Two in a row for Dr. Science!
Wow, I just checked back to see if the old thread had died, and what
do I find! Thank you, Tony. BTW, the pronoun used for me is “she”, not
“A Walker” — Who cares if two is not equal to three? — The law. In law, there are about 1400 legal benefits to marriage, and the vast majority of those rights presume that the marriage is between two (2) persons only. As I have argued elsewhere,
our current marriage law is *barely* able to deal with the complexities
that arise when a marriage has only two partners, and that despite
hundreds of years of experience dealing with traditional
(inegalitarian) two-partner marriages. Egalitarian multipartner
marriages simply do not fit into the legal structures we have, so there
is no practical basis for making them legal as yet. I guess there would
have to be at least 50-100 years’ experience with custom-made
polyamorous contracts before legal mavens could even think of making a
standard poly marriage contract — there simply isn’t enough experience
with how these things tend to work out. So no, “Your Name”, I don’t
think there’s anything wrong *in principle* with poly marriages — but
law is all about practice, practicality, and precedent, and that
doesn’t exist yet and might not for centuries.
Marriage has always been tied to sex because the act of sex for
heterosexuals is what launches the long-term project of raising
families—the enterprise being contracted.
Here is where I put on my Actual Evolutionary Biologist™ hat and
disagree. Most mammals do not have any arrangment like marriage, and
yet they manage to have sex and rear offspring perfectly well.
Consider the case of Jacob, in the Book of Genesis. Jacob loves only
one woman, is married to two women, and has legitimate children with
What makes his relationships with Leah and Rachel “marriage”? It’s
not love, and it’s not having sex or children. What sets marriage apart
is *in-laws*, and this IMScientificO is one of the things that makes
human marriage unique. Indeed, if you look at what happens to Jacob, it
seems that his first marriage is really a contract with Laban, who is
able to swap Leah for Rachel and hold Jacob to it.
Marriage is a social and economic arrangment which usually
incorporates sex and reproduction, but which is clearly necessary for
neither. For societies with property, marriage is crucial for
determining inheritance, and if you look at that list of “marriage
rights” you’ll see that most of them are about economic or medical
decisions. “Being able to have licit sex” is *not* on that list,
however psychologically or religiously important it seems. And the
same-sex couples and their allies (like me) aren’t fighting for the
right to an imaginary sex license, but for equal access to those 1400
real, legal rights of marriage.