A friend of mine, Mike Bird, from Australia, recently posted on a bit of a dust-up in Australia. The issue becomes this question: if same sex marriage is legitimated/legalized why not polyamory? Another way of framing it: What constitutes marriage? Intention and commitment or intention-within-constraints of man and woman?
If you are going to regard marriage as nothing more than a legal fiction whereby the state recognizes a relationship between two persons so that said persons can have certain legal rights and recognitions, then to be honest, you have evacuated yourself of any moral or legal argument against polyamory. This issue has recently come up in the gay marriage debate in Australia.
Here’s my contention:
In the course of history marriage has been constituted by a society’s fundamental understandings, and those understandings have not always been debated theoretically. Still, most societies think marriage is between a man and woman. Some societies have (and are) comfortable with polygamy or polyamory. These have been traditional “constraints” for what kind of relationships are legitimate.
But if marriage, as is the case with same-sex marriage, is legitimated not by the tradition of man and woman or by one’s religious texts, but instead by a commitment that is then legitimated and protected by a society’s laws, then that society needs laws that distinguish same-sex marriage from polygamy and polyamory.
If the foundation is the intention and commitment of the persons involved, then the law needs to aim at intention and commitment. Hence, while “legal fiction” is not how I’d express it, I would agree that Mike Bird’s argument deserves consideration and discussion.
Just in case you want to know, I’m not suggesting one bit that this is a “slippery slope” toward legalization of nonsense but instead a legal ground issue: what constitutes marriage? The intention of the people involved or gender/sex constraints, etc? So, this post is not so much an argument against same-sex or polyamory but for discussing what constitutes a legitimate marriage — both legally and in a Christian sense.