Judge Strikes Down Part of Utah Anti-Bigamy Law; ‘Slippery Slope’ Gay-Marriage Opponents Have a Field Day

United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups got a lot of people’s attention yesterday by striking down a portion of the Utah anti-polygamy ordinance as unconstitutional.

Readers who get their news by skimming the headlines aren’t going to get this one, because what happened requires ten seconds of careful reading.

(Image via PopSugar)

The court left the part of the law intact that says you can only be legally married — with a license — to one person at a time. If you’re already married, obtaining any subsequent license is still illegal. Waddoups’ ruling doesn’t change that. So why the handwringing and the cries of “Gomorrah”?

Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-101(1) (2013) reads:

“A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”

It’s only the second part, the phrase I bolded, that the District Court found unconstitutional. And with good reason: Mormon or not, it’s none of the government’s business who individuals choose to live with.

The case is Brown v. Buhman, and Waddoups’ 91-page ruling is here.

TL;DR: Polygamy — the kind theoretically sanctioned by the government, with marriage licenses — is still against the law.

David Kopel, writing for law professor’s Eugene Volokh‘s blog, breaks it down:

Judge Waddoups upholds the first part, about marrying a second person, as a straightforward application of Reynolds. If X has a marriage license to A, then X can’t obtain a marriage license to B. If X tricks a county clerk into issuing him a marriage license for B, then X [is] guilty of bigamy. This is the same in Utah as everywhere else in the United States. Thus, the State of Utah has no obligation to treat X+A+B as all being married. The plaintiffs in Brown sought no legal recognition for plural marriage.

Jazz Shaw on the conservative blog Hot Air also has a surprisingly level-headed, no-hysteria take:

The court didn’t strike down rules against actual polygamy — the practice of being licensed and married to more than one spouse — but rather laws prohibiting one from saying they are married to additional people. You can say you’re married to your lawn mower, but that doesn’t mean the government is going to recognize it or grant you any benefits based on it.

But not everyone gets it. For culture warriors who’ve been battling gay marriage, yesterday’s ruling is like manna from heaven — a perfect opportunity to advance their slippery-slope argument and to crow “I told you so.”

Consider Stephen Bainbridge, who, his UCLA law credentials notwithstanding, took to Twitter to inform the world the sky is falling:


… and who wrote on his blog:

You have got to be fraking kidding me. … Next stop on the slippery slope express, I assume, will be consensual adult incest marriages.

At least Bainbridge didn’t debase himself with the “now-pedophiles-will-be-marrying-toddlers” argument. For that, we turn to the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer:


Et cetera. I’d propose a drinking game (one shot for every upcoming spiteful comment on the inevitability of marriage between man and penguin, woman and goat, etc.), but I’m afraid we’d all die of alcohol poisoning.

Blogger Eric Ethington put his finger on the main issue:

The struggle for same-sex marriage has only been, and will continue to only be about one thing: equality — that joyful little word that fills our hearts and keeps us pushing. It’s about leveling the playing field and being able to say without any doubt that no other human being in our country has rights that we do not. We were born Gay, or Lesbian, or Bisexual, or Trans*, and we will always be so. We have every bit the same right to marry the person we fall in love with that our neighbors have.

Polygamy? It’s not an innate characteristic, it’s a choice. The struggle for polygamy is not about equality, but about privacy. It’s a fight to keep government away from the choices of consenting adults. It’s an important distinction to make.

And an important discussion to have. Fischer, Bainbridge, et al are invited to take part — as soon as they stop trying to use the limited, sensible polygamy ruling to whip their constituents into another moral panic.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Well, it’s a tiny nudge towards the sensible position of the state recognizing that actual families may be richer and more complex than the limitations of recent tradition allow for.

  • cary_w

    Yes, and here in Utah we have to celebrate even the tiniest nudge because they are so few and far between. In my understanding, the only thing this ruling really does is make it clear that the state will not prosecute polygamist families on bigamy charges anymore. Something that’s has happened in the past to disastrous effects. So it is a tiny step in the right direction, but it’s not like Utah is suddenly turning into the hot bed of marriage equality!

  • Stacy Thacker

    I for one am actually okay with legal polygamy as long as all parties are consenting adults. So this is definitely okay in my book.

    Seems like the bible thumpers would be okay with it since it adheres to all their literal bible principles. The bible is full of polygamy.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Obligatory mention that the Bible “allows” for polygamy, but actually ENDORSES monogamy. Just sayin’.

  • cary_w

    Once again, that’s your version of the Bible. The FLDS who still practice polygamy justify it with their interpretation of the Bible, which does allow for and even encourage polygamy as the highest state of marriage.

    Sorry, Starship, but you don’t get the final say on the “correct” interpretation of the Bible.

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    There’s a correct one? Heh.

  • lucky21

    Yeah, but the FLDS sect is heretical even to today’s Mormons for continuing to perform polygamy. In my opinion the reason why there is so much polygamy in the Old Testament is because all those incidents are deconstructions. I mean sharing your husband with another wife would probably test most people’s patients and most of all cause strife. Sometimes God gives people what they want and inevitably the learn the hard way. Just like when God warned them about having a king he gave it to them and then they found out how oppressive having a monarchy was.

  • http://shethinkers.wordpress.com amycas

    The Mormon Church only “officially” changed their stance so they would stop the persecution against them from the U.S. govn’t. It was a change in policy due to practicality–not b/c they actually had any moral qualms w/ the practice. I’m not a practicing Mormon, so I’m willing to bet that modern Mormons not part of FLDS would see it as heretical. But the original reason for changing it wasn’t due to any heresy or misreading. It was purely a political move.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Wouldn’t the fact that Solomon, who God loved lots and lots, had many wives and concubines as a sign of God’s favor count as an endorsement?

  • Spuddie

    If the polygamists can come up with a sane, reasonable way to shoehorn it into existing laws affected in a way which is fair and not arbitrary, then more power to them. But they have to draft it.

  • Tyler Beal

    I disagree. It should never be legal. It really only is legal in times and places with extremely patriarchal and sexist cultures and most traditional forms of polygamy and polyandry propogate the idea (and practices) that women are property. Look carefully at the family structures of polygamous and polyandrous cultures and you’ll see a good deal of misogyny.

    Also, having worked in Kuwait and seen first hand how polygamy can negatively affect children, I think legalizing it is a terrible idea. While I don’t necessarily have any peer reviewed research to back it up, I’ve seen firsthand how it can negatively affect children when their father isn’t always available. These kids deal with a lot of the emotional problems children going through messy divorces experience, only it never stops because that’s their permanent family structure.

    If people live together in a family as they do in this instance, I don’t necessarily think that’s something the government should arrest them for, as people have rights to live with whomever they like. But if the government is going to recognize marriages/civil unions/ legal pair bonds etc, then it should be between two individuals and no more than that.

  • keddaw

    Same could have been said of democracy, secularism and all kinds of stuff that we now see as desirable for a country.

  • shrike1978

    This is the typically patriarchal view of people who have never been exposed to anything else. When you look at the vibrant and growing non-religious polyamory movement, the male head-of-household gathering a harem of women is virtually non-existant. My relationship is two men and one woman, raising kids, going to work, and having otherwise typical lives. And, unlike you, we do have research to back up the idea that this style of egalitarian non-monogamy is in no way damaging to kids, and in fact, can offer some unique benefits. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff is the leading researcher in this field, but others have joined her recently.

    I don’t personally care about official government recognition. I do care that we can’t get joint insurance and other benefits. Government should not be in the business of recognizing marriage at all. If the government wants to recognize and reward the inherent financial and societal benefits of cohabitation, it should be done in a fair and egalitarian way. Basing benefit elegibility on financial interdependence would get the government out of the personal lives of the citizens and get their focus to what really matters to them: how they are affecting the economy.

  • alconnolly

    I was raised in a polygamist family, and I can say from firsthand experience it is a bad deal for the guy and for the girls and (Usually) for the kids. That said, the law should not be involved in deciding about good and bad relationship decisions. Living in polygamy is perfectly legal everywhere in the country except Utah and always has been so long as there is not an actual legal status to the additional person/people in the marriage. Utah had special laws because of their history making free speech about peoples personal understanding of their relationship illegal. This was struck down and is in keeping with the rest of the country. But the multiple person marriage should be legal as well if all parties sign the marriage certificate. Screw the state removing the legal protection of the children born to the second or third spouse. It only makes the most vulnerable in the scenario more so.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    Polygamy? It’s not an innate characteristic, it’s a choice.

    Polygamy itself (being intrinsically attached to marriage, a social construct), perhaps, but it could be responsive to a more fundamental biological orientation to deviate from the predominant pair-bonding model, and so that deviation may not be entirely a volitional choice. At the least, some people seem to be driven, despite heavy social and personal cost, to seek multiple sexual partners while others do not seem to have that drive. If one were able to control for the large social subsidies that exist for monogamy and marital fidelity, I suspect that one would find a somewhat weak overall species commitment to lifelong pair-bonding.

  • momtarkle

    Yeah, mammals go everywhere from one night stands, to pair up ’til the kids leave home, to one on one together for life, to male led harems, to everybody does everybody else. (I’m not talking just humans here.) Only people have laws to govern marriage.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    I have read that many songbirds are monogamous, but often cheat on their partners. There are consequences if they get caught doing it, not sure if this is the same as “laws to govern marriage” but it seems analogous if true…

  • baal

    I know women who keep harems of men…just sayin. I usually think of humans as mostly monogamous. With the non-paternity rate ~10%, there is a lot of extramaritial sex going on.

  • Alierias

    Go women! That’s called polyandry BTW

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    In other animals, there tends to be a strong correlation between sexual dimorphism and polygamy. The greater the dimorphism, the more likely the (usually) male will have more partners, the more likely he will maintain some sort of harem.

    Humans show significant, but not extreme sexual dimorphism. It is certainly clear that we are not a naturally monogamous species. Social constructs that attempt to force monogamy (and especially lifelong monogamy) lead to all manner of tensions (and some great literature). But neither are we strongly polygamous- we do form strong, often stable pair bonds.

    I think the healthiest thing human societies can do is recognize that the sort of families people create can be quite varied. A healthy society will make it relatively easy and stigma free for people to move between different family structures, and to create the sort of structures that work best for them.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    I think the healthiest thing human societies can do is recognize that the sort of families people create can be quite varied. A healthy society will make it relatively easy and stigma free for people to move between different family structures, and to create the sort of structures that work best for them.

    Perhaps. I’m not generally as willing to leap from the is to the ought as all this; that some humans have strong instincts towards polyamory doesn’t, I think, necessarily indicate that a healthy social structure would indulge that instinct. There are plenty of instincts and behavioral tendencies endemic to humans that we use social structures to lessen or negate, and we are healthier as societies (and individuals) for doing so.

    I think this is particularly so because often instincts are mismatched with one another; a person who tends towards polyamory is not necessarily a person who is well-suited for forming or participating in complicated family structures. A person who tends towards polyamory is not necessarily also a person for whom sexual covetousness or sexual jealousy is less-than-average, or empathy or habit flexibility greater-than-average. It may consequently turn out that such structures are significantly less stable than pair-bonding structures (in the US, marriage has about a 40% failure rate, but even the average length of marriages that end in divorce is upwards of eight years), which has not just the legal consequences Feminerd alluded to elsewhere on the thread, but also quite probably developmental consequences for children raised within such structures, as well as for other social structures which rest upon the family as a fundamental unit.

  • http://shethinkers.wordpress.com amycas

    I would go as far as to say that humans in general are non-monogamous, if you go with the strictest definition of “monogamous”. Study after study show that most people have had multiple partners, and a majority of men and women have “cheated” on their spouse/partner at one point.

    Then there is also the distinction b/w social and sexual monogamy that many sociologists and psychologists have advocated for.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    …and a majority of men and women have “cheated” on their spouse/partner at one point.

    That is surprising to me; the last numbers I ever saw put that figure at about 30%, but then again my numbers are about a decade old and I haven’t kept up on the research.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I think your lower number might be for marriage, while the larger includes all relationships being treated as essentially monogamous by the parties involved.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    Ah. Thanks!

  • alconnolly

    Exactly. Well said!

  • JT Rager

    For me, a gay-equality advocate, it is difficult for me to state that I don’t see a problem with polygamy. I really don’t have a problem, but again it is the “slippery slope” anti-gay arguers who will be prone to outcry as evidenced in this post. To the religious right anything other than heteronormative male-female marriage that can never be divorced is automatically bad because their book says so. It’s like they can’t see any reasons why alternatives may be good, bad, or just ok. The concept of consent comes to mind easily.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    It seems the problem is not whether this or that practice comes up to the level of marriage, but whether we have any rational basis for forbidding a particular practice. Marriage with young children or animals? We can construct a rational prohibition based on consent. Same-sex marriage? Can’t seem to find a rational objection. Plural marriage? More complicated, but this ruling seems rational and could encompass other kinds of arrangements like polyamory and at least doesn’t just keep the act illegal just because “it’s wrong, that’s why!”

    It seems to me to make sense that we start at zero, and decide on a case by case basis based on harms and benefits.

  • Kira

    How can anybody blame this on gay marriage? Utah doesn’t have marriage equality, or eve n civil unions. They’d be better off blaming it on heterosexual marriage, Mormonism and the Bible.

  • Alice

    And fundies usually love an excuse to blame co-habitating straight couples for everything; I can’t believe they passed this one up.

  • Ella Warnock

    They also don’t like straight married couples who choose not to procreate.

  • Carmelita Spats

    This. They call us disordered. They call us demonic. They call us “self-indulgent” when we bring lipstick and cowboy boots instead of diapers and dangling breast pumps to our own revolution. The insults are getting more and more shrill. Our only crime is that we don’t have a hankerin’ to engage in weird, proto-family, pathological breeding-happy gluttony. For some of us, the thought of being stuck in a diaper-sniffing dystopia is enough to make us rashy, depressed and crave large quantities of alcohol and loud aggressive music to deflect the creeping feeling that this planet is devolving faster than you can suck the contents from a large bong.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    Darling, you really need to read the Memo. Our Powers are limitless. it’s why they’ve been trying so hard to stop equality. They have it on direct authority from Gawd that we, and our marriages, create typhoons, destroy straight families, cause earthquakes and bring comets raining down. We also make Fabulous mimosas. The Ultimate Horror. 😉

  • Homo Erectus

    What’s more, the gays are only asking for civil marriage. Only one license per customer notwithstanding the recent court ruling. Bryan Fisher is lying.

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    He forgot to add having sex with that hot bitch down the street. How could any normal man so no to that?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    So how do you recommend cleaning tea out of a keyboard?

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I would replace the keyboard :-)

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    If it’s not a laptop, surprisingly many can be sent through a dishwasher; top rack, heated dry off, allow 24 hours to air dry before reconnecting to a computer. I’ve seen about an 80% survival rate, so it’s not something I’d recommend regularly.

    If it is a laptop, yes, replace the keyboard.

  • Robert MacDonald

    Top shelf, dishwasher….LOL

  • James Stevenson

    You cannot unsee what has been seen D:

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Sexy, isn’t it.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    You have your word order a bit skewed:

    Sexy, it isn’t.

    There ya go!

  • momtarkle

    You, sir, are not speaking for all dogs.

  • Alierias

    Yeah, where WAS that coffee-spit warning ??!!
    We have a washable keyboard — cause the hubby and the kid are slobs!

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I didn’t know it was going to cause that sort of reaction.

  • momtarkle

    I’m rethinking my bias against zoophilism.

  • Garret Shane Brown

    Is polygamy even a bad thing? I don’t see a problem with it, however unrealistic I think it might be.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    It’s just really legally complicated. The only reason I think it’s fine to keep it illegal is that the legal headaches from legalizing it are … immense. Really, really big. Ethically, I see no issues whatsoever with polyamory as practiced by consenting adults.

    For example, if A and B are both married to C, who is also married to D, what is D’s legal relationship to A and B? If A, B, C, and D are all married to each other, and A gestates and bears a child, who is primarily raised by C, but whose biological father is B, and D divorces the group and still wants some custody rights- does D get any? How many? And so on, and so on, and so on.

  • blondein_tokyo

    A common mistake is to conflate polyamory and polygamy. Polygamy is when a man marries several women. Most often, it’s religiously or culturally inspired. And, it’s illegal since you cannot marry more than one person.

    Polyamory on the other hand, is when consenting adults of either gender have outside romantic sexual relationships. It’s a personal choice made by people who do not believe in monogamy, and it has nothing to do with either religion or culture. Additionally, they may or may not be married to one of their partners.

    I’m polyamorus, but not polygamous. My bf has a wife, and his wife has a bf. I’m not married to anyone.

    I personally don’t believe in marriage, but I do think the government should not have the right to discriminate in regards to who can marry whom.

    I do, however, have some ethical problems with polygamy considering that it is religiously inspired. Those born into polygamous societies, particularly women, often grow up believing it is not a choice but an edict from their god. If you grow up being told that you MUST allow your partner to marry other women, is it truly consensual?

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Eh, I consider polygamy and polyandry to be subsets of polyamory. Some people advocate for polyamorous relationships to have the option to be government-licensed, just like monogamous marriage. I have no ethical problems with the idea, but the legal headaches are immense.

    But if a bunch of adult, consenting women wanted to marry the same man, and he wanted to marry them, that is the exact same ethically as your arrangement. It’s all just humans dealing with other humans in the ways that work for them.

  • blondein_tokyo

    But by speaking so, you are in essence allowing ignorance about what polyamory actually IS to continue unabated.

    Now, how do you think it makes me feel to continuously have my open, honest, ethical, mutually-consensual egalitarian relationship conflated with the barbaric practice of forcing people into relationships that comply with their religious tradtions? A practice where the women are submissive to their husband and have no say in whether or not he has other wives?

    If you guessed “not good” then you guessed right.

    It gets quite tiring to keep having to explain the difference to people, only to have them turn around and try to tell me they are the same. They are not anywhere *near* the same.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Ah, but I was talking about consensual polygamy. It is possible, you know. There is nothing inherently wrong with polygamy- the lack of consent in religiously enforced polygamy is the issue. And the misogyny. And the submission doctrine. But one man, many women is a perfectly valid subset of polyamory, as you well know (or at least damned well should!), so long as everyone is a fully informed, consenting adult.

    How do you think it makes me feel to know that you failed entirely to read what I actually said, and actually think that I’m ignorant about polyamory? If you guess “not good” then you guessed right. I get so tired of explaining to people to whom I have already explained that informed consenting adults only need apply for all forms of polyamory, but that yes, polygamy is indeed a form of polyamory.

  • blondein_tokyo

    I read your post completely, and I do understand your point of view. The reason I reject it is because not all non-monogamous relationships are the same, and it is inaccurate to put them all under the term “polyamory”.

    By using “polyamory” as an umbrella term and then saying that polygamy is a “subset” of poyamory, you are basically saying that polygamy is a TYPE of polyamory, when it is not.

    The only umbrella term that would fit both and be accurate would be “non-monogamous”.

    Polyamory, polyandry, polygamy, swingers, et al have their own terms because those in such relationships need them in order to make clear to everyone what the nature of the relationship actually IS.

    It’s kind of like saying “bisexual” is a subset of “homosexual”, and making it seem like it’s okay to call all bisexuals “homosexual” or all gays “bisexual”.

    We use labels to identify ourselves, because our self-identity is *important*. You should respect that.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Does polyamory not just mean a non-monogamous relationship, of which there are many types? That is the only context in which I have ever seen it used, including by people in various types of poly relationships. They then further clarify their own personal relationship.

    I have never heard anyone argue that some types of non-monogamous relationships aren’t polyamorous.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Non-monogamy simply means that outside *sexual* relationships are allowed, and the term doesn’t define those relationships any further. As such, it is a good umbrella term for both a-romantic and romantic sexual relationships.

    Polygamy is defined by a man being married to several women. Further, polygamy is not egalitarian, as the women do not have the choice to marry other men, and often don’t have any say over the husband bringing other wives into the family.

    Polyamory on the other hand, isn’t defined by marriage. A person can be single and polyamorous. It is also perfectly egalitarian- that is, women AND men can have outside sexual and romantic relationships. Often, their partner(s) have veto power over whether more people can be brought into the relationship.

    There ARE subsets of polyamory, but polygamy isn’t one.

    An example of a subset of polyamory is “closed polyamory” where there is no outside sexual or romantic contact allowed outside the main relationship. That is, a triad or quad who only have relations with each other.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Why do you think polygamy has to be inherently coercive?

  • blondein_tokyo

    I don’t think it is *inherently* coercive. In cases where a person has been brought up to freely believe what they like, and then later in life, as an adult capable of making an informed, conscious choice, decides to be in a polygamous relationship, it is obviously not coercive.

    However, the vast majority of polygamous relationships are religious in nature – they have been brought up with the belief that polygamy is an edict from their god. If you firmly believe that rejecting polygamy means that you that you will burn in hell, and/or you know you will be completely rejected by your entire family or society that you live in, the choice is not freely made.

    This leaves us with an ethical dilemma in regards to polygamy. Can a
    person who has been brought up with the idea that polygamy is their
    duty and an obligation *really* make a free choice in choosing it? It is an interesting
    question, and I am not entirely sure I know the right answer.

    And in some countries where polygamy is practiced, women are not given freedom of choice in marriage at all. In those cases the answer to the question of it being coercive is a quite clear “yes”.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    So basically, polygamy isn’t inherently coercive, but religion and misogyny can cause it (like any form of marriage, including all forms of poly and monogamy) to become so. And because of this, you’ve been arguing stridently that polygamy isn’t a form of polyamory at all, even though the problem isn’t the configuration of the relationship. Of course polygamy can be coercive. So can any relationship. That’s not an argument to condemn all relationships, though.

    If you firmly believe that rejecting polygamy means that you that you will burn in hell, and/or you know you will be completely rejected by your entire family or society that you live in, the choice is not freely made.

    This is true, but also irrelevant. People get told the hell thing about a lot of things. Many of them get past it, some remain trapped by it. That doesn’t mean we argue that those who tithe 10% are illegally coerced into doing so, nor do we support making tithing illegal.

  • blondein_tokyo

    No. The problem is that both the configuration of the relationships and the nature of the relationships are radically different.

    As for configuration, polygamy, or more correctly polygyny, is defined as a “straight man marrying more than one straight woman”. Polyamory, on the other hand, is “multiple romantic relationships between people of any sexual orientation or gender who may or may not be married.”

    As for the nature of the relationship, I argue that polygyny is often coercive, while polyamory is never coercive. By it’s definition, which is “consensual non-monogamy”, it *cannot* be coercive. If one partner does not consent, it is not polyamory- it is cheating.

    Thus, due to it’s structure AND Since polygyny cannot *always* be said to be consensual, polygyny cannot be said to be under an umbrella called “polyamory.”

    Both however, can be said to be under the umbrella of “non-monogamy”. In fact, cheating can be under “non-monogamy”, because non-monogamy is not
    defined by consent.

    The two concepts are *radically* different and should *not* be conflated, which is what happens when you try to say that polygyny is a subset of polyamory. I utterly reject that notion.

    Additional to that, I think people’s labels for themselves should be respected. You cannot, for example, tell a bisexual person that they ought to call themselves “homosexual” just because both homosexuals and bisexuals have sexual and romantic relationships with the same sex. The word “bisexual” is specific to one set of experiences that is not adequately covered by the term “homosexual”. It is offensive to say the least to insist on using your own personal labels for people who are trying to carve out a niche for themselves so that they can feel recognized for their own unique characteristics. For that reason alone, I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that polyamory should *not* be used as an umbrella term for *all* non-monogamous romantic relationships.

    And I have never argued that polygamy, of any type, should be illegal. I haven’t actually decided the answer to that question for myself, because while I see a lot of ethical problems with polygamy, I also do not think the government should have any hand in deciding these things for people, so I am still undecided on that issue.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Oh, and I’ve known plenty of poly people who identified as poly who didn’t have emotional connections with their lovers, or whose partners didn’t have veto power (though of course, some did). Everything you’re defining as non-monogamous, I’ve heard poly people call, well, poly.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    your argument breaks down when one takes into account that there are polygamous relationships that are NOT motivated by or designed from a religious or cultural traditions. an example would be one man married to several women because he has the wealth to support them all, and economic comfort is a goal all the women share.

    technically “polyamory” is the practice of non-mongamny. i’m glad you’ve embraced yours and of course you have every right to define it, for yourself and your case, in any way you choose. but polygamy and polyandry are non-monogamous practices, and thus do fall in the more general category of polyamory.

  • blondein_tokyo

    It doesn’t break down, actually, because by definition, polygyny is when a *man* has multiple *wives*, where the wives aren’t allowed other partners. Whether it’s culturally, religiously, or otherwise motivated is irrelevant to the definition. And due to that definition, it is both inegalitarian and sexist.

    Polyamory, on the other hand, is when every person has equal right to pursue outside romantic relationships- whether they be hetero- or homo- sexual. The participants may or may not be married.

    The umbrella term for all such multiperson relationships is, then, “non-monogamy”. You see, a person cannot, by definition, be both polyamorus and polygamous.

    Polygamy is the umbrella term for polygyny, polyandry, bigamy; while polyamory includes polyfidelity.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Actually, it doesn’t break down, because I have already acknowledged that not all polygamous relationships are religious or cultural. The most distinctive point is whether they are egalitarian. in polygyny, a man is allowed more than one wife, but a wife is not allowed more than one husband; and in polyandry, the man is not allowed another wife – so all forms of polygamy are by definition *not* egalitarian.

    Polyamory, however, IS egalitarian- it allows all partners the same choice. So how can polygamy fall under polyamory, when polygamy does not fit the most defining characteristic of polyamory?

    The more proper umbrella term is “non-monogamy”, and under that, separate and distinct, are “open relationships” “swinging” “polygamy” and “polyamory”.

    This is how we in the community define ourselves, and how we wish to be known by others. You can argue semantics until the sun goes down, but there is a distinct difference between the two, and conflating them is inaccurate – and disrespectful of people’s right to label themselves.

  • Randay

    Blondein, I think you need to enlist a Republican congressman or politician to explain polyamory once they learn its meaning. They seem to have a lot of practice. Ask Gingrich.

  • Agni Ashwin

    “Polygamy is when a man marries several women.”

    Or when one woman is married to several men.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Nah, that’s polyandry.

  • blondein_tokyo

    No, when one woman marries several men it is “polyandry”. It is much less common, and is usually culturally rather than religiously based.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Polyandry is a form of polygamy.

    Polygyny is the form of polygamy in which one man marries several women.

  • blondein_tokyo

    ^^ Yes. Polygamy is the umbrella term for plural marriage. Polygyny is a man marrying several women; polyandry involves a woman marrying several men.

    Polygamy (from πολύς γάμος polys gamos, translated literally in Late Greek as “many married”)[1] is a marriage which includes more than two partners.[1] When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, the relationship is called polygyny; and when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry.

    But people often use “polygamy” instead of “polygyny” because it’s more common, so that is the term that has been popularized and is most commonly used.

  • cary_w

    “If you grow up being told that you MUST allow your partner to marry other women, is it truly consensual?”

    As long as she’s an adult, then yes, it is consensual. As uncomfortable as it may feel to all of us, it’s even more uncomfortable to be telling these women they MUST think. It’s wrong for their husbands to take on another wife, or that they shouldn’t believe what they want to believe. While it’s true that there is a lot of abuse and coercion in polygamist communities, there are still many that are happy and healthy. The Brown family is an example of one where I’m sure all the wives will insist they are there by choice and love their situation. Who are you to tell them they are wrong about their own feelings?

  • blondein_tokyo

    If they are an adult then yes- is consensual, but only by a very narrow definition of consent. The question is, is it *informed* consent, and is it *freely given*? In other words, do they realize they have another choice, and have they been told they can make another choice freely, without fear of any kind of punishment or retribution?

    If you are told you will burn in hell (when you do believe in hell) or if you know that rejecting this belief would mean that your family, village, or the society in which you live would completely reject you and you would be banished (as can be the case) is the consent freely given?

    When a person is taught something from when they are small children, they do not have a choice in believing it. They are, in essence, being taught beliefs that will eventually inform their life decisions. And the ones who grow up to eventually reject the belief are often punished for it in
    some way.

    Whether or not they are healthy or happy is not an
    issue. I’m sure many of them are. The issue is one of free consent, and I am not at all sure that can be possible when one is taught a belief from a young age.

    That’s why I have an ethical problem with polygamy. It’s not because I am uncomfortable with the idea of multiple partners – I am polyamorus myself- it’s because I can’t see how a person can truly give consent freely if they have been brought up to believe that it is not a choice, but a fact of life.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Would you argue that monogamous relationships are ethically problematic too then? Most people are brought up “to believe that it is not a choice, but a fact of life.”

  • blondein_tokyo

    Yes, I do think it is ethically problematic that people are led to believe that monogamy is their only choice, and it is definitely wrong that people are quite often condemned if they reject monogamy, or if they reject marriage all together.

    I do think polygyny is more problematic, however, because in the majority of polygymous societies, men can chose to marry only one woman- but women cannot chose to marry only one man. Only the man has the choice in the matter, so it is much more problematic and thus I have more trouble with the idea of socially reinforced polygamy than socially reinforced monogamy. No one stronger group of people is socially enforcing monogamy on another weaker group of people, while they themselves are free to make another choice.

    You see, I don’t really believe in marriage at all. I find all kinds of ethical problems with the concept. But of course, that does not mean I think it should be illegal. I’m a proponent of freedom, and that means letting people be free to do things that I do not personally agree with.

    I’m a vegetarian, and I don’t agree with eating meat. But that doesn’t mean I think meat-eating should be outlawed.

    Although I do know some radical vegans who would be okay with that….LOL.

  • cary_w

    It’s not usually true that the men have the choice to be monogamous. In the worst polygamist societies, the men are coerced just as much as the women. Marriages are essential arranged by the leaders as a way of rewarding the faithful, so the men have just as little “free choice” as the women. On a side issue, it’s the less-faithful men who are more likely to be shunned and kicked out of their society, so they have their own set of problems.

    In a free country we have to give people the right to do stupid things. That’s why I think the best way to help people in polygamist communities is to try to force their communities more into the mainstream (by making them legal) where the rest of us can see if abuses are going on and put a stop to it, and so the people in those communities have more exposure to the outside world so they can make more informed choices. But that does means we have to be tolerant of their lifestyles when they’re not abusive.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Not always, no. They get pressured as well.

    I agree that if you want to live in a free country, that often means letting people do stupid things. I struggle with that, though, as I often see so much harm caused by that stupidity.

    But I’m not sure if allowing polygamous marriage (as in, allowing them to legally marry rather than just live as husband/wives) will make it more mainstream, or if making it mainstream would expose them to the outside world and new ideas. Making something legal doesn’t always prevent abuse, as we can see with the legalization of prostitution in Germany and Holland.

    It is an issue I am uncertain and undecided on, because as a polyamorus person myself, I completely and wholeheartedly support the idea of plural relationships. But on the other hand, I find it very hard to believe that polygamy can ever be truly egalitarian, and I feel the potential for abuse is high.

    I do think though, that if it did come down to a vote, I would have to vote “yes” because above all, I don’t think the government has any business regulating the private, personal relationships of consenting adults.

  • The Captain

    “Whether or not they are healthy or happy is not an issue. I’m sure many of them are. The issue is one of free consent, and I am not at all sure that can be possible when one is taught a belief from a young age.”

    Oh joy, we’re getting real close to that belief that’s becoming common on Tumbler that all heterosexual sex is non-consencual.

  • http://shethinkers.wordpress.com amycas

    I have only ever heard that argument made sarcastically…

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    It was a real radfem argument in the 1990s. I believe Dworkin made it in some of her papers or books.

    She does make a somewhat compelling argument, though in the end it isn’t one I agree with. Basically, she argues that since men are always in a position of societal power vis-a-vis women, no woman can truly consent to sex with a man. It’s the same reason a prisoner cannot consent to sex with a guard. And while I think she was exaggerating the severity of things, it does make you think …

  • http://shethinkers.wordpress.com amycas

    Well, I wasn’t including Dworkin b/c she’s not really taken seriously in the feminist circles I run in. Sorry i wasn’t clear. I meant “other than Dworking” i’ve only ever heard the argument made sarcastically.

    *i’m on meds right now, thx for making me be more clear :-)

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Lol, sorry for the confusion! I agree Dworkin isn’t taken seriously anymore. She isn’t in the circles I run in either! It’s just an interesting argument that makes you think, even though in the end it’s not an argument I see as correct.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Not at all, and I am really not sure where you get that idea? There is a biiiiiiiiiig gap between those two things, and I don’t see how you can make that long of a leap.

  • cary_w

    So basically you are saying that pretty much any kind of religious upbringings takes away true free choice because, for example, children are taught their entire lives that they will burn in hell or be shunned by their families for not following church teachings don’t really have a choice. Right? The truth is, I absolutely agree with you, but I don’t think it justifies banning certain religions or religious practices, or claiming that a religious person doesn’t have free choice.

    I, for one, demand the freedom to raise my children as I see fit. Unfortunately that means I have to accept that my way is not the only way and be tolerant of others raising their kids differently. As a society, we have to draw the line where “differences” turn into “abuse”, which is not always an easy line to draw. Just because we don’t agree with a family’s lifestyle, doesn’t mean the kids are being abused and should be taken away. Seriously, I’m a bit surprised at the intolerance I sometimes see in atheist communities that claim to be so tolerant of everyone. (note to blondein-tokyo: that last comment is not entirely directed at you, I feel like I see intolerance raise it’s ugly head from lots of different people on lots of different blogs and articles.)

  • blondein_tokyo

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m polyamorus myself, so I wholeheartedly support the non-monogamous lifestyle. I have poly friends who are raising their kids together, and I am looking forward to being an “aunt” if/when my bf and his wife decide to have a baby. :)

    I am simply questioning the way polygamy is practiced, due to it’s inherently sexist and unequal nature. If it weren’t for that, I would have no problem with it whatsoever. As it is though, I can’t be 100% supportive of legalization.

    Just like I can’t be 100% supportive of legalizing hard drugs, or legalizing prostitution. It’s one of those issues where I’ll have to remain on the fence until I can find good, solid reasons to fully support it.

  • cary_w

    Why the down votes here? Are you really in favor of telling women how they should think?

  • http://shethinkers.wordpress.com amycas

    I don’t get it either…it’s like the ppl who want to ban the burqa to “save” Muslim women. No. You don’t help women by banning them from wearing certain clothing. And you don’t help women by telling them which relationships they are allowed to be in.

  • baal

    I don’t really find it all that hard conceptually to have a series of bilaterial marriages (no matter how many eventually are married) and the courts are adequate to the divvying up stuff problem as well as multiple party child visitation.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I’m … not so confident of that. They get just two parties wrong an awful lot of the time. Introducing additional complexities doesn’t seem like a great idea.

  • baal

    Get two parents with kids by prior spouses and new shared kids and it’s nearly the same.

    I don’t see the courts getting confused by who is the parent or litigants wrong that often…and that’s why you have attorneys. Other governmental entities are more likely to get confused.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Serial monogamy is still easier for the courts to deal with, and again, they don’t do so well with complicated cases like that.

  • cary_w

    Unfortunately that’s not the reality where polygamist families exist. The first wives have the legal marriage and all the legal rights to the family assets, subsequent wives have nothing. If they leave the family they usually get nothing and have no legal grounds for claiming any assets or receiving alimony or anything. One of the main arguments for legalizing polygamy is to give these non-legal “wives” the right to a divorce and the legal right to a portion of the shared property.

  • blondein_tokyo

    That is a very good point. i still have ethical problems with the religious and non-egalitarian aspect of polygamy, but the way adults chose to live their lives is none of my business. If legalizing it will give some choices back to the women, then I am all for it.

  • cary_w

    Exactly, I have ethical problems with most of the polygamist communities I know of in Utah because they are fraught with abuse, coercion and fraud. I don’t have a problem with polygamy between consenting adults. Those are two separate issues that just happen to both involve polygamy.

  • Anat

    There are many monogamous marriages that aren’t egalitarian. There are subcultures that object to egalitarianism in marriage. Is that a reason to object to monogamous marriage?

  • blondein_tokyo

    Yes, it is, actually. :) Even though nowadays marriage is mostly egalitarian, there still exists the idea that once married, the wife belongs to the husband. She takes his name, and it is predominantly assumed that he is the head of the household. That is sexist, and I utterly reject the concept, and thus, I utterly reject marriage.

    I also don’t like the very concept of marriage because I think binding yourself to one person, and one person only, goes against nature. Socially reinforcing something that is inherently unnatural is unethical. We basically are setting people up to fail, and then condemning them when they do fail. That is, when they either cheat on their partner or get divorced.

    But that does not mean I think it should be illegal. Objecting to something is not akin to thinking it should be illegal for everyone. I can reject marriage myself whilst respecting other people’s right to get married, because I know not everyone thinks like me.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Well, yes, actually, I think so. I personally am not comfortable with marriage because of it’s sexist history, and the fact that it continues today to be quite sexist in many aspects.

    Personally, I don’t believe in marriage and will never get married because I don’t want to support what I see as a very sexist institution. Even in this day and age, women take the man’s name, and it is most often assumed he is the head of the household. When a woman has “Mrs.” in front of her name, people’s attitudes change.

    As an example, just a few weeks ago at a gathering, a guy I had just met asked me, “So, do you belong to anyone here?” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “Is your husband here?”

    Very telling, isn’t it.

  • Alierias

    In other words, those women are fools to allow themselves to be economically abused in such a manner.

  • cary_w

    Absolutely, it is extremely foolish to enter into a polygamist marriage without the protection of a legal marriage. But how comfortable are you with making laws to protect people from their own stupidity? It is far to easy to cross the line into overly intrusive government.

    We all, including these women, enter into marriages with the naive belief that we are marrying our soulmates and will live out our lives in marital bliss. At least half of us are wrong. But since I’m in a heterosexual marriage that is legally recognized in every state, if I decide to ditch my husband, I have the right to half of our assets and probably some alimony and child support. Gay couples only have this right if they happen to live in the right state, an injustice that must change. Polygamist wives (except for the one legally married) don’t have this right, by law, they are treated as single parents, with no rights to the property of their “husbands”. We can’t save these women from making foolish choices, but legalizing polygamy would be a huge step in helping they recover when they realize just how foolish their choices were.

  • baal

    I agree. I was thinking about how could you draft a decent law to protect folks. In the ‘utah’ poly, it’d be 1 man executing 2-4 (or somesuch) marriages, one per wife.

  • cary_w

    And another point, as far as the multiple party child visitation, it doesn’t happen. In many polygamist families one or two of the wives do the majority of child care for all the kids while the other wives work. But the legal rights to raise the children is only between biological parents, so the woman who raises another wife’s child has no right to visit that child if the polygamist marriage splits up. Bad things happen when these marriages fall apart, families are torn apart and kids who were raised as siblings are separated, and legally there’s not much that can be done about it until polygamy is legalized.

  • baal

    I was going to come back to make a very similar point. Folks are already living poly but without the legal protections. I don’t think “it’s hard legally” is enough of a basis to get the law to catch up with reality.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    It’s not just the law itself, but some of the assumptions that area of the law is premised on that make me particularly gun-shy about liberalizing marriage to include poly-structures.

    In dyad-marriages, when the couple disagrees about the disposition of any particular issue or item, one thing that the structure itself precludes is a resort to popular vote; a disagreement between two people over a proposition always leads to [one vote yes]/[one vote no]. Which in turn requires courts to examine the actual merits of each position. With (in the simplest case) a poly-marriage with three individuals, suddenly there is the potentiality (and likelihood) of an entirely different dynamic, since two individuals are on one side in a disagreement, with only one on the other. I am always leery of letting democracy itself be dispositive, only moreso with issues as fraught and intimate as those in a family, and yet it would be a hard temptation for a court to resist.

  • KrisDStar

    D has no legal relationship to A and B.
    D doesn’t, not biological, unless agreed upon by bio parents.
    There are some countries that allow up to three parents to be named at birth, on the birth certificate. So, that would help settle child sharing disputes.
    It’s really not THAT complicated.

  • UWIR

    ” The only reason I think it’s fine to keep it illegal is that the legal headaches from legalizing it are … immense. ”

    You seem to be confusing “illegal” and “nonlegal”.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I generally consider something illegal if it is explicitly punishable under a criminal code. Bigamy is. Thus, it is illegal. Do you have other definitions?

  • UWIR

    Either you were asserting that there are immense legal headaches from not making polygamy punishable under a criminal code, or you were asserting that there are immense legal headaches from not giving marriage certificate for groups of more than two people. The latter makes no sense with reference to the rest of your post. e.g.

    “For example, if A and B are both married to C, who is also married to D, what is D’s legal relationship to A and B?”

    There is no need to make polygamy illegal to prevent A and B from being legally married from C.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Oh, you’re just being whiny and pedantic instead of bringing up any real points, since you’re not actually confused about what I meant nor my common usage of terms instead of precisely technical terms. I get it.

    If it makes you feel better, then yes, I think the legal headaches of licensing polyamorous relationships (taking them out of nonlegal status) are immense.

  • UWIR

    A recap of the conversation so far:

    Feminerd: Not keeping this illegal would cause major headaches.

    UWIR: Are you sure you meant “illegal” rather than “nonlegal”?

    Feminerd: Yes, I definitely mean “illegal”. I am specifically talking about criminal penalties.

    UWIR: I don’t understand how that makes sense.

    Feminerd: You’re right. I meant one thing, but I said another thing, and INSISTED that I meant that other thing when you tried to clarify. And now I’m going to throw a temper tantrum.

    It’s not “pedantic” to ask to clarify something that is an important distinction. Mehta went out of his way to make this distinction. Is he being pedantic? You’re the one being whiny, complaining about someone pointing out that you are being confusing, rather than just clarifying.

    “since you’re not actually confused about what I meant nor my common usage of terms instead of precisely technical terms.”

    It’s not “precisely technical term”. YOU EVEN ADMITTED YOURSELF that “illegal” mean “criminal”, not merely “not legally recognized”. Where the FUCK do you get off telling me that I’m not confused? I’m incredibly fucking confused because YOUR POSTS ARE INCREDIBLY FUCKING CONFUSING. If you aren’t confused by your posts, that’s because you wrote them. You know your mind, and if you aren’t confused, then you know you’re not confused. You don’t know my mind, and you have no basis for asserting that you do. Your claim that I am not confused is a LIE. How could I possibly not be confused, when you specifically confirmed that you meant “illegal” in the sense of “criminal”? Over and over again, I’ve tried to engage you politely, and over and over again you’ve shown yourself to be a complete asshole. Once AGAIN, you are the first to resort to personal attacks. Despite all the lies and insults you’ve thrown at me before, I was willing to discuss this civilly, but once again this turned into how much you hate me, rather than actually discussing the matter at hand.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Bigamy is illegal. Polyamorous relationships are nonlegal. Legalizing either or both would cause huge headaches.

    At no point was I incorrect in any of my statements, and you are just trying to piss me off.

  • Cake

    UWIR seems to have a habit of taking people to task for misunderstandings that exist entirely in its own head.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Indeed. And we have a bit of a history of pissing each other off. I, of course, think I am in the right in all our little exchanges, but I can be quite rude to him because of that even when the comment itself doesn’t really call for it.

  • UWIR

    And once again, I’ve tried to have a civil discussion with you, and you’ve resorted to personal attacks.

    I’m not being “pedantic”, I’m clarifying an important point. I am confused, and I don’t see any reason for you claiming psychic powers and declaring that you know that I’m not confused, other than you’re an arrogant asshole who can’t even conceive of the possibility that what she is saying is confusing. You first said that you meant illegal, which literally means criminal. When I asked for clarification, you confirmed that you meant criminal. Now you’re saying that you meant nonlegal. How could I possibly NOT be confused?

    Do you have some sort of mental disorder?

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Already got this later. Why are you bringing it up again?

    And I know you, UWIR. You’re not actually confused. Bigamy is illegal and polyamory in general is nonlegal. Changing both would be a giant legal headache. I already answered this for you.

  • cary_w

    Socially, it’s not an inherently bad thing, but as things stand today, it’s a bad deal for the wives who are not legally married to the husband because they have none of the rights of a legal wife. They can be left with nothing if they leave the marriage because they have no legal status, no right to shared property or alimony or any of the things you can get with a legal divorce. The right to a divorce is huge, it’s not happy, but it’s really one of the main thing gays are fighting for when they fight for the right to marry.

  • Whitney

    I have this particularly sneaky friend, who has more than once suggested that the government should just flat get out of marriage entirely. Rip it out of the tax code, pull it out of all other legal entanglements, and go on from there. The only place he’d leave it in is in anti-discrimination laws.

    He might be on to something here. I still haven’t decided.

  • Terry Firma

    That’s the libertarian position, which I’m very much drawn to in this case (as I often am when it comes to socio-political rather than economic issues — prostitution, the drug war, and so on). What’s “sneaky” about it, or about your friend?

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I find myself more drawn to a socialist position on that sort of thing. Decriminalize, of course, and straight-up legalize in the case of prostitution, but still regulate and license and all those other government “intrusions” in the market. For drugs, high taxes, safety inspections, etc.

    The libertarian position is government getting out entirely. Libertarianism just is not a very realistic or healthy view of the world IMO because it’s based on laissez faire capitalism, which is pretty bad.

  • Terry Firma

    Which left-wing U.S. administration has been for those things, and followed through on its own campaign promises in that regard?

    No socialist government I’m aware of has ever legalized drugs, prostitution, or curtailed the surveillance state and government spying on its own citizens — or even held the line on free speech.

    I think we’d be a helluva lot freer under Gary Johnson than under George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Well, social democrat. Socialism itself is a pretty poor economic and political system, and I should have clarified that. I’d like to point out that the US doesn’t actually have a functional political left wing. The Democrats are a center-right party, and the Republicans are an extreme-right party. No set of people on the right side of the political spectrum is going to do those things. We’d need a “radical” like Bernie Sanders (still center-left in Europe, not even far left, let alone radical left) to do that, and yeah … that’s not gonna happen.

    I’m not so sure I’d like a Gary Johnson administration in a lot of ways, but he certainly would’ve been better than Bush. And while Obama has been terrible on civil liberties, and yeah, that’s really really important, I consider my own personal rights to my own personal body rather important too. Gary Johnson ran as a Republican. He’d be too beholden to his party on the “unimportant” stuff like abortion rights and women’s health and environmental protection and financial regulation. I think he’d have been a perfectly okay president, and certainly one I could have lived with, but the R after his name means I could never in good conscience vote for him. He chose to align himself with the party that terrifies me and objectifies me and deregulates everything and clearly doesn’t care about people at all.

    Not to mention that what we need really, truly is a big dose of Keynesianism right now, and I don’t think Gary Johnson would deliver on that either. He’s ideologically opposed to the very idea.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    there are many socialist examples that disprove your assertion that it is a flawed social system. right now, the scandinavian nations come to mind, and there are and have been other examples of success of what most americans think of as “socialism.” socialism does not preclude democratic representation, either. most modern socialist nations have that.

    i’m an economic radical and i doubt most people would be willing to try what i’d like to do. but as a compromise, in the democratic spirit, i’d like to try more “socialist” policy here. but i am depressed that in america i can say that word and depending on the person i’m speaking with, it can mean a whole mess of things, some grounded in fact, history and theory, and a lot of it not.

  • Anat

    I like the description I saw recently, that socialism seeks to convert abject misery into ordinary unhappiness. Not unicorns and rainbows, but livable conditions for *all*.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Those are what I consider social democracies. Pure socialism doesn’t have space for any entrepreneurial ventures, nor any from of economic activity that is not state-owned and directed. That’s a system that’s easily abusable, rife with corruption, and inefficient.

    I think more socialism in the US would be wonderful, but I definitely don’t want to go all the way. Like all political and economic systems, carried to its extremes socialism becomes a monstrosity. Socialism as a political and economic system alone is not good, but socialist democracy is. There is a very big difference.

    In other words, I’m pretty sure we agree on most things, we’re just getting hung up on terminology.

  • UWIR

    Purse socialism is incompatible with democracy. Democracy requires private property.

  • UWIR

    “Republicans are an extreme-right party”

    Compared to the general US voting public, or compared to what you think should the “center”?

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    The contemporary spectrum among the democratic republics of the world. If you were to list the major parties (greater than or equal to 15% of the electorate) active today in the democratic republics of the world on a left-right axis, the GOP would be somewhere off the right end of the page by pretty much all extant metrics of left-right. I suppose if one were to fool around with the basic definitions of left and right, one might come to a…hah, who am I kidding, it would still be off the chart rightward.

    You have to go back to the 19th century to find anything in the same ballpark anywhere else. (Ironically, in the 19th century, the GOP itself was rather more moderate. It’s that Whiggish DNA they have since completely shed and filled in with religiosity.)

    ETA: Point being, from a global perspective, the GOP is indeed an anomaly.

  • UWIR

    So, the GOP is to the right of the Nazi party?

    Can you give an example of a left-right metric?

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    The Nazi Party never cracked 15% membership in Germany. (At its absolute height, in 1945, party membership hovered around 8 million, among a population of 70 million, so about 11.5%).

    The most traditional left/right metric is the original one (French Estates-General) which was in broad strokes, status quo (Right) vs. revolution (Left), so named because they literally sat to the left or right of the chair of the assembly. One can put several different philosophical glosses on this divide, but it comes down to whether one believes preferred goals can be achieved within the existing order (whatever that may be) or whether a change in the order itself is required to achieve preferred goals. A surprisingly good primer.

    They can parodies of themselves, too; a right-wing party can cease to be content with the current order and attempt to hearken back to a (real or imaginary) prior order, who are properly termed reactionaries; a left-wing party can become frustrated with all order and become anarchists-in-fact. Both approaches are nihilistic. The GOP, I would argue, has become enamored of a reactionary approach unparalleled or seriously considered in any democratic republic on Earth by a major party for about a hundred years or so.

  • UWIR

    You’re seriously claiming that the Nazi Party was not a “major” party? Any definition of “major” that excludes the Nazi Party clearly has something wrong with it. If you include all the far-right parties in Weimar Germany, that would certainly be more than 15%. In the US, almost all of the right-winger are collected into one party because of the US’ two-party system. And you don’t seem to be clear on what “metric” means. It’s a quantitative measurement of property.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    You’re seriously claiming that the Nazi Party was not a “major” party? Any definition of “major” that excludes the Nazi Party clearly has something wrong with it.

    Building the definition of a class around the goal of including one possible exemplar of that class is extremely bad practice. If your favored counterexample, uh, isn’t, because the proffered neutral definition excludes it from consideration, I would urge you to either find a better counterexample, or counteroffer a definition of equal utility and neutrality that does include your example in the set.

    What would you call a “major party”, and why?

    And you don’t seem to be clear on what “metric” means. It’s a quantitative measurement of property.

    I’m quite clear on what it means. A requisite for a metric is a set of qualitative parameters upon which to define the quantification; you can’t measure something until you define it. A party can be more left or more right only based on what left-right is defined as being. If you actually want me to build a complete-and-usable metric (both the qualities to be measured and the standards for identifying the quantities of each quality present in each entity under investigation) for you right now, I’m not gonna simply because it would take several hundred pages of text and a lot of research I’m not willing to do simply to answer a comment on a blog post. If that allows you to maintain your skepticism of the claim I made, so be it. I would encourage you to explore the claim on your own, though, or dismiss it at your convenience.

  • Little_Magpie

    despite describing yourself as conservative, I think you might have the humour (and ability to put yourself in other people’s perspectives), you might appreciate this.

  • Little_Magpie

    note how the elephant is about to slide off the end…

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    I would kill (metaphorically speaking) for American politics to have an actual left wing. Alas, a certain long-term bad experience with a certain nuclear-armed superpower who shall not be named has sullied anything even vaguely socialist in our political discourse, leading to an extremely unhealthy imbalance.

  • Little_Magpie

    yep. I read a book recently entitled The S WordAmazon link here if you’re interested… Which points out that socialism is a movement with a long and pround history in the US…

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    It is a source of much simultaneous amusement and consternation among historians and political scientists. From the way these things are (not) taught, it’s like nothing happened of note between 1877 and 1941, and that things like Social Security and weekends and the minimum wage fell from the sky.

  • Little_Magpie

    yeah i know right?

    it drives me nuts the way that “socialism” has become practically a swear word, and being accused of it is the kiss of political career death, in US discourse.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope
  • Little_Magpie

    from what I know of the SoF, that doesn’t surprise me.
    (I guess you caught my comment about Rustin before I deleted it as being rambly?) :)

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Compared to the global political center and also the actual center point between pure fascism and pure communism (the extreme examples of both left and right generally used). The Overton Window in the US is waaay far over to the right.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    The very left-wing Frente Amplio of Uruguay just recently and with much international consternation fanfare managed to legalize da weedz.

  • Gehennah

    If you want to see what companies would probably look like if the libertarians ran the US, just look at Foxconn.

    I know China is called Communist, but Foxconn has almost zero oversight.

  • Stev84

    Impossible. One the one hand it’s true that the government uses marriage way, way too much to regulate society and to determine access to benefits. At one point is just became an automatism without any study whether something really needs to be tied to marriage. The idea that marriage is THE central unit of society is absurd.

    On the other hand in many cases there are good reasons to acknowledge that two people are an economic unit and have a financial responsibility for each other. It’s just that this shouldn’t be done to exclusion of all other forms of relationships.

  • Conuly

    “You have got to be fraking kidding me. … Next stop on the slippery slope express, I assume, will be consensual adult incest marriages.”

    It depends on how we define incest. If we’re talking first cousin marriages, they’re already legal in many states and much of the world outside the US.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Well, most Christians believe serial polygamy is OK anyways.

  • joey_in_NC

    Polygamy? It’s not an innate characteristic, it’s a choice. The struggle for polygamy is not about equality, but about privacy.

    No, given the the context, it is about ‘equality’…since the discussion concerns what relationships are to be recognized by the state as ‘marriage’. People who are not in favor of the state recognizing polygamous marriage are not for ‘marriage equality’, since they are not in favor of the state recognizing the marriage of A, B, and C, but only that of D and E.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    If the concepts were absolute, I’d agree with you. Concepts as applied in the really real universe, though, are bounded. When a person says they are for marriage equality, it may be that they are claiming that all possible structures of marriage should be equally recognized, but much more commonly they are making a more limited normative claim about the limited group of marriage structures typified by consensual adult pair-bonding. It is usually unnecessary to point out these delimiting characteristics because the position is being employed in a particular easily-comprehended context that the audience can use to suss out exactly how they intend to apply the concept.

    Marriage equality, as a two word political slogan, should not be confused with a detailed philosophical or sociological argument, is what I’m saying. This does not make the people employing that slogan hypocrites in any sense for failing to apply it to all possible situations.

  • joey_in_NC

    I understand completely what you’re saying, considering my scare quotes around equality.

    …but much more commonly they are making a more limited normative claim about the limited group of marriage structures typified by consensual adult pair-bonding.

    Or…they can be making an even more limited normative claim about the limited group of marriage structures typified by consensual adult heterosexual pair-bonding.

    This does not make the people employing that slogan hypocrites in any sense for failing to apply it to all possible situations.

    If so, then the people who are in favor of only consensual adult heterosexual pair-bonding should not be criticized for being against ‘equality’.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    The primary difference is not subtle, and that is there is no objectively practical difference a person can point to and say “this is why homosexual marriages are unlike heterosexual ones in external effect” and “this is how the passage of such a regime would burden the lives of non-participants”.

    Seriously, as a guy who is very tuned-in to complications of systemic change and unintended consequences, I’m always interested in hearing arguments to those ends. But all opponents could ever point to were the consequences to their own feelings of propriety, how they were personally offended, due to religious conviction or personal disgust or whatever. And that’s not good enough when considering policy; plenty of people do plenty of things that are perfectly legal that I don’t like. My not liking it is not and can not be dispositive against it because those plenty of things have no practical effect on how I lead my life, and provide a profound effect on how they can choose to live theirs. So you don’t like the idea of solemnizing gay pair-bonding…too bad. It has no effect whatsoever on your own pair-bonding, nor much of anything else.

    And it’s not for lack of patience or trying, either. Given how exercised the religious have been over this issue, I’d expect they could point to some inkling of a clue of a mechanism how gay marriage was supposed to damage marriage as an institution (and destroy western civilization as we know it), but the side against extending the institution to homosexual couples was never able to articulate anything even sorta kinda plausible in that regard. They’ve had how long to articulate a case? This is the best they’ve got?

    In contrast, it is startlingly easy to think of reasons why leaping into poly-marriage structures might not be a prudent idea. Seriously, just read the thread. It’s why the slippery slope arguments are particularly poor in this arena; the actual problems that crop up with poly-marriage are entirely disanalogous even to the phantom problems proposed by folks who were against homosexual marriage.

  • Rob P

    Something struck me as odd about the wording of the first part of the law. It reads “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife …” So HE can have a HUSBAND? I guess gay men can marry in Utah then.

  • UWIR

    Many legal codes have a disclaimer that number and gender are not dictated by pronoun choice, to avoid having to engage in cumbersome constructions such as “he, she or they”. So if a woman were charged with bigamy, it would probably not be a defense to say “The law says ‘he’, and I am not a ‘he'”. I don’t know what the law would be regarding a man legally married to a woman, but also purporting to be married to a man would be.

  • poose

    I have to add my voice to the “meh” side of the argument. I’m not against bigamy or polyamoury, but the bigamists down Utah way have a demonstrated history of abusing the child welfare system and other forms of public assistance to assist in financing their lives.

    From the LA times article on the high cost of bigamy on the state: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/sep/09/news/mn-43824

    ” Widespread reliance on welfare. In the tiny town of Hildale, for example, along the Utah-Arizona border, as many as 50% of the residents are on public assistance, according to state and federal records. The fraud occurs when plural wives claim they don’t know the whereabouts of their children’s father.”

    I know this paints genuine mothers whom use public assistance for legitimate reasons-but in the bigamy case the use of the system is systemic, and being used to further a religious ideal.

  • Sue Blue

    If these men want to have more than one partner who is producing children, then the state should hold them accountable for the support of ALL of those women and their children. Many moons ago when I was a single mother and had to rely on AFDC for a short time, I had to prove that either a.) I did not know who the father of my child was, or b.) that I could not obtain support from the child’s father in any way. There was a huge burden of proof on me. It was not an easy or uplifting process, and it angers me that these people so callously and easily use the system to support their voluntary lifestyle.

    I don’t have a problem with ADULTS having any kind of consensual relationship that they can afford, but I do have a problem with adult men forcing teenagers into motherhood and then sponging off the welfare system in order to keep their sex harem fed and clothed.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    The problem is when men can’t do that, it isn’t the men who suffer. It’s the children. We, as a society, have an obligation to all our citizens, especially our most vulnerable (which pretty much always includes children) to make sure they have sufficient food, shelter, clothing, education, and health care.

    Should we go after the men who refuse to support their children? Absolutely. Should we try to prevent women from lying about her knowledge whereabouts of a child’s father? Well, I don’t know that we can do that, but it’s something to consider so long as it doesn’t become a huge burden (as it did to you). At the end of the day, though, while parents have the burden to support their offspring, you can’t get blood from a stone. At that point, punishing children for their parents’ poor choices is not going to do anyone any favors.

  • Jeff

    I’d like to sign up to lead the next expedition down into the moral abyss. According to these maroon’s, there seems to be lots of job openings…

  • Alierias

    It’s always been about CONSENTING adults. I, for one, would be very hard pressed to imagine sharing my husband with a “sister-wife” not of MY choosing; but hey, that’s where the “consenting” part comes in. These women have consented to it, hopefully freely consented, and it’s none of anyone’s business but their own.
    I don’t like it, but *I* don’t have to…

  • Ibis3

    They live in a society where girls are married off as teens to older men. Also, it’s not really a consensual choice if you can’t say “no” without serious social (and imaginary spiritual) repercussions.

  • Alierias

    I agree that they are most likely brainwashed, and I personally find it repugnant, but again, it’s not MY place to judge their society. I find Islamic society, which allows polygyny, and celebrates misogyny, just as repugnant; but again, IT’s NONE OF MY BUSINESS to “change” them. They can only change themselves, and what I CAN do is stand as an example that there IS another way. Freedom is hard, and some people just don’t want it. It’s much easier to stay a childish and dependent and irresponsible.

  • Ibis3

    I’m happy for you that you can so blithely wash your hands of the oppression that others face, and, in fact blame them, the victims, for not being as free as you. Nice that you’ve got it all figured out.

  • cary_w

    It’s not so much washing your hands of them as you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. There are plenty of people living in polygamist communities that like it just fine. You may argue that they are brainwashed, but they will tell you they are living a godly life free from the evils of modern society. Who are you to insist they are oppressed when they claim they are free? So I agree with Alierias, the best way to “help” them is to be tolerant and accepting and show them we are not evil. And to bring them more into the mainstream where, not only can they see how the rest of us live and make more informed choices, but also we see more of what goes on in there community and can stop abuse and fraud when they happen. That’s not ignoring the problem, it’s just acknowledging that you can’t force someone to accept help they don’t want.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    If you’ve ever read Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, Talia comes to a similar conclusion in the Arrows of the Queen trilogy. She comes from a similar background to the FLDS, actually, and escapes. She goes back to rescue people, but realizes a lot of them don’t want to be rescued. So she, too, comes to the conclusion that all she can do is be out there, be tolerant, and provide a place for the unhappy ones who want to leave to go to. She can’t change the ones who want to stay.

    It’s a very minor subplot in the books, so I don’t mind “spoiling” it here.

  • UWIR

    Who is “they”? If you think that some people are not making a consensual choice, then you should have a law focused on marriages that are not a consensual choice, not have a law that goes after a marital characteristic that you think is associated with lack of consensual choice. And if the problem is that it’s not a consensual choice, why do both the man and the woman face criminal prosecution? That would be like making sex between a teacher and a student illegal… and then charging both of them with a crime.

  • joey_in_NC

    These women have consented to it, hopefully freely consented, and it’s none of anyone’s business but their own.

    It actually is your and everyone else’s business if you want the state to recognize such a union, along with all the civil and tax benefits/privileges that go along with state-sanctioned marriage.

  • Alierias

    Ok, good point; someone deeper in made the point that most of these “sister-wives” file for welfare benefits, by virtue of being “unmarried”. That IMHO, is fraud and should be prosecuted.

  • UWIR

    So if they claim to be married, that’s illegal because it’s polygamy, but if they claim to not be married, that’s illegal because it’s fraud.

  • Alierias

    The fraud is claiming welfare because “they are a single mother”, because they aren’t. If they want to be in a “sister wife”, then own it, and make that man pay for them all!

    Just to give you context, if it were up to ME, once you went on welfare, you got a Norplant, or Depro-Provera shots, so you CAN’T HAVE ANY MORE CHILDREN. Taking welfare means you have failed economically, and shouldn’t be bringing MORE children into failure. It also means that you can focus on your existing children, and getting back on your feet.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Forced birth control? I hope this is hyperbole, because if the state had done that, my family wouldn’t exist.

  • Fentwin

    i.e.

    Certain people will read this new ruling like they read their Bible. They only need the parts that fit their pre-concieved notions and narratives.

  • Madison Blane

    The Bible offers no basis to conclude that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction had anything to do with homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was one of pride, despising authority, hoarding of excess wealth, neglecting to care for the needy among them, and being inhospitable towards (and gang-raping) strangers (male and female). We may be ‘slouching toward’ the biblical description of Gomorrah but NOT for the reason that fundamentalists and conservatives often claim. It would be nice if they took some time to actually read their book!

    Ezekiel explains, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.
    Jude says, “Sodom and Gomorrah…gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.”

    This account makes no distinction between the rape of males and the rape of females – it was the RAPE that was wrong, the lack of consent, not the gender of the parties involved.

  • observer

    It’s quite telling that such folks believe the moral of the story isn’t “be kind to others,” but “HOMOSEXUALS ARE GONNA RAPE YOU IN YOUR SLEEP.”
    So instead of advising that we should love our fellow man, just get rid of the homos, that’ll fix all our problems somehow.

    I dare say, it’s almost as if these people are narcotic enough to believe the Bible has all the questions and answers to fix THEIR problems rather then the world’s.

  • UWIR

    It’s quite telling that when a man having sex with another man without the second man’s consent is presented as being evil, it’s the “two men having sex” they conclude is the bad part, and not the “without consent” part.

  • Rob P

    The Sodom story is a bugbear of mine. Looking at things logically. We know Sodom is a walled city. Why do you put a wall around your city? Obviously to protect you from outside dangers. Now say that two strangers enter your walled city. Do you just say “that’s nice” or do you want to know who they are and what their intention is? What is the wicked thing that the men of Sodom want to do to the strangers? Have sex with them or maybe put them outside the protective walls of the city during the night? The second choice is in line with what Ezekiel says is the sins of Sodom (and in line with Jesus’ reference to Sodom in regards to cities that don’t welcome his disciples) And them Lot offers his daughters. Is that something homosexual men would want? That doesn’t make sense. However offering his daughters as hostages for the good behavior of the 2 strangers does make sense.
    I don’t think the story of Sodom has anything to do with sex, consensual or rape. Jude not withstanding.

  • alconnolly

    Bizarre interpretation. An entire crowd of much of the city surrounds the house of a prominent judge because they are afraid of two people spending the night in the city? Please. The words used in the story was “bring them out that we may know them” (Always used in the king James bible as a euphemism for sex,) and yes offering his daughters (who were female and therefore worthless) in place of the strangers would be in keeping with the mores of the time and was done in several other bible stories. Not that I believe the story ever took place, but I don’t think anyone hearing the story in that time period would have understood it your way.

  • WallofSleep

    “Jazz Shaw on the conservative blog Hot Air also has a surprisingly level-headed, no-hysteria take…”

    Fuck me. Did I wake up on Alternate Earth again?

    “We are Slouching Towards Gomorrah.”

    Mr. Bainbridge, if you actually gave half a fuck for that book you pretend to revere, you’d know the lesson of S&G was not about any “sexual deviancy”, but about the inhabitants inhospitable nature. They refused to help strangers or the needy, and that’s why they were destroyed. With that in mind, we are already neck deep in the Gomorrah attitude here in the states, thanks mostly to people like you Mr. Bainbridge.

  • Anathema

    “As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” — Ezekiel 16:48-50 (NRSV)

    It’s pathetic how little people Bainbridge know about their own holy book.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Robert Bork was right. We are Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

    Heh heh. Quoting Robert Bork doesn’t necessarily mean you lose teh culture war, but it’s a good sign you’re running low on ammo.

  • purr

    On this one right wing blog that I read for shits and giggles, one commenter in particular is obsessed with how ‘pedophilia will soon be legal’ because of the ‘radfems’ who are apparently pro child rape. And this slippery slope exists all because of ‘aborticide’ and the gay marriage

  • islandbrewer

    You’d think Professor Volokh would walk down the hall (their offices are still in the same building, I believe) and say, “Hey Stephen, I know you’ve had your head immersed in corporate regulation for a while, let me give you a little refresher on conventional legal interpretation” (which is exactly the way he would phrase it in his chipper fast-talking way.)

  • John Secular Smith

    A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”

    So, did this law say it was illegal to have roommates if one was married? Because that is what it looks like to me.

  • UWIR

    This seems like a no-brainer. Anti-polygamy laws generally prohibit “solemnizing” unions, which means that religious ceremonies are criminalized. But this has a long history of being upheld anyway, so this decision will likely be overturned.

  • UWIR

    “It’s an important distinction to make.”

    Seems like a an exercise in sophistry to me. Trying to pin down what’s “innate” and what’s “a choice” is a pointless philosophical exercise that, even if it could be accomplished, would be irrelevant; we don’t allow child molestation, regardless of whether pedophilia is innate, and we do allow people to criticize the government, even if it’s a “choice”. And if we’re going to be making precise distinctions, what gay people are asking for is not equality, but equivalence. Putting that aside, prior to this ruling, polygamists’ situation was clearly much worse than gays’; same-sex couples were not allowed to get married, but they weren’t being criminally prosecuted. And indeed he brings up Lawrence, which is a better analogy than the SSM issue. Lawrence was about freedom, not equality.


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