits analogous to those of pair marriage when you commit to the people you love."

If it were just one person, you'd be covered already.
posted by kewb at 4:49 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Honestly, society doesn't have to "ensure justice" in every possible grouping. (Though of course it should oppose injustice where it occurs.) It just has to give me some way to specify that if I get sick, there are two people with different last names who both count as "family."

But I also agree with comments above that right now, I'm more interested in carrying the fight elsewhere. Trans and nonbinary and intersex rights, gender equality, and so forth. I don't want to marry anyone. I don't have kids and I live in a country where things like health insurance are not employer provided or based on marriage. That fight is not at the top of my list. But I understand that for some, it might be. I have friends for whom this is a serious practical matter that affects them right now.
posted by Nothing at 5:17 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Honestly, society doesn't have to "ensure justice" in every possible grouping. (Though of course it should oppose injustice where it occurs.)

Ideally, it probably should. But even without that ideal in mind, I think that constructing a legal framework for something means taking care to ensure that the framework does not enable or, worse, incentivize foreseeable injustices.

It just has to give me some way to specify that if I get sick, there are two people with different last names who both count as "family."

This is a demand for justice, is it not? And what if the two people disagree about what should be done?
posted by kewb at 5:45 AM on July 2, 2015


I agree that in constructing a legal framework, you need to take care to be as just as possible. My comment was not that such a framework should be created without consideration, but that there are some much simpler practical steps that can be taken. I don't think we need to figure out a framework that ensures justice in all possible relationships. I don't think we can, to be honest. I think our best path to making relationships (with any number of people) more just is to work on feminism and gender equality, good social services, and education. And probably, by not tying so many rights and privileges to marriage in the first place.

People disagree about medical decisions all the time. I am sure it would be unpleasant, but it would not break society.
posted by Nothing at 6:22 AM on July 2, 2015


I don't think we need to figure out a framework that ensures justice in all possible relationships.

This qualifies as an understatement. A lot of people don't realize that most modern polygamy is a direct attack on America through its welfare system, though it makes more sense to see it as a cash funnel for a few conniving religious leaders. Through a coordinated effort, two people are arranged to marry, then to get divorced, then collect monies through a single mother. Then the man remarries, divorces, and collects more monies for another single mom. They have lawyers standing by to defend their welfare rights. This all justifies itself over the pulpit through a deliberate attempt to destroy the federal government as revenge, and the hate to the greater society is fostered as well. The boys in the community are essentially cast out by the way nature works at selecting gender evenly, and while the women have doubts, no doubt, their husbands talk directly with god on the matter.
posted by Brian B. at 6:35 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Marriage as a legal thing exists to manage inheritance/ property, rights and responsibilities towards children, taxes, and other stuff Eyebrows McGee discussed. Marriage as a social/ community thing is how we structure how community works. The legalization of gay marriage means that 2 women can get married. I always thought it was kind of conservative, because marriage is about the status quo. One gay friend's kid got way better financial aid because her gay partner's income wasn't considered. I knew 2 gay women who got better assistance because they weren't considered 1 household, but, rather, roommates. The court decision is a big deal because it makes it clear that discrimination against gay people is legally done. Legal gay marriage is very supportive of traditional marriage as a building block of society

I know, work with, am related to, friends with, lots of gay people. I know only 1 out polyamorous triad, though I presume there are others in my life. Sadly, I know way too many triads, quads, etc., that are cheaters, not open, honest multiple relationships. Nothing I've seen suggests to me that this works terribly well. Long before equal rights for gays, I knew happy, stable gay couples.

Divorce has existed for a long time, and was socially unacceptable and legally difficult. Social structures still aren't always adapted to families where kids have 2 households (my kid's school, arghh). There are massive obstacles to acceptance of polygamy, not least that it would be really complicated to adapt. Socially, seeing how FLDS and polygamy are abusive to women, children, horrible to many young men, makes me quite uneasy with it. Of course, my experience of marriage and divorce didn't leave me all that friendly to marriage in general.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've always bristled at the suggestion that polygamy is the next frontier in "marriage equality" because, as many have noted here, by and large in the United States, polygamy has very little to do with all parties being equal.

I'll be the first to support creating and legalizing that structure, but that does sound like the last act of converting marriage as a concept to a strictly contractual one. Until then, I don't like the comparison.

Gay marriage was a thing because it was previously unequal. Some people could get married to whom they wanted to; others couldn't. In its current form, polygamy doesn't seem to be a person saying "I should have the right to marry, and I currently don't have the right to." It sounds like "I currently have the right to vote; I should be allowed to vote twice."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:00 AM on July 2, 2015


As for polyamory, this seems to be more suited to the notion of non-marriage than any other social arrangement, or at least the notion that marriage complicates it. It took this long for everyone to have the right to one spouse, and to go any further is unsupportable by the triad of equality, justice, and freedom. It doesn't even follow logically that someone should be legally protected with fifteen wives/spouses just because everyone is legally allowed to have one. It redefines elitism and demands that society nurse an egomaniac's brood. Most courtrooms entertain the idea that one chooses their spouse, which then takes precedent over family member decisions in life support cases, and presumably in executing someone's last will. This simple idea is rendered useless in complicated marriages.
posted by Brian B. at 7:25 AM on July 2, 2015


I agree with Chimaera that the only feasible way that poly-marriage is going to not end up as a vehicle for the oppression of women is to require total community property.

What no one here seems to have considered, though, is the difficulty of splitting communal property in divorce with multiple adults and MULTIPLE KIDS. Communal property rights have to take a back seat to the welfare of the children.

A poly-marriage would be a GREAT boon to group of financially disadvantaged adults seeking to raise a child, but unless a polygamous family starts out very wealthy, there seems to be no way to divide it back up without leaving at least one family unit fiscally crippled once children come into the picture.

Imagine a family in with two wives and a husband in which both women have had a child, but one of them has a job and one has opted to stay home and raise the children. Does the court rule that both kids stay with their own biological mothers, creating two single Moms with one at a distinct financial disadvantage and one with a sudden childcare issue, or does the court favor the woman who played the role of caretaker, forcing two adults to pay child support to her? If the father's child support is divided between two women, it will either be utterly insufficient to help either woman owing to the lack of the Economy of Scale afforded by housing the children under the same roof or else it will be financially crippling for the father.

The only way polygamy becomes viable is if a government makes a stronger commitment to playing a role in the well-being of children. Maybe France or one of the Scandinavian countries is there already, but in the U.S., we're generations away.
posted by Pipedreamergrey at 7:38 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gay marriage was a thing because it was previously unequal. Some people could get married to whom they wanted to; others couldn't.

Applies just as much to poly as it did to gay marriage.

In its current form, polygamy doesn't seem to be a person saying "I should have the right to marry, and I currently don't have the right to." It sounds like "I currently have the right to vote; I should be allowed to vote twice."

There is no monolithic "current form" of polygamy. And again, the claim that this constitutes a request for an "extra right" is, to my ears, no different than the argument that gay people already had the right to get married (you know, to a person of the opposite sex) and were trying to claim extra rights.

Polygamy can be used as an instrument of oppression, but so can two-person marriage. The issue there is with the oppressor, not the instrument.

Is it a legislative headache with a lot that needs to be taken into account? Sure. But a legislative headache is a crap reason to deny consenting adults the right to express and arrange their relationships and affairs as they see fit.
posted by Drexen at 7:41 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is no monolithic "current form" of polygamy.

I think this is a big part of the reason that there won't be legal recognition of polygamy in the near future. It's not at all clear to me that polygamous people have reached an internal agreement about what legal recognition of polygamous marriage would entail. In this thread alone, we have lots of interesting thinking about what policies would be desirable as part of legal recognition of polygamy, but there's no indication that there's anything like consensus here, let alone within the community of advocates for legal recognition of polygamy. Something like consensus within that community is going to be necessary to turn it into an effective force for change.

The thing about the SSM fight was that it was very clear what SSM advocates wanted - the right to enter into the standard marriage relationship (as defined variously by the various states) regardless of the biological sexes of the couple. Lots of people can get their heads around that, and it made it possible to enlist lots of allies all working towards the same goal. It's not at all clear to me at least that advocates of legal recognition of polygamy are going to be able to do the same.
posted by burden at 7:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is another form of protection that I can think of, in addition to the community property rule, namely: gender ratio boundaries. A polymarriage in which there must be no more than 1 or 2 additional members of one gender might be a means by which abuse could be curtailed.

By exception, a same-sex polymarriage would be allowed to an indefinite total number. Once there are both men and women (including trans- or cis-), the limit would apply. I keep coming back to the Rich Man scenario (which is the most common historical polymarriage version by a country mile), and in this case, he would be limited to 2 wives before he has to bring another husband into the marriage. If there are 2 men or women, then they are limited to 4 total of the other gender.

This framework preserves another of the benefits of hetero and same sex marriage, namely, disallowing the accumulation of available brides/husbands and leaving a deeply imbalanced ratio available for others. We can see today what sort of societal problems ensue when you have a very large number of young men who cannot find mates: I believe at least a part of the extremism in places like Saudi Arabia are fed by the unavailability of mates for young men.
posted by chimaera at 8:10 AM on July 2, 2015


We can see today what sort of societal problems ensue when you have a very large number of young men who cannot find mates: I believe at least a part of the extremism in places like Saudi Arabia are fed by the unavailability of mates for young men.

Right, gotta keep women available to service all of the the males or they'll lose control of themselves and bring down society!

I say it's ludicrous to conject all these supposedly certain problems, to turn the blame for these problems onto the concept of polygamy as if the problems didn't already exist, and to constrain to the right of consenting adults to consort how they want based on generalized assumptions like polygamy = polygyny, and polygyny = coercion and disenfranchisement, oppression and terrorism(!). Oh, and that we have to protect people from the possibility of a messy divorce by forbidding them to marry in a manner of their choosing.

These arguments will come to be seen as no less patronising and regressive than the similarly facile arguments against gay marriage.
posted by Drexen at 8:32 AM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think there's a strong difference between whether something requires complicated lawmaking, and whether or not it is the right thing to do. If polygamy is the right thing to do - and I think it is - then we need to start with an assumption that doing it is necessary for human happiness, and then figure out how to work out the kinks later.

I'm actually kind of disappointed by how many supporters of gay marriage are quick to say that we shouldn't do it because it's too much too soon, or if we do it, we should mandate how people can arrange their marriages, or that polygamous people don't have any 'right' to have legally recognized marriage. It strikes me a lot as "Fuck you, I've Got Mine", with an extra helping of not wanting to help those people.

Right now, I know three polygamous triads, all of whom consider themselves married, and all of which struggle with the fact that under the law, only two of the people in them can be married at the same time. This is causing real suffering to real people right now. It is causing unhealthy prioritizations of who is the one to 'get married', problems with hospitalization and NOK issues, and has the potential to cause unhealthy splits of children, visitation, and yes, property, in cases of death or divorce that prioritize the 'married' partners over the 'unmarried' partner.

We need to fix this. I am convinced that we have a lot of brilliant minds in our country that could easily work out the legal problems if they wanted to.
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Another day, and more arguing about my relationships on the internet. I thought I was done with this on Friday for awhile...

Sure, things are messy and complicated and difficult for some poly folks. Then again, as pointed out above, it's not like monogamous divorcing people get it right all the time either. Rational, healthy adults work this stuff out. (I went on vacation with my wife and her partner of 5 years this past weekend. It was awesome. Another friend of mine has his partners over to the house he shares with his mostly-wife; some of them, he's affectionate with and some not, and the kids figure it out. They're smart kids.) Non-rational, not so healthy adults can be cruel and messy, no matter what the situation is. Meantime, I would love it if wife and her partner could legally solemnize their relationship with one another; we are lucky enough to be on the same page when it comes to wife's health care (I kind of shudder to think of what happens if my dad dies before my mom and my sisters and I have to agree on my mother's health care, speaking of messy and complicated and difficult) and it would give her/them/us another level of protection that would make me feel much better.

(And on preview, corb said it a hell of a lot better than me. I think I'm too cranky to be coherent this morning.)
posted by joycehealy at 9:00 AM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


We can see today what sort of societal problems ensue when you have a very large number of young men who cannot find mates

Also, this is a societal problem, but not the one you think it is. Nobody is owed sex. Nobody is owed mates. We do not have to interfere with the arrangements of consenting individuals because it might take women off the market for men who want to marry them. The problem here is that we have societies where men figure that they are owed women and owed mates in order to be a man, not that we have societies where men can't find mates. This is a problem with patriarchy, not with polygamy.
posted by corb at 9:02 AM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Right, gotta keep women available to service all of the the males or they'll lose control of themselves and bring down society!

That is a ridiculously uncharitable interpretation of my comment.
posted by chimaera at 10:09 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, it's true that it isn't a charitable interpretation. Your comment seemed to me to contain the assumptions that corb more deftly and less snarkily countered just above.
posted by Drexen at 10:19 AM on July 2, 2015


Also, this is a societal problem, but not the one you think it is. Nobody is owed sex. Nobody is owed mates.

Indeed, I agree with you one hundred percent. But we do a disservice to everyone's freedom to select who they live with and love and commit themselves to by creating a system which has an in-built bias toward those of political power and wealth who will use those means to coerce the aggregation of a disproportionate share of partners, thereby depriving people not what they are owed by any means, but who would without the manifestation of that unfair influence would be deprived of even the opportunity to have a mate who freely chooses them.
posted by chimaera at 10:21 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


We need to fix this. I am convinced that we have a lot of brilliant minds in our country that could easily work out the legal problems if they wanted to.

There are two words that sum up the entirety of my opposition to poly marriage : family court.

Having been through 15 years of contentious as fuck never-ending custody battles, the notion that you can just treat a poly divorce like any other business breakup strikes me as naive in the extreme. Nothing screws up a situation like kids do. And, really, I just don't see a way around it, because kids aint business - and people will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their children from threats real and imagined.

The rest of the stuff - yeah, it's just business. Frankly, I think poly groups should just form an LLC or some such, and define the rules in the charter and call that good. It won't have all the features of a dual marriage, but most of the ones that matter - especially for community held property.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


The one common denominator of all poly relationships is that they're all different. They all require their own agreements between parties and whether these are explicit or implicit, they will need to be renegotiated at some point. Because people change, circumstances change.

And yes, poly relationships are complicated, but so are monogamous relationships. It's just that couples have a default set of assumptions they can fall back on, whereas polycules don't.

This is why the business contract model is a solid starting point for a redefinition of marriage, because it requires negotiation of the details explicitly, while giving a default model to start from and a clear framework for renegotiating. Had my last poly relationship lasted, we would've formed an LLC and power-of-attorney documents to deal with a lot of the rights/assets distribution; I don't see why that wouldn't work as a template for couples too.

My point is, though, that relationships are unique to the individuals who make them up. There will always need to be negotiation. Marriage as a whole could benefit from making that explicit, at which point the inclusion of poly marriage in that framework becomes much more straightforward.

(Of course, children complicate things. But that goes for couples too. A business contract framework would provide some possible templates for negotiating divorce, but emotions will always make this messy. Like Pogo_Fuzzybutt said, there isn't really a way around that.)
posted by chaosys at 10:38 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


How is allowing two people of any gender to marry like allowing polygamy? (Helpful hint: it isn't!) And in a liberal society, the biggest argument against legalising polygamy is polygamists (who tend to be not polyamorous middle-class urbanites but scary fundamentalist Mormons and Muslims for whom polygamy is a means of asserting male dominance and ownership of women). Polygamy as traditionally practised is very patriarchal and regressive and I can't really see legalising it leading to anything good (unlike same sex marriage). Anyone who's like "yeah I have poly friends", or whatever, should just pause and consider Warren Jeffs for a moment.

This seems a weird argument to make. "Polygamy would be fine if it were only practiced by nice middle class people of the kind we encounter here on Metafilter, but in practice it would mostly be icky Morman conservative people of the kind we don't encounter here on Metafilter, and therefore it's wrong."

I simply can't see how that's a reasonable argument about whether or not something should be a right. "Free speech would be nice if it would only be used to argue for socialized medicine, but some people would use it to oppose abortion too, so I'm afraid that's off the table."

Plenty of conservative creeps use "traditional" marriage as an oppressive institution. That some (even most) of the people who would engage in polygamous marriage are unpleasant people seems to me irrelevant to the legal issue of whether or not it should be their right to marry more than one partner. There are other legal remedies available to try to address the kinds of oppressive behavior people (legitimately) fear; but I cannot see how they bear on the question (at all) of whether or not some group of more-than-two people who love each other should or should not be allowed to marry.
posted by yoink at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are two words that sum up the entirety of my opposition to poly marriage : family court.

I hear that concern, having been through it myself with my first marriage. But I think honestly that some of the concerns about poly individuals in family court already come up with unmarried or long-partnered or surrogates or even married couples. Who has custody and visitation? The biological parent, the parent who raised the child, or both? In a world where we somehow manage for grandparent custody/visitation in rare cases, I'm pretty sure that we can manage the relatively simpler complexity of voluntarily entered poly relationships.

And I agree with chaosys - not only poly relationships, but monogamous marriages would also benefit from an individualized definition of what the marriage is expected to be, and what will happen if it goes wrong. Too often the couples currently involved in marriage have no idea what the fullness of their rights are, how their assets would be handled, or how they will be judged in a custody battle.

I imagine that the solutions would be as simple as requiring people looking to get married to come to it with at least a simple breakdown of how their marriage will work and what will happen if it ends - which would honestly wind up improving marriage overall as people have to think about what they want and expect down the road together.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on July 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


but for example, HIV exposure will preclude a clean bill of health for six whole months

Yeah, no. The window period is 3 months, max, and it's possible to detect antibodies at three weeks in many cases.

Also: no, this is absolutely not "fuck you I got mine." This is rational concern for the multitude of women who are being abused right now in alleged polygamous relationships that are actually about patriarchal control. See the links above about British Columbia; see also similar problems in Utah, for example. Those things need to be worked out before legalization can even be discussed. The history of poly-marriage is weighted overwhelmingly on the side of patriarchal subjugation of women, the idea of women as property. Yes, 1-1 marriage comes from the same place, and yes 1-1 marriage includes a lot of female subjugation.

Quite apart from that there are serious legal issues that would need to be untangled. Let's say I have two partners. I'm in the hospital on life support. One of them wants to pull the plug, and the other doesn't. I haven't left a living will, as most people haven't. How does my care team decide who to listen to?

My partners and I adopt a beautiful child. Our marriage fails shortly thereafter. How do we award custody? How do we work out visitation and medical decisions between the three of us, when such issues are already fraught and contentious when it's only two people?

Next-of-kin decisionmaking is a huge legal hurdle. There's a reason why there's only one chair in the Oval Office; with many human decisions the buck needs to stop somewhere. Two (or more!) people fighting over what to do about their partner is a legal nightmare.

I'm not saying these issues can't be addressed. I am saying, though, that they need to be addressed in order to have a rational conversation about this. The comparison with same-gender marriage simply doesn't wash; literally the only thing that has changed in the law is that it's now gender-blind.

Had my last poly relationship lasted, we would've formed an LLC and power-of-attorney documents to deal with a lot of the rights/assets distribution; I don't see why that wouldn't work as a template for couples too.

This is inherently privileged, and is something that is well out of reach for most people due to finances, knowledge, or both.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:50 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Polygamy is a devolutionary step, that without fail in societies where it flourishes; leads to homeless males, child brides, wives and their children held as slaves, economic and sexual, as small girls are bartered or sold.

Utah is no different, regardless of how it is presented or nicified, women are not allowed to manage money, and all decisions are made by the priesthood holder (male.) I know women who have escaped polygamy in Utah, taking their ten children wth them. I know of one large construction company built on marriages to ten, insurance-rich, widows. It is first a business that flourishes on slavery and child labor, then, a sex club with tightly controlled membership.

Pakistan, four wives living on pennies, money collected to spend in tea houses. Those micro loans were educating the children of polygamy, not their fathers' money. Polygamy is always the start of a downward spiral for women and children. In the case of the Middle East, Africa (girls traded to old men for goats, girls on Madagasgar trained at eight years old how to please new husbands) polygamy is the infectious edge of the plague of human misery and poverty that rarely remits.

Seems like a sweet deal picking up a new, sex slave, and domestic slave, sometimes even a highly paid worker whose money you get to spend, who is also your sex slave, who is willingly controlled by the female group think and surveillance of sister wives.

I once employed a woman who was taken in polygamous marriage at 15, by a man of fifty. At 32 she had five teenaged sons all working the farm. Her bedroom was like that of a little girl, spooky with dolls, and doilies. She walked out on that scene and took off with a drugstore cowboy. She was ill prepared for survival, but she was ready to live. She would be in her seventies now, I wonder how it all worked out for her?
posted by Oyéah at 10:54 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Polygamy would be fine if it were only practiced by nice middle class people of the kind we encounter here on Metafilter, but in practice it would mostly be icky Morman conservative people of the kind we don't encounter here on Metafilter, and therefore it's wrong."

It's got nothing to do with "icky Mormon conservative people" and everything to do with cultural practices that end in one dude with 5 oppressed wives and communities throwing young men out on the street. This is shit that actually happens, not hysteric scare-mongering. And there is no recourse for these young men, nor for the young women who are pressured by their communities to enter into these relationships.

Your personal experiences with polygamy run very counter to how it's actually commonly practiced. While I understand that there are totally happy polygamists out there who have established equal, non-abusive relationships, they are the minority.
posted by schroedinger at 10:58 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your personal experiences with polygamy run very counter to how it's actually commonly practiced. While I understand that there are totally happy polygamists out there who have established equal, non-abusive relationships, they are the minority.

You're simply reiterating the argument: "this shouldn't be a right because the people who currently will mostly avail themselves of this right are bad people." And, once again, that seems an argument that is orthogonal to any legal or ethical argument about whether or not it should be a right.

Let's say I have two partners. I'm in the hospital on life support. One of them wants to pull the plug, and the other doesn't.


Every day in every hospice and hospital in the US this situation presents itself: the spouse says one thing, the children say another, and it's a big mess. Adding in a small number of polygamous couples will not significantly increase that mess. It will be perfectly possible for individuals within a polygamous marriage to designate one person as having a medical power of attorney. If they fail to do that and the partners disagree, that's essentially no different than the familiar situation of family conflict in end-of-life scenarios.
posted by yoink at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


By the way, I should stress that "polygamy" does not mean "many wives" it means "many marriages." It includes both polyandry and polygyny and potential combinations of the two.
posted by yoink at 11:08 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


--I don't think polygymy creates abuse of women and children. I think they're both the result of extreme patriarchy and wealth inequality.

--I don't think polygamy is a good idea and I certainly don't think it's a right. The reason gay marriage is a "right" is because straight marriage is a right that has been granted by our government and it's not ok to make rights available to people based on their gender. Namely, if a man is able to marry a woman, then I, a woman, should be able to marry a woman. There should be no gender test for my ability to access a given government service (in this case, marriage). There is currently no government granted service for multiple marriage, and no one is being denied that service based on their membership in a protected class (or a class that should be protected, but isn't).

I personally hate a lot about monogamy and fully support consensual polyamory, spiritual marriages, and similar relationship structures. I think compulsory monogamy is utterly stupid and oppressive, mostly towards women (and have gotten comments stating as much deleted from askmefi, which, lol). However, I just don't see that polygymy is a right and given the many, many messy legal protections and dissolutions that would be involved, I don't see it being a great idea. At the very least it would be seriously expensive.

I often consider that the government should get out of marriage altogether, but it does serve to protect a specially vulnerable class of women, so I suck it up.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:10 AM on July 2, 2015


Seems like a sweet deal picking up a new, sex slave, and domestic slave, sometimes

I hope this isn't too meta, and I don't mean this in any way directed only at you, but I would just like to gently remind that we have polyamorous individuals on Metafilter - some of them self-identified in the thread - and that when you and others are talking about this, you are talking about real people, real Mefites, and their families. I understand that you and others have really strong feelings about this, but it would be great if we could tread at least a little more carefully.
posted by corb at 11:11 AM on July 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


Seems like a sweet deal picking up a new, sex slave, and domestic slave, sometimes


so you mean a traditional stay-at-home wife?

seriously, monogamous hetero marriage has mostly been about legitimizing male entitlement to female labor (reproductive, sexual, and domestic) for a long, long time. It still is, frankly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:13 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The reason gay marriage is a "right" is because straight marriage is a right that has been granted by our government and it's not ok to make rights available to people based on their gender.

That, I think, is a pretty strong case for why one need not build any legal bridge from the judicial decision in favor of gay marriage to a judicial decision in favor of polygamy. That is, if someone were to bring a polygamy case to the Supreme Court right now, I think the Court could pretty easily say "we were ruling on whether it was fair to deny you the right to marry some one person based on that person's gender; we have no need to issue any opinion as to your right to marry more than one person of any gender."

I think you could make some pretty strong rhetorical appeals based on some of the more soaring emotional language in the majority opinion, but in the end that basic issue--that the ruling was about removing a discriminatory provision within an existing institution rather than about inventing a wholly new institution--is pretty hard to get around.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Had my last poly relationship lasted, we would've formed an LLC and power-of-attorney documents to deal with a lot of the rights/assets distribution; I don't see why that wouldn't work as a template for couples too.

This is inherently privileged, and is something that is well out of reach for most people due to finances, knowledge, or both.


All the more reason to have some sort of structure in place in society that lets these issues be dealt with in a straightforward, affordable fashion, rather than having to get thousands of dollars in paperwork drafted that might not hold up in court.

It is first a business that flourishes on slavery and child labor, then, a sex club with tightly controlled membership. [and all the other comments above saying similar things, that was just a handy snippet]

Then hows about we as a society work on the slavery, child labor, child marriage, and rights of women issues, rather than assuming that relationships between consenting adults are going to have these 'features'?
posted by joycehealy at 11:21 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is inherently privileged, and is something that is well out of reach for most people due to finances, knowledge, or both.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:50 on July 2


Yeah, right now it is. That's my point, though; it shouldn't be.

(I should also mention that I'm a trans woman of color, so I'm definitely aware of the privilege issues at play here.)
posted by chaosys at 11:29 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, true story time.

My wife has bipolar disorder. We currently live in different states (it's a long story that isn't relevant right now). Last October, she had an episode. She was on the phone with me saying that she was calculating doses (scary is a trained medic with suicidal ideation). Her partner called the police (because right then, she was pretty sure wife wasn't going to let her load her up and take her to the ER). The cops came out, my wife took a ride, she got treatment, she's sitting across from me right now working on her chemistry homework. We paid the ER bill. Partner offered to pay the truck bill (but in a nice surprise, the VA picked that up) (partner provides other financial support to wife, since wife is in school FT right now; that was their deal long before we got together). We talked as adults about to deal with this when it happens again. We went on vacation together last weekend. We were over at their house for a movie last night. I'm going to the waterpark with partner & family next week (because wife doesn't do water).

In case you missed it, my wife is alive because of the actions of her partner. Far from "what happens if we disagree", I trust partner with my wife's life, and I would trust partner with mine. If it ever comes time that we disagree, we will sit down and talk to the docs and make a decision; partner often abdicates to me because me and wife do have the paperwork, but I value partner's views more than I can tell y'all.

There are folks who abuse polygamy out there; it happens all over the world, as has been vehemently pointed out in this thread. There are folks who abuse straight up monogamous male-female marriage out there (family court didn't start with us poly folks). People do crappy things in all kinds of situations. But that people automatically assume that my family and I do not work (both on the blue and off), when we so very much do, is disconcerting and tiring.
posted by joycehealy at 11:35 AM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Every day in every hospice and hospital in the US this situation presents itself: the spouse says one thing, the children say another, and it's a big mess.

Yes, and legally speaking, the spouse gets the final say. The buck stops somewhere.

joycehealy, I'm not in any way saying your family doesn't work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:41 AM on July 2, 2015


Having recently left a marriage I'm not in a strong position to advocate for them but, in general, as an also-not-monogamous person with multiple partners, I would like this right.

Better yet, I would prefer things like power of attorney, medical visitation rights, income tax roles and such could be assigned to individuals (possibly in bundles, similar to marriage) in absence of marriage.

Many essential-person-in-life relationships are not structured as marriages, not even especially like marriages, and the state pretty much treats all such non-nuclear-family relationships as "weird strangers; why are you mentioning them?" rather than designated chosen family.
posted by ead at 11:49 AM on July 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


corb: "monogamous marriages would also benefit from an individualized definition of what the marriage is expected to be, and what will happen if it goes wrong. Too often the couples currently involved in marriage have no idea what the fullness of their rights are, how their assets would be handled, or how they will be judged in a custody battle."

This is the sort of idea that seems like a good idea for rational people who ought to enter into major life decisions in a carefully-considered fashion, but unfortunately in practice most people are not rational, and most people do an absolutely shit job of deciding what their marriage "ought to look like" given half a chance. I wrote pre-nups for a while, and anyone who's done prenups will tell you, a huge portion of the practice is telling people, "No, the court will find that unconscionable." "No, you can't refuse to support your children." "No, you can't require your spouse to [do some crazy thing] or forfeit spousal support." And if a marriage lasts more than, say, ten years, a surprising number of pre-nups are invalidated by the court anyway as rendered unconscionably unfair anyway by changes in the couple's circumstances. (And people, all the damn time, accidentally invalidate their own prenups by managing their money in ways contrary to the prenup, or writing wills contrary to the prenup.)

The state has a lot of experience in marriage and divorce. Even the most profligate marriers in America rarely get more than, oh, four or five bites at the apple. So the state sets general standards of marriage and divorce and requires you to affirmatively opt out of them via pre-nup (rather than opt into them via bringing your own marriage contract) because PEOPLE ARE STUPID and people in love are doubly stupid and people getting divorced are vindictive and stupid, and frequently there are minor children who should be traumatized as little as possible by all this stupidity.

I think of this as the Rational Nerd Fallacy of the Law: "Rational people making rational decisions should be allowed freedom to make any set of rational decisions about their personal lives they choose! They know better than the state!" This might be true! (I don't know, it might not be, a lot of sociopaths are pretty fucking rational.) But I know for sure that people aren't rational, so it's foolish to pass laws that rely on them being rational when the failure state is impoverished women (mostly) and children lacking adequate care.

I mean, really we even put limits on cell-phone contracts because we recognize that people are less-rational than cell phone companies and therefore cell phone companies will prey upon them mercilessly. The state tries to keep Verizon from bankrupting you for making a less-than-perfectly-rational decision about your cell service, we all still hate our cell phone contracts because we realize they are vampiric rentiers and we are their victims, but at least people don't go bankrupt from them very often anymore.

It would also, side note, render both marriage and divorce so fantastically much more expensive as to make them goods only available to the rich. Without general guidelines, every agreement is going to have to be drafted (by the couple or by lawyers), approved by whatever state authority is approving marriage contracts, and then litigated in the event of a divorce. It'd be a fucking nightmare, and it'd be really expensive. Standardization lowers costs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:50 AM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yes, this is why I suggested that there be a default model. There does need to be a standard set of agreements to fall back on. It just can't be only that model, because it won't fit universally. If people are going to take the time and resources to actually think about the structure of their relationships, they should be able to tailor the contractual aspect to their needs. But people are irrational, and so there needs to be an easy way than can be adjusted as needed, because they won't notice immediately what doesn't work.
posted by chaosys at 12:02 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, and legally speaking, the spouse gets the final say. The buck stops somewhere.

This is incorrect as a simple matter of fact. Here, for example, is a helpful run down by the Patients Rights Council. But even in those states where the spouse does have a default right to make medical decisions in the case of incapacitation, in practice you are advised to have a formal document declaring that the spouse has medical power of attorney AND a living will that makes your intentions and desires clear. Very, very frequently--and especially where the family are divided--doctors will resist acting on the instructions of a spouse if they feel there is any possible uncertainty that the spouse is acting on the patient's direct instructions. That's one of the reasons end-of-life care in the US is such a clusterfuck of unnecessary and unhelpful interventions and other misery.

So whatever else you take from this thread: wherever you live and whatever the law technically states, make a living will and nominate someone to have medical power of attorney should you be incapacitated.
posted by yoink at 12:02 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Standardization lowers costs

It also omits a bunch of people if it's the only option. It's fine for the default to be standardized -- I don't think anyone's suggesting that every marriage should be a mix-and-match special -- and probably the great majority would check off

[x] standard 2-party marriage

much like most people would be happy with a simplified standard tax return. Especially if it's cheaper and easier. But it'd be nice if there were some kind of fallback "well, er ..." version that was recognized by the state and more of society. Otherwise those people are SOL.
posted by ead at 12:02 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


chimaera: "I'm of the opinion that the only feasible way that poly-marriage is going to not end up being a vehicle for the oppression of women and poor men (cf. the Fundamentalist LDS and their (effectively) harems and "lost boys") is to require total community property, and prenuptial agreements should be absolutely unenforceable.

It doesn't matter how much you brought into the marriage, you have precisely the right to a share of 1/N (where N is the number of people in the marriage) of the total property of all the participants
Boom. Mic drop. chimaera walks out of the auditorium.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:13 PM on July 2, 2015


ead: "I don't think anyone's suggesting that every marriage should be a mix-and-match special"

Well, a couple of people suggested it in the thread. (Or by my reading did so, anyway. I might have read wrong.)

But I agree with your general point; way up top my suggestion was to try Dutch-style "Household Contracts" as an intermediate step and see how that works, as an intermediary step of partially discovering what the benefits and pitfalls to atypical marriages would be (for society), and as something that's theoretically achievable within American law -- I think you could build a coalition for a law that would give multigenerational families, long-term roommates, and *cough incidentally by the way* poly families a way to organize their households that was a step between an informal agreement and a formal marriage. Two or three states could try it out, and in five years we'd have some preliminary data on how those agreements affect things the state cares about ... if at all. In ten years our data would be getting pretty robust, and we'd be getting a fairly good (if still pretty anecdotal) report on the fail states of the agreements, which could help us think about how to avoid the fail states.

My personal intuition is that the costs of polygamous marriage would be greater than the benefits to society (not necessarily to any individual family), but intuitions are very often wrong, especially in the realm of law, which is why I'm not interested in enshrining my personal intuition, but in finding ways to test the idea and see what actually happens.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:18 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ah, sorry, missed that suggestion. Yes, the household contract approach might cover much of the important territory.

adjusts reading glasses, tries harder
posted by ead at 12:27 PM on July 2, 2015


Boom. Mic drop. chimaera walks out of the auditorium.

I then walked back in and sort of put my foot in my mouth by using a current example that exists in the world today, which was construed as me advocating that women owe men sex, and my clarification has apparently fallen on deaf ears. Let's keep callout culture alive and well, metafilter.
posted by chimaera at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was a pretty uncharitable misread and I don't blame you for being irritated.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:47 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


All the more reason to have some sort of structure in place in society that lets these issues be dealt with in a straightforward, affordable fashion, rather than having to get thousands of dollars in paperwork drafted that might not hold up in court.

A polygamous marriage should prove no more difficult for society to accommodate than any other business transaction involving multiple parties. We already have mechanics in place for setting up and divesting ownership, financial and other legal obligations and roles played in limited liability corporations. Further, a pairing of two people of same or dissimilar genders is already treated as a legal and economic relationship; we have civil arrangements for managing all aspects of this relationship as disputes or life events arise.

It seems there is little work left to do to allow the same arrangement for three or more marital "shareholders" who would consensually enter into the same kind of partnership — it is effectively a rebranding or rewording of a number of processes and logistics that we already have on the books.

Because the mechanics for this are already in place for business, it is useful to examine the opposition in relation to past scenarios. Interestingly, outside of issues of consent in some areas where this is practiced, it seems like a number of objections to polygamy can essentially be reduced to something similar to what was once popular opposition to same-sex marriage: i.e., distaste of the sexual behaviors of the parties involved in the relationship, and post hoc rationalization of that distaste on the basis of some set of religious or moral codes, chosen after the fact. Acceptance of polyamorous relationships might only be possible in a post-industrial, corporatist/consumerist society.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:14 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having a problem with the frequent subjugation of women in poly marriages that exist right now is not even remotely equivalent to the 'eww buttsex' of the anti-gay-marriage brigade.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:19 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you have any data on that alleged frequency? Because right now it just sounds like FUD. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but is it actually common compared to healthy polycules? My experiences say it's not, but that's anecdata.
posted by chaosys at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2015


Links have been provided upthread. It's not FUD; there are breakaway Mormon sects that practice abusive polygamy, there's the whole major problem in BC, too. Making it legal helps the abusers rather than hindering them.

In no way am I saying that poly marriage shouldn't be legal. I'm saying there are serious structural problems, with legal implications radiating out across quite large pieces of society, that need to be addressed in any kind of framework for legalization.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


A polygamous marriage should prove no more difficult for society to accommodate than any other business transaction involving multiple parties.

You're right that society can accommodate business transactions involving multiple parties, but states generally don't provide default arrangements for business transactions involving multiple parties, outside of a few highly routinized processes (like real estate closings). There really isn't any reason for states to step in to provide a whole range of default multiple-party contracts, since it seems pretty likely that multiple-party transactions will be sufficiently different from one another that it makes sense for them to be negotiated individually.

I'd be happy to be wrong about this, but it seems to me that there just isn't agreement among people in committed polygamous relationships as to what a state-sanctioned polygamous marriage should entail. Until such agreement is reached, I think that the next-best option is state enforcement of (acceptable) provisions of agreements entered into among the members of a polygamous relationship.
posted by burden at 2:05 PM on July 2, 2015


I still don't see any hard numbers in those links that compare rates of abuse, or even religious polygyny to other forms of polyamorous groups. Again, I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I have a hard time believing it's anywhere near as common, comparatively, as people keep implying.

And I completely agree with you that there are major structural challenges. But isn't that the point of this entire thread?
posted by chaosys at 2:07 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having a problem with the frequent subjugation of women in poly marriages that exist right now is not even remotely equivalent to the 'eww buttsex' of the anti-gay-marriage brigade.

Are you serious? You think concerns over the facilitation of ongoing religiously-inspired subjugation is equivalent to finding a sex act distasteful? The difference between homosexual relationships and polygamous communities is that resistance to one is based on the unfounded assumption that they ruin communities, whereas resistance to the other is based on the observed reality of how polygamy ruins communities as it is practiced today by the majority of its adherents in the US.

I've no issue with poly relationships--I'd be open to entering one myself. But pretending like it's totes harmless and legalizing them is a totally simple task with no risk of societal backlash is ridiculous. In a perfect world where every human being is 100% rational, then it's great. In our imperfect world where we see monogamous marriage used as a tool for domestic abuse, without the additional complications of polygamy, well, the situation doesn't seem so simple.
posted by schroedinger at 2:46 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or, see this bit by Jim Jeffries. It's in the context of gun control, but the principle applies here.
posted by schroedinger at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2015


Having a problem with the frequent subjugation of women in poly marriages that exist right now is not even remotely equivalent to the 'eww buttsex' of the anti-gay-marriage brigade.

Are you serious? You think concerns over the facilitation of ongoing religiously-inspired subjugation is equivalent to finding a sex act distasteful?


I think you somehow missed the words "not even remotely" when reading the comment you quote here.
posted by yoink at 2:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


schroedinger, you and I are in total agreement. I think maybe I was being too clever with the sentence structure there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2015


How about legalizing polyandry but not polygamy?
posted by aielen at 3:39 PM on July 2, 2015


In terms of the basis of the Obergefell decision, it has no fundamental relevance to polygamy. Same-sex attracted people fought for the right to marry, which they were constitutionally entitled to under the 14th amendment. This is a right they should have had from the beginning, that they were denied simply due to prejudice. Even so, it took decades, and I think the passage of "civil unions" legislation, which many bemoaned as a poor substitute for marriage, helped in the evolution to where we are today. In the United States, no one is able to marry more than one person legally, so no one who wants to is being deprived of rights given to others. The Obergefell decision really has nothing to do with polygamy. Expanding marriage to more than two people is simply a much bigger change than allowing same-sex marriage.

As bswinburn notes, polygamy itself is effectively decriminalized in many states. I'm on board with those who say polygamous marriage is not something we can just jump into, and think something like the samenlevingcontract would be a sensible first step. There's a divide between those of a more libertarian bent who think that we should make laws based purely on our idea of what is ethical and maximizes the freedom of the individual, and people like me who think we have to consider the practical effects of the law. The noted problems of patriarchy in monogamous marriages are compounded in societies which allow polygamy. Societies that do allow polygamous marriage today and historically are far less egalitarian and far more egregious in their subjugation of women and children than countries in which it is illegal. And in those in which it is legal it is only polygyny that is accepted, never polyandry. For proof see this wikipidia entry or any other sources of similar information.

Why do we automatically envision that legalizing polygamy would lead predominantly to polygynous relationships (rather than a more even mix of different kinds of relationships), leaving more men unmarried? Why not more unmarried people period, or more single women? I think the reason we seem to envision such a society in the first place is because we live in a patriarchal society, and one with ever-increasing income inequality. We would do well to deal with that first before allowing changes that very well may only reify patriarchy. Laws have to be based on how people act, not how we wish they would. And as Eyebrows McGee points out in her excellent comment, apart from creating social goods the state will make laws based on what will make its functioning easier, not more complicated. If people or society change, or our understanding of them changes, laws and even constitutional amendments can be changed.

But I do qualify everything I say with "I think" because I do not know what would happen. Something like a relatively egalitarian society where polygamous marriage is legal has, to my knowledge, never existed. Maybe it could work fine, but taking a smaller step like the samenlevingcontract makes more sense.

How about legalizing polyandry but not polygamy?
that's like doing the risk-averse social-engineering approach that I'm advocating but also runs directly into 14th amendment issues.
posted by callistus at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're simply reiterating the argument: "this shouldn't be a right because the people who currently will mostly avail themselves of this right are bad people." And, once again, that seems an argument that is orthogonal to any legal or ethical argument about whether or not it should be a right.

I don't think polygamists are bad people at all. I would blame their patriarchal system of doing things and not blame the victims. In the American West, polygamy is a situation where the religious leaders determine who gets to have the wives, and if loyalty is questioned, those wives and children can be given to someone else. The practice is dictatorial and communistic and produces human degradation on all levels, notably the lost boy phenomenon, child sexual abuse, child brides, forced breeding and welfare fraud. Anti-polygamy laws exist for the same reasons that laws protect teens from predatory drug gangs selling addictive substances to young brains with parents' money. There is no absolute right to sell kids heroin anymore than there is an absolute right to exploit people from birth in religious cults to become child brides. Any notion of rights without justification is absurd, otherwise tourists could drive drunk every night and demand a police escort too. The fact remains that polygamy doesn't need the state to endorse it as a right, because rights lead to both subsidies and sponsorship where laws intersect the economy, and so long as people can afford an attorney to make their own legal associations, it should remain a demand-side policy for those with means who can afford it. All of us cannot practice it in its structured form anyway, by nature, and in its free form it is known as free love, which is anathema to marriage.
posted by Brian B. at 3:56 PM on July 2, 2015


How about legalizing polyandry but not polygamy?

Polyandry is polygamy. The contrasting term you're groping for is polygyny. I really can't tell from this discussion of some people think those advocating for polygamy are referring exclusively to polygyny.

I don't think polygamists are bad people at all. I would blame their patriarchal system of doing things and not blame the victims.


Well, I wasn't replying to you, in that comment. But you're making the same mistake: you're thinking of only one class of potential polygamous marriages. The ones which involve coercion and repression. You're still, essentially, saying "polygamy is bad because some of the people who choose to practice it engage in bad practices." The flip side of that claim being "well, if all the people who would take advantage of the legalization of polygamy were nice middle-class polyamorous groupings of right-thinking Mefites, it would be cool; but unfortunately some of the people who will take advantage of the legalization would not be cool like that." Which, as an argument about whether society has a fundamental interest in preventing these marriages seems bizarre.

If you want to make coercion, oppression, marital rape (etc. etc.) illegal then pass those laws (most of which already exist--so it's more a case of "enforce those laws"). But to say "well, some polygamous marriages will involve coercion and oppression etc. and therefore we can't legalize it" is no more cogent an argument than to say "some monogamous marriages involve coercion and oppression, and therefore we can't legalize it."
posted by yoink at 4:08 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


You're still, essentially, saying "polygamy is bad because some of the people who choose to practice it engage in bad practices."

Your point essentially makes an impossible threshold (unfalsifiable, or no-true-Scotsman). What may be important is that the practice needs to show a need, and starting with the assumption that legal marriage is required for multiple partners to succeed is suspicious. People born to think that way are mostly conservative victims. I would also suggest that if it is anyone's problem or burden to begin with, it is not anyone's right.
posted by Brian B. at 4:36 PM on July 2, 2015


Anti-polygamy laws exist for the same reasons that laws protect teens from predatory drug gangs selling addictive substances to young brains with parents' money. There is no absolute right to sell kids heroin anymore than there is an absolute right to exploit people from birth in religious cults to become child brides.

Can I just point out some of the weird slippages in your argument here? An argument for polygamy is not an argument for lowering the age of consent; so the crack about "child brides" is bizarrely irrelevant. It's easy to argue that the state has a compelling interest in preventing children from marrying. Child marriage is no more relevant as an objection to polygamy between consenting adults than it would be as an objection to gay marriage.

And the analogy to "selling heroin" is equally absurd. The reason the state outlaws the sale of heroin (to adults and children alike) is that it sees heroin as inherently dangerous and damaging. You have not made an argument, however, that polygamy per se is inherently dangerous and damaging. Rather you have made an argument that some people who engage in polygamy will also engage in other dangerous and damaging acts (coercion, induction into cults, bullying etc.). But in order to show that the state has a compelling interest in outlawing polygamy on those grounds you have to show that there is some essential connection between the state recognizing polygamous marriages and the legitimation and propagation of those negative actions.

Given that the people you're instancing as evidence that "polygamists do bad things" are all, by definition, people who do those bad things without polygamy being legal you haven't, in fact, demonstrated that legalizing polygamy would lead to more of those bad things. And given that the bad things are, by and large, already illegal and will remain illegal even if polygamy is legalized, you have quite a steep evidentiary hill to climb to demonstrate that legalizing polygamy (without legalizing child marriage, or marital rape or any of the other bad practices you instance) will actually encourage more bad behavior.

Your point essentially makes an impossible threshold


No, it doesn't. It makes no "threshold" whatsoever. I can only assume you have misunderstood my argument.

What may be important is that the practice needs to show a need


That's actually the easiest side of the case. The "needs" are all pretty much exactly the same ones we all found so compelling in the case of same-sex marriage: visiting rights in hospitals, inheritance, state recognition, taxation etc. etc. etc. To say "oh, you can just make private legal arrangements" is no more compelling in the case of polygamy than it was in the case of same-sex marriage.
posted by yoink at 4:51 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd really like to emphasize, again, that SSM and poly marriage are totally orthogonal issues. SSM was about extending rights that were withheld due to prejudice. This is about creating an entirely new legal construct.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:54 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


So w/re the exploitative, explicitly patriarchal forms of polygamy:

As commentors above have said, they are happening, right now, in the U.S. and elsewhere. They were happening before Obergefell, and they will continue to happen regardless of the government's position. Even when the government was more actively antagonistic, they happened.

And because they're forced to the fringes, the communities that support these marriages tend to be insular and suspicious. That embattled mindset works to the advantage of the abusers.

If these marriages were recognized and destigmatized, all of the wives would have enforceable community property rights, rights of survivorship, rights to presumption of paternity, etc. And in the event of a dissolution, there'd be a judge involved who would have a legal duty to protect the best interests of the child. For lost boys especially, that presumption of paternity could be extremely useful, because it could open up avenues for seeking support from the families that expelled them.

The fact that some forms of polygamy are dangerous is not a reason for the law to ignore it. It's a reason for the law to acknowledge it, bring it out into the sunshine, and regulate its practice.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


Dang, I am fffm! I let my temper get the best of me and completely misread your comment. Time to go pet some cats and chill out.
posted by schroedinger at 5:07 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dang, I am fffm!

then who am I
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:12 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rather you have made an argument that some people who engage in polygamy will also engage in other dangerous and damaging acts (coercion, induction into cults, bullying etc.). But in order to show that the state has a compelling interest in outlawing polygamy on those grounds you have to show that there is some essential connection between the state recognizing polygamous marriages and the legitimation and propagation of those negative actions.

This compelling interest generally assumes a right already outlined, such as religious liberty. If we're really talking about such liberty, then we don't need a secular argument for it. Also, the public has outlawed polygamy already, so I am at a loss to see any need for the state's good faith when the state is responsible for addressing the barbaric abuses, and the public doesn't need or want polygamy to lend any values to society. Also can't see how your selective argument does slavery any disservice, related to polygamy by the famous "twin barbarisms" moniker of old. The bottom line is that the public doesn't need to give licenses to something that doesn't require it for fairness or benefit.
posted by Brian B. at 5:15 PM on July 2, 2015


Legal recognition of multiple-partner relationships is the right thing to do, but there are a lot of unresolved issues, as pointed out by many in this thread.

First of all, it needs to be done slowly. This is not a simple thing like same sex marriage. It doesn't need to be done in the name of 'marriage' or polygamy, and in fact should not be. The goal is for rights which today can only be obtained through marriage to become available outside of marriage.

Good place to start: valid nation-wide, legally binding appointment of next-of-kin. A broad coalition of people could benefit from that.

Also good: the already-mentioned household agreements.

Pick of one piece of marriage at a time and make them available to everyone. As you do that, new legal and cultural norms can build up, avoiding some of the problems of legalizing polygamy all at once.

Other problems are resolved through broader struggles: universal health and child care, liberalization of border controls, fighting income inequality. Each of these, and others besides, diminishes the importance of the legal status of marriage, helps those in multi-partner relationships (and everyone else who isn't legally married), and simplifies the context for how a legal multi-partner arrangement might work.

Over time, the legal status of marriage matters less and less, and new norms and structures are built which can incorporate and support multiple-partner relationships. Maybe some of those can legally be a "marriage", maybe not. Whatever the case, the road there is broad coalitions, and not too much focus on ploygamy per se.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


shorter version: the way to non-abusive, legal polygamy is to first destroy traditional marriage.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:22 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


For lost boys especially, that presumption of paternity could be extremely useful, because it could open up avenues for seeking support from the families that expelled them.


If these fathers are blatantly violating several laws now, how will legalizing polygamy (which in FLDS families is often tantamount to abuse and rape) get them to follow the law? Even without the presumption of paternity they can and should still be prosecuted for avoiding caring for their children.
posted by callistus at 5:24 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


A polygamous marriage should prove no more difficult for society to accommodate than any other business transaction involving multiple parties.

Clearly someone here is too young to have experienced trying to pick a movie at Blockbuster with three other people.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:23 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Right now, for the most part, the fathers of lost boys are legal strangers. With the presumption of paternity, they wouldn't be. That would allow the state to proceed against them for support, and depending on the local law, might provide a private right of action for the boys as well. If the fathers chose to ignore these obligations, judgements, liens, garnishments, etc. would result. It's not perfect, but it's more than they have now.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


So we need laws to better mitigate the negative effects of polygyny? Because if it were not for polygyny in the FLDS community there would be no 'lost boys'. There are also girls who are forced to leave because they refuse to join a polygynous marriage. I agree we need to deal with that problem somehow, but that's a very different argument than saying we need to restructure society in a radical way to extend the state's recognition of marriage beyond two people, with all the inherent complications and unforeseen consequences that would result.

It's odd that I'm actually a conservative on this issue. Marriage is a stabilizing force in society. It has been very clear that gay marriage only extends that 'social glue' aspect, only further protects adults and children born into such marriages. Even so, it took many conservatives decades to believe that gay marriage would not harm society, that children in gay marriages were just as well off as those in straight marriages. Some are still not convinced. If polygamy could be structured to have the same social benefits, I'd be for it. But it tends to be a bad deal for all but wealthy men: the traditional roots of patriarchy. I recognize that denying the extension of state recognition to some couples in polyamorous relationships and to their children has negative consequences today, which may or may not be fixable. Speaking of which, I'm surprised I have not seen anything about this case of a family with three parents on their child's birth certificate. I wonder if there are more cases like that, and how they are working?
posted by callistus at 9:25 PM on July 2, 2015


Callistus, I think that marriage historically protected women, who were generally the weaker partner in male/female relationships. Why wouldn't it work that way in polygamous relationships? Multiple partners can already live together without legal penalties, but the partners lack the protection offered by a recognised marriage. Marriage would allow a spouse to make a claim against marital assets, rather than trying to make a novel claim in equity against the other partners.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 PM on July 2, 2015


It could have that benefit for individuals, certainly - which would likely also be at the expense of the other partners in such a marriage, including potentially the children. Therefore it may not be in society's or the state's interest to encourage people to expect such protection.

When I think of discussions I have with divorced parents who are upset about the way their exes raise their children or fail to abide by some expectation, and then think of those grievances compounded by multiple offenders, I am wary of the notion.
posted by callistus at 9:51 PM on July 2, 2015


There's one fundamental issue here. Either the law gives everyone the tools they need to form the (consenting) domestic arrangement of their choice, or we don't have equal protection under the law.

If you think polygamy is different in this fundamental regard from what to do with same sex couples, then it turns out when you were fighting for their marriages, you didn't really care about equal protection under the law so much as you just had a identity/team you were rooting for.

Where domestic arrangements get bigger than couples, yes, there are *things* to think about. As it turns out, we've been thinking about many of them for a while when we've tried to address how to handle formerly stable couples breaking into more complex situations. If we're thoughtful adults about the whole topic I bet we can figure out how to apply many of the principles involved to stable configurations bigger than a couple. Or maybe even something that works for people who've decided to take care of each other even though they might not plan to have weddings and sex and children.

Not that the recent debate would lead anyone to believe we're really good at the whole thoughtful adult thing.
posted by weston at 11:34 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you think polygamy is different in this fundamental regard from what to do with same sex couples, then it turns out when you were fighting for their marriages, you didn't really care about equal protection under the law so much as you just had a identity/team you were rooting for.

Yeah, no. Same sex marriage was about discrimination. Nobody can legally enter into polygamous marriages; "the law, in its majesty" etc. If you want to argue that people should be able to, you will get no disagreement from me. The two situations are fundamentally different, however. SSM was about extending an extant right to everyone. Polygamy is about constructing something entirely new in the law.

They're not comparable, they're not related, and I really wish people would stop conflating them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:46 PM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, no. Same sex marriage was not about discrimination. Nobody could legally enter into same sex marriages; "the law, in its majesty" etc.
posted by andoatnp at 11:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


you have got to be joking
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:11 AM on July 3, 2015


Well, yes, thus the reference to Anatole France.
posted by Justinian at 12:13 AM on July 3, 2015


Ky: No one can marry same sex, ban not biased
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the state's ban on gay marriage should be upheld in part because it is not discriminatory in that both gay and straight people are barred from marrying people of the same gender.

In an argument labeled absurd by gay marriage advocates, Beshear's lawyer says in a brief filed last week at the U.S. Supreme Court that "men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex" under Kentucky law, making the law non-discriminatory.

The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states, including Kentucky, by saying they weren't discriminatory because whites were barred from marrying blacks just as blacks were barred from marrying whites.

posted by andoatnp at 12:19 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're trying really hard, and failing.

I suspect you're also missing the point where I am not opposed to polygamous marriages in principle.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:26 AM on July 3, 2015


Yeah, no

You're trying really hard, and failing.

Lots of flat statements. Not much in the way of actual argument. At least *someone* here is trying hard.

I'll continue in that vein and try to make some assumptions about the argument you didn't make but might be thinking: marriage is a *couple* institution. So saying it is an institution for couples isn't discriminatory because that's just what it is, nobody can have three people in a marriage, so there's equal protection. If we want > 2 marriages, we'll just have to make something new, because that's not marriage.

Other people have already pointed out, of course, that this has a lot in common with other exclusive attempts to establish the essential invariants involved in what we mean by marriage. That's a point at least as strong as it was for same-sex marriages, but I don't think that's the strongest counter, though.

Conceiving of poly relationships as a "group marriage" where more than two are admitted to the party might be useful, but it isn't necessary, and probably doesn't reflect the most common case, which is simply participation in multiple couple relationships. In this light, the discrimination involved is clear: denying the formal status to *some* couple relationships based on the fact that one member of them may be in *another* formalized couple relationship.

I suspect you're also missing the point where I am not opposed to polygamous marriages in principle.

It would be nice if the principle involved was equal protection under the law when it comes to where the law touches the rights of people to have the domestic arrangements of their choice, but if that isn't the one you care about, I guess I'll take what I can get.

And for my part, I'm not sure the solution here really is shoehorning every possible domestic arrangement into marriage, just like I wasn't sure that was the solution for same-sex couples. But then again, polygamous marriage is better trodden ground as far as human history goes, and the arguments that a separate legal status might not have equal weight might apply as well here as they have in recent debate.
posted by weston at 1:32 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why does it seem like all visible poly relationships are one gross man married to a harem of women? I never hear of a woman with multiple husbands?
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:23 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


you have got to be joking

This kind of dismissive reaction to an obviously sincere argument in pursuit of someone's rights, is part of the reason why there's a perception that the monogamous homosexual community is throwing the poly community under the bus now that they've got theirs.
posted by Drexen at 4:08 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also FunkyHelix, your comment is gross. People in this very thread have described their relationships other than "one gross man and a harem of women".
posted by Drexen at 4:09 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


So. Some legal scholars in the US have been considering and writing about the issues involved in more complex family structures for a couple decades now. I am most familiar with Nancy Polikoff's work, through her book and blog Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage (and have posted this same link in a few threads here before, not that I have any right to feel annoyed that folks don't rember, since I never made an fpp about it or anything major, and not everyone reads every thread anyway). From the first link,
Nancy Polikoff is Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law where she teaches Family Law and a seminar on Children of LGBT Parents. From Fall 2011 through Fall 2012, she was the Visiting McDonald/Wright Chair of Law at UCLA School of Law and Faculty Chair of the Williams Institute, a national think tank on sexual orientation law and public policy at UCLA Law. In 1976, Prof. Polikoff co-authored one of the first law review articles on custody rights of lesbian mothers. For almost 40 years, she has been writing about, teaching about, and working on litigation and legislation about LGBT families. Her book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, was published by Beacon Press in 2008, the inaugural volume in its Queer Ideas series.

Prof. Polikoff was instrumental in the development of the legal theories that support second-parent adoption and custody and visitation rights for legally unrecognized parents. She was successful counsel in In re M.M.D., the 1995 case that established joint adoption for lesbian, gay, and unmarried couples in the District of Columbia, and Boswell v. Boswell, the 1998 Maryland case overturning restrictions on a gay noncustodial father’s visitation rights. From 2007-2009, she played a primary role in the drafting and passage of groundbreaking parentage legislation in the District of Columbia, for which she was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the DC Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.
It's certainly not a "solved problem" any more than any other aspect of family law, but it's also not virgin territory (pun intended).
posted by eviemath at 6:04 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


This kind of dismissive reaction to an obviously sincere argument in pursuit of someone's rights, is part of the reason why there's a perception that the monogamous homosexual community is throwing the poly community under the bus now that they've got theirs.

Using the arguments of a homophobe isn't sincere. And you might be served by rereading the multiple times where I say that yes poly marriage should be legalized.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:36 AM on July 3, 2015


Using the arguments of a homophobe isn't sincere.

If you mean this comment, it seems clear to me that he was speaking satirically, drawing a parallel between that well-known homophobic argument and the one you had just made, pointing out how closely they hew together. There have been any number of changes to the institution of marriage, some of them serious and fundamental (extending it to SSM included), many or all of them presented by reactionaries as being serious and fundamental and One Step Too Far Over The Line if it's being made for the benefit of someone not in your particular group.

And you might be served by rereading the multiple times where I say that yes poly marriage should be legalized.

And then what, ignore the times where you're fighting against the arguments for actually legalizing it, using the same bullshit tactics the homophobes did against gay marriage? If you're on board with the principle then that's great, but it doesn't give you a free pass to make any argument you want about it without getting pushback.
posted by Drexen at 8:54 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to say this for the last time, maybe it'll stick: there is no comparison between SSM and poly marriage. They are different things. Since we've reached the point at which people simply aren't bothering to read the words I write, I'm out. I hope you get to marry multiple people one day, Drexen, if that is your wish.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I heard you the first time, and of course it's true in the basic sense. I'm arguing that the differences are not as fundamental as you seem to think and do not constitute good reasons not to pursue and advance this agenda, and that to argue that they do is regressive and unduly strengthens the reactionary cause. It doesn't mean I'm saying "YOU ARE BAD ENEMY AND MUST FOREVER BE TRODDEN INTO THE DIRT." So, no hard feelings from me, and thanks for the well-wishes.
posted by Drexen at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2015


( Eh, to clarify: "do not constitute good reasons not to use those arguments (comparing SSM and poly marriage) to pursue and advance this agenda" )
posted by Drexen at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2015


I never hear of a woman with multiple husbands?

One man with multiple women is the only kind of polygamous marriage that's ever been legal (barring some extreme cases in societies which predate modern civilization) and widely practiced, but certainly there are all kinds of pairings in modern poly groupings.

The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states,

There are clear parallels between interracial marriage and SSM. We can try convincing Sonia Sotomayor that the same is true of polygamous marriage, and maybe she'll even agree...but then what? Interracial marriage was legal in the other states; in some states, such as New York, New Jersey, much of New England, it was never illegal in the first place. In the south all that had to be done was certain laws (or words in laws) had to be removed. Nobody had to figure out how "interracial marriage" was going to work.

Same with SSM - once it was passed in some states there was no serious debate about how it was to be carried out. The rights of all previously married couples were simply extended to other couples. In both interracial and SS cases, no compelling state interest could be identified to prevent these simple changes, but that was after decades of people arguing that there were, and after communities had lived in the absence of racial/SS restrictions on marriage in either America or much of the rest of the world. Progress on polygamous marriage could happen faster, but could also potentially have a much larger effect on society. As such, it would make sense to first work to enact such laws (no idea how that would work) in some smaller context - in a state, or really anywhere in the post-industrial world for a start.
posted by callistus at 9:24 AM on July 3, 2015


We might as well be wondering how to get prisoners their gun rights while in prison (or alcohol to homeless people, if guns trigger you). Some would argue that its a right no matter what and we need to solve it; others would argue that secured guns can be managed properly if a major structural reform was made, while others would say they are on the fence, they want the prisoners to have guns for self defense, but think there are circumstances where it would be abused. The point is that people are missing the point, and many have swallowed some sort of pseudo-liberal placebo that told them to extend special rights to any self-selected minority. That alone is absurd, there is not any need established, whether it is based on fairness, social benefit, or otherwise (noting also that any unrestricted freedom arguments run counter to marriage laws and marriage bonds regardless). What is absurdly compounding that absurdity is the social fact that this self-selected minority should often be rescued and treated rather than recognized and legitimized and handed incentives, benefits and more legal strategies to commit fraud or abuse.
posted by Brian B. at 9:26 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you mean this comment, it seems clear to me that he was speaking satirically, drawing a parallel between that well-known homophobic argument and the one you had just made, pointing out how closely they hew together.

Right.
posted by andoatnp at 10:09 AM on July 3, 2015


Dang, I am fffm!

then who am I
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 PM on July 2 [+] [!]


boy I am failing all over this thread
posted by schroedinger at 10:23 AM on July 3, 2015




Next up, explaining to people that marrying animals and objects is not related to the gay marriage issue. Spoiler: marriage between two people must include all people to be considered a categorical human right for anyone else.
posted by Brian B. at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


See, brian B., this is a case in point. Extending rights to more people - the same rights to enter into consensual, mutually agreed adults that others enjoy, and which are so fundamental (for many people) to living a full and happy life, is not the same as saying it's a rights free-for-all and anyone can get anything they want if they say it's a right. You're attacking a strawman - the same strawman that has been trotted out many times, and just offensively, in the SSM debate.
posted by Drexen at 12:53 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Same with SSM - once it was passed in some states there was no serious debate about how it was to be carried out. The rights of all previously married couples were simply extended to other couples.

That last sentence sounds quite a lot like a simple, compatible legal framework for poly relationships.
posted by weston at 2:18 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


the same strawman that has been trotted out many times, and just offensively, in the SSM debate.

The difference is completely obverse, that they were likely saying that people would be able to marry them, while I'm suggesting they shouldn't be able to, based on the logic of equal rights. Marriage is a simple partnership with unique properties of joint-ownership and survivorship, deemed a major benefit in family planning. Our laws have already denied polygamy between healthy heterosexual couples, even though it is traditional, often religious, and legal in some other countries: because it is abused like no other social arrangement. But now that gay couples are allowed to marry like everyone else, polygamists may claim that things have changed and their problems are somehow likewise related to being denied an equal right. Facts are still facts though, there is no abundance of women to marry off to those who promote their sexism through religion and think that righteous men get to have more wives than everyone else. And we don't need to pretend they are being denied anything except extra welfare and the paid opportunity to brainwash their dozens of children into communal polygamous cults where outcasting is the norm. From a biological standpoint, the practice often creates a genetic bottleneck that polygamous communities struggle with today. Casual arguments in their favor often feature a sympathy to free love, which is exactly the opposite and misguided accordingly.
posted by Brian B. at 2:23 PM on July 3, 2015


Polygamist sect orders businesses to send workers home. Apparently they need to build an emergency wall fast, so that the ex-member's party music can't be heard at the church parking lot on the Fourth of July, where, nearby, the leavers will be celebrating their freedom. Polygamy is the horse that patriarchy rode in on.
posted by Brian B. at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2015


The difference is completely obverse, that they were likely saying that people would be able to marry them, while I'm suggesting they shouldn't be able to, based on the logic of equal rights.

No, you're the only one talking about animals and inanimate objects. Hence, strawman. As for your talk about oppressive bigamy, it's been addressed above. Abuse, patriarchy and subjugation are the problems you're identifying and the problems that need addressing, not polygamy.

And we don't need to pretend they are being denied anything except extra welfare and the paid opportunity to brainwash their dozens of children into communal polygamous cults where outcasting is the norm.

No, the SSM debate/case established how crucial and non-trivial satisfactory marriage rights are and equating people who seek them with brainwashing child-abductors is as offensive as it is ludicrous.
posted by Drexen at 3:38 PM on July 3, 2015


Polygamy is the horse that patriarchy rode in on.

Saying that polygamy is the reason why a cultist whackjob would build a wall is ludicrous.
posted by Drexen at 3:46 PM on July 3, 2015


Okay, that was kind of facetious. But polygamy is orthogonal to the abuse and patriarchy of that particular cult, in the same way that monogamy is orthogonal to abuse/patriarchy/etc in monogamous relationships.
posted by Drexen at 3:50 PM on July 3, 2015


No, you're the only one talking about animals and inanimate objects. Hence, strawman.

You said it was the "same strawman" and now acknowledge that makes no difference which side one is on. Yours would be a straw man argument.

But polygamy is orthogonal to the abuse and patriarchy of that particular cult, in the same way that monogamy is orthogonal to abuse/patriarchy/etc in monogamous relationships.

Inequality is a often a matter of unbalanced quantities.
posted by Brian B. at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2015


Uhhhhh huh. This argument has lost the plot at this point.
posted by Drexen at 4:09 PM on July 3, 2015


If you want to say polygamy is a destabilizing influence, you need to compare apples to apples, not oranges. Compare polygamist relationships in cults to monogamous relationships in cults. Compare poly folk in NYC to monogamous folk in NYC, not poly people in Utah.
posted by corb at 4:39 PM on July 3, 2015


[Couple comments removed; once your argument's gotten to the point of putting the burden of proof on random absent strangers that they aren't cult members, this has gotten into weird not-okay territory.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Compare poly folk in NYC to monogamous folk in NYC, not poly people in Utah.

Not sure what NYC has to do with it specifically but it does seem to have polygamy as an issue.
posted by Brian B. at 11:05 PM on July 3, 2015


I'm not into polygamous marriage largely due to the administrative headaches, but franky, it's bizarre to insist that it necessarily causes cults, causes the abuse of women, causes the abuse of children, or anything of the sort. All of these things exist in cultures with monogamy (see also ALL OF WESTERN HISTORY) and there are a number of committed non-monogamous relationships that do not contain these things.

Monogamous marriage as practiced in our society is largely sexist bullshit and arguing that polygymy is sexist only works if you also disavow monogamous marriage.

Have you even LOOKED at the rates of domestic violence? Marital rape? The poverty women experience after divorce? Give me a fucking break, dude.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:55 AM on July 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, Brian B., NYC does have an issue where polygamy's illegality drives it into the margins, leaves people wronged by it with no recourse, and discourages equitable manifestations of it. The abusive relationships described are invalid and abusive because all the parties do not consent, and that excludes them from the type of arrangement we are advocating for just as much as an abusive arranged 'monogamous' marriage is not advocated for by monogamists.

Your specious examples have pretty well derailed the conversation at this point, so congrats.
posted by Drexen at 7:05 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have you even LOOKED at the rates of domestic violence? Marital rape? The poverty women experience after divorce? Give me a fucking break, dude.

Your notion is that these rates are lower in polygamous arrangements? I would start here to note that the administration headache is not just people lining up to get married.

The abusive relationships described are invalid and abusive because all the parties do not consent, and that excludes them from the type of arrangement we are advocating for just as much as an abusive arranged 'monogamous' marriage is not advocated for by monogamists.

So your idea is that young people locked into cultural and religious practices have some sort of consent function through a marriage certificate, but when they freely move in with a man's existing family, it is somehow against their will. I'm not buying it. And I can't be sorry for violating the fantasies entertained here. I simply linked the New York Times piece with negative stories when someone brought it up. The article mentions tolerance of the abuses disguised as tolerance in general, no doubt with some people patting themselves on the back for it. It must be difficult for some to imagine that polygamy might have saved the world when it is in fact a cultural vestige we don't need to adopt from anywhere. It should however be a good reason to leave those cultures and emigrate to America, and I would support it as a valid reason for any woman to seek asylum.
posted by Brian B. at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2015


Maybe these three bi people in love who've been raising kids together would like to get married, maybe these two lesbian women would like to include the father of their future children in their family with all legal recognized rights. Maybe three straight women, full consenting adults, want legal protection for their long-term relationship with one man in Utah. It doesn't seem fair to deny all of them that stability and protection.

I do understand the fear that providing legal protection to the folks I just listed also removes one kind of possible government action in cases of abuse. But abuse is abuse, and it's not as if anti-polygamy laws are the only way to fight it. And it's not as if these relationships — healthy and toxic — aren't already happening out there. They're already happening. If the government was going full-tilt, using every weapon in its arsenal to combat abuse, and really really needed anti-polygamy laws as a last resort, that would be one thing. But they aren't, they don't, and in most cases they don't even get anywhere with the current bans, people just keep being people outside of the legal system and leave those suffering under abuse with less legal recourse because of shame and fear.

I genuinely don't think anyone here is discounting the toxic potential of old-school patriarchic polygyny, or claiming that only liberal, privileged queer families are currently or potentially practicing polygamy. We just aren't convinced that the current legal model is doing much to protect anyone, and is in fact in many cases putting vulnerable people in a more vulnerable spot.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe three straight women, full consenting adults, want legal protection for their long-term relationship with one man in Utah. It doesn't seem fair to deny all of them that stability and protection.

I'm pointing out to the 99% who may not consider their liability here that it's not their problem to offer this arrangement as either incentive and protection. Rose-colored glasses won't cut it because there is a natural problem with polygamous poverty and with self-made enclaves that ensconce children from society for religious reasons, and saying that a marriage certificate helps prevent or make the problem go away is misreading their intentions. If people can't sleep together without a marriage license then they don't deserve more than one. If people are using polygamy as a target happiness, then they are delusional. The babies keep arriving and many plan on having as many as society will pay for. It's called entitlement, but this one actually subtracts marriage opportunities for others, making it a toxic entitlement. Those arrangements that conform to carefree standards are free to do whatever they want, but offering social services or legal immigration to traditional-minded polygamists just opens the door to social incentives for abuse.
posted by Brian B. at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2015


Your notion is that these rates are lower in polygamous arrangements? I would start here to note that the administration headache is not just people lining up to get married.

No, my "notion" is that the effect "patriarchal abuse" is not created by the cause "polygamy". I demonstrated that by giving examples of the alleged cause without the alleged effect, and the alleged effect without the alleged cause. Do you have any answer to that, or do you just assume that any two things in proximity must have the causal relationship that you personally find most plausible?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, my "notion" is that the effect "patriarchal abuse" is not created by the cause "polygamy".

My answer is that yours is a fallacy, because polygamy can be abused like any other social institution, and it can be abused by the patriarch. But there is also common sense. A man gets another wife, or two, then the first one has a problem with him, and he simply dismisses her as yesterday's thing, potentially marshaling many others against her. Perhaps her stake of ownership in whatever they own is now shared with more women. So if that's not a seeable case of patriarchal abuse, I don't know what could be.
posted by Brian B. at 11:20 AM on July 4, 2015


because polygamy can be abused like any other social institution

so you are advocating for the destruction of social institutions? fascinating

ultimately, though, this is a dumb conversation because you refuse to admit that people can have multiple marriages without them all being marriages forced on the women involved, as they are in oppressive and polygynous subcultures in the US. You also refuse to admit that all of these things are already happening to women (which is where you're getting your evidence!) so we know that making these marriages illegal doesn't actually work to prevent these abuses.

Ultimately, you're arguing that the US should not turn into a Colorado City style polygynous cult compound. Since no one here thinks that is what should happen, you're talking to yourself.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:58 AM on July 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


ultimately, though, this is a dumb conversation because you refuse to admit that people can have multiple marriages without them all being marriages forced on the women involved, as they are in oppressive and polygynous subcultures in the US.

Only you were the one who suggested that all certified marriages were consented to while the others were not. I said I wasn't buying it because they both freely move into the arrangement. Fact is that there is childhood brainwashing, ancient culture, religious approval, and narcissistic patriarchy involved; all nothing that needs validation from the state. If people are stopping by to suggest that it we should ignore all that and just focus on those modern ones, to boldly re-brand polygamy for that special hip bond between urban love rebels in big cities, then perhaps they should seek validation by forming a company, rather than establishing a special right that validates the degradation that already exists.
posted by Brian B. at 1:41 PM on July 4, 2015


Correction: Drexen suggested consent was absent in abusive polygamy, you merely favorited it. Apologies.
posted by Brian B. at 1:55 PM on July 4, 2015


The Case Against Encouraging Polygamy: Why civil marriage should not encompass group unions
posted by andoatnp at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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