Dad on the slippery slope argument

Another facebook friend tagged me in a comment asking for my assessment of the slippery slope argument.  On this occasion it was, “If you let gays marry, why not polygamists?”

Dad got to it before I could and hammered it harder.

Hi, Michele, not JT but would like to weigh in on ” Specifically, I’ve been asked: if we give homosexuals the right to marry, why not polygamists”.

First of all, each needs to be argued on its own merits, not on some vague slippery slope innuendo. If there are good –or bad–arguments for the legalization of polygamy, trot them out and debate them…..but don’t say something silly like if you let polygamists practice polygamy, won’t you have to give marriage rights to homosexuals? Seriously, why don’t you just back it up to “if you’re going to allow heterosexuals to marry, won’t you have to allow homosexuals to marry?” (the answer should be a slam dunk.)

Polygamy is a different matter with different arguments, but the truth is that it is banned for pretty much the same reasons as gay marriage, with the added ingredient that it was outlawed here due to discrimination against the Mormons. I suspect you knew that. “During the 1870s and 1880s, federal laws were passed and federal marshals assigned to punish and harass polygamists, confiscate church property, jail polygamists and deny jury trials or voting rights to all polygamists. In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church finally agreed to drop its approval of polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again in 1895, it was accepted. One of the conditions for granting Utah statehood was that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution.”

Actually, polygamy is legal around much of the world, has worked perfectly well for thousands of years, and is against the law here primarily because of continuing anti-Mormon discrimination–according to many, they’re not REALLY Christians–and because of the evolving Judeo-Christian tradition. It was banned in the Jewish community around 1000 A.D. Rabbi Gershom, and banned by the Catholic church in England in 673 as a slap to existing Anglo-Saxon pagan marriage customs. It was the The Roman councils of 1052 and 1063 that pretty much put the kibosh on it for primarily Christian countries.

When you consider polygamy on its own merits,though…..why shouldn’t it be legal? They always ask, “Gee, if you allow same sex marriage, won’t you have to allow polygamy (GASP!)? Although they are two separate issues, I don’t see what is so horrible about polygamy. It isn’t my cup of tea, but if it floats someone else’s boat, more power to them. Seriously—jokes aside—why shouldn’t polygamy be legal?

Here is an interesting back ground article:

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • McNihil

    Hey JT,

    Sorry to be on your case about these things but I’m sick in bed and I’ve run out of reading/watching debates in which religious people get owned so I’m grasping at straws before having to resort to r/christianity trolling. I have 2 questions.

    Have you heard anything from Leah Libresco yet? You mentioned she set up some page somewhere where she would address your questions. Anything there yet?

    And second, what about that dude you initiated the ongoing blogathon with? I think you guys went 2 or 3 rounds and after your last reply he fell silent. Have you heard from him? Has he admitted defeat? Is his god too busy watching children starve in Africa to give him answers to the questions you left him with at the end of your last reply?


    • McNihil

      Also, from now on I’ll send questions like that to you directly instead of spamming your blog posts. I only just now noticed that there is email contact information in your “about” box. Apologies.

      • JT Eberhard

        Haven’t heard squat from either of them.

        • Rory

          Probably because their arguments for god are so powerful and well-thought out that they get woozy trying to type them. It’s a real bummer.

  • steve84

    There are good reasons against polygamy. Yeah, in theory, if everyone agrees and is treated equally it’s ok. Of course in practice, that’s rarely how it works.

    Legally, it only works in patriarchal societies. How do you write laws for all possible relationship constellations that give all partners the same rights? Divorces are already complicated enough with two parties. Other societies get around that by giving the men far more rights. That wouldn’t work in the west. Laws are already written with two people in mind, so making them gender neutral isn’t an issue.

    Also, if polygamy is widely practiced it has destabilizing effects on society due to the scarcity of marriageable women. In some places the bride price has increased to unaffordable or ruinous levels. It’s also the reason why so many young girls are forcefully getting married (which is also a problem in the fundamentalist LDS sects).

    In any case, we need to distinguish polygamy/polyandry from polyamory here. Having multiple legal spouses is messy, but there is nothing wrong with having multiple partners if everyone agrees. Making polyamory socially acceptable to some degree is a necessary first step before legal recognition of any kind becomes realistic. Note that not even non-fundy Mormon polygamists want to actually legally marry several people. What they want is not to be penalized for their existing living arrangements (there is a lawsuit to that effect going on in Utah, but it’s not about marriage).

    • machintelligence

      we need to distinguish polygamy/polyandry from polyamory

      Actually the term for multiple wives is polygyny, Polygamy means more than one spouse, and includes both polygyny and polyandry (but not in the popular usage).
      The problem with polygamy (at least as practiced by the FLDS) is the Patriarchy problem and the age of the brides, which preclude legal consent.
      If you want a SciFi take on another possible arrangement see Heinlein’s line marriages in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
      I rather like the definition of marriage as a cultural device to provide a stable economic and emotional platform for the raising of children.

      • philipelliott

        That’s a fine definition of marriage, except for the last prepositional phrase. Not all marriages need involve children.

        • Kate

          …additionally, raising children need not involve marriage.

          The absurdity of that ‘marriage is for a man and a woman to procreate and raise children’ argument always shits me. Aside from ignoring the fact that people can have children without marriage (therefore making the argument redundant) is what also follows from that absurd view is that a man and a woman who have children together must always remain married *because they have children*. I think a lot of bigots who object to gay marriage (and polygamy for that matter) on the basis of this absurd argument would probably also object to forced to stay in a marriage with a person they have come to despise. Not to mention the damage to the psychological development of the children forced to witness such marriages.

          Back to the topic of polygamy however. I’ve never understood why gay marriage is such a hot issue but no one dares touch on polygamy. If done as an agreement between consenting adults I see nothing wrong with it. It could even be beneficial for child rearing – the old ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ adage. The main problem with it from a moral perspective is of underaged persons, and/or persons raised in cults, (which coincidentally is usually both) participating in the practice due to pressure to do so from within their immediate community/social group. I think the way to resolve this is also the way to resolve the legal issues surrounding relationship responsibility generally. Change it from being a ‘marriage license’ to marry one specific person to a ‘license to marry’ issued to an individual who has successfully been trained on the responsibilities of being a married adult – from financial aspects to child rearing and any other responsibilities a person who is married should be expected to understand.

          A throwaway line often used when we hear of child abuse situations is “people should need a license to raise children” – well I think make it a reality. Issue a ‘license to marry’ to INDIVIDUALS who have successfully completed a training course on their legal and moral responsibilities as an adult (many people have to go through some form of informal marriage counselling by religious marriage practitioners anyway – why not just make it a more formal process?). Individuals then complete a ‘contract of marriage’ when two or more such individuals reach a marriage agreement between themselves – giving veto rights to any existing marriage partners and confirming the responsibilities towards any children or finances if the marriage were to dissolve.

          Existing marriage practices are outdated and too simplistic to adequately deal with the modern multicultural lifestyle of western countries. Changing the focus of marriage licensing from the marrying couple to, more directly, the individuals participating in marriage would help in dealing with these complexities. At least, thats my 2 cents ^^.

      • steve84

        Eh yeah. That’s what I wanted to type and something else came out.

        And marriage as a tool for the raising of children is valid. The problem with Christians is that they don’t make it about raising children, but about procreation. That’s not how the legal system works. Legally it doesn’t matter much where children came from biologically.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    In our (US) legal system, marital rights of inheritance, guardianship in cases of disability of one partner, etc, are clearly defined. Only divorces, complex wills, and the like produce significant problems, and only in some cases.

    When you have two surviving (or otherwise assuming power) spouses, it becomes highly likely that everything will end up in a courtroom. Should we see a pro-polygamy movement, those involved will need to work out the necessary contractual arrangements to cover likely contingencies.

    Plenty of those will still need to be resolved in court, but in the process we may see a set of workable principles emerge. At that point, we can realistically consider adding polygamy to our basket of civil rights.

    Gay marriage, otoh, puts no new stresses on our legal system, or on anything but the hair-trigger sensitivities of superstitious bigots. Fortunately, the latter are now busily overdosing themselves on high-cholesterol pseudofood, and soon won’t present so much of a problem.

    • John Eberhard

      I was aware of the inheritance/laws problems and chose not to mention them in that post. You have listed and explained them perfectly. Thank you.

    • Kate

      …I understood that the practice of polyandry existed in some cultures because it helpfully avoided inheritance disputes?

  • Sonorus

    I notice that the people who say that never explain why polygamy should be illegal. I personally don’t care. One partner is enough for me, but I have no strong feelings about polygamy and am open to hearing a debate on the pros and cons.

    If they are going to use a Biblical argument (which of course they will since that’s their only argument against gay marriage), then they should explain at what point polygamy went from being okay (most of the patriarchs of the Hebrew scriptures have at least two wives). My guess has always been that as the Israelites were conquered by one empire after another, one of them (my guess would be the Greeks, but it could have been earlier) banned the practice and it never came back into the practice of any mainstream Jewish group. Does anyone know?

  • slc1

    Re steve84 @ #2

    Also, if polygamy is widely practiced it has destabilizing effects on society due to the scarcity of marriageable women.

    A perfect example is what is currently happening in China. Under the one child per family rule, the majority of the fetuses that were aborted were female, which has now led to a substantial excess of males relative to females there.

    • David Hart

      If it continues long enough, they may find themselves faced with the question of do we a) legislate for, and aggressively enforce, female equality, such that the incentive for aborting female foetuses disappears, or b) legalise (and use the tax system to incentivise) polyandry.

    • wholething

      They have excess males in China. The goal was to reduce population growth which is a good thing. Girls were unwanted because it was customary to give a dowry to marry the girl off. Now that there is a demand for wives, the dowry situation is reversed so those who didn’t abort the girls benefit in the end.

      Polygamy solves that problem by allowing multiple husbands. Polygamy isn’t the problem, it’s the combination of monogamy, sexism, and patriarchy.

      After a war, a society is likely to have a gender imbalance. Polygamy certainly makes more sense in that situation.

      How about a marriage between two men and two women? But should the two men have to marry the same two women and vice versa? Bob could be married to Carol and Alice and Alice could be married to Bob and Ted while Ted and Carol are not married to each other.

      If you think that would have a destabilizing effect on society, I would ask why friendship doesn’t destabilze society. One could have multiple friends without having all of them be friends with every other friend.

      A person’s circle of friends may have only that person in common but it doesn’t revolve around that person. A marriage should not be all about me.

      It shouldn’t be anymore destabilizing than serial marriages.

      That kind of marriage probably wouldn’t work for insecure people though.

      • steve84

        Marriage has a much higher value than friendships. Anyways, friendships in those countries are generally gender-segregated.

        Besides dowry (which is a gift from the bride’s family to the couple for their new household) there is also the bride price, which is paid by the groom to the bride’s family. If there is a lack of women, the demand for the remaining women increases and thus the bride price increases. Sometimes so much that it becomes unaffordable for some men.

        That this leads to instability is a fact. It goes as far as a measurable rise in violence (not only against the women themselves, but also against male competitors): (this article incorrectly uses bride price and dowry interchangeably)

      • christophburschka

        How about a marriage between two men and two women? But should the two men have to marry the same two women and vice versa? Bob could be married to Carol and Alice and Alice could be married to Bob and Ted while Ted and Carol are not married to each other.

        In mathematical terms, a non-transitive marriage relation?

  • researchtobedone

    My favorite response to the slippery slope argument:

  • Tony •King of the Hellmouth•

    I want to buy your dad a drink.
    Or at the very least, shake his hand.
    He’s right, there is nothing about polygamy that is inherently wrong. I don’t personally want to be in a polygamous relationship, but if other consenting adults want to, that’s *their* decision to make.
    Do people really think the slippery slope argument is a strong argument against gay marriage? It’s a pathetic way to argue against homosexuals getting married (not that there have been any arguments that are actually reasonable).

  • Kevin K

    Consenting adults, of course.

    Not 14-year-old girls forced to wear “Little House on The Prairie” dresses.

  • Maude LL

    It’s interesting… I think polygamy is a complex issue. As a woman in a happy open marriage, one would assume that I would support polygamous marriages. I do, in the sense that your dad seems to argue. However, I think the issue in North America is different at the moment. Anti-polygamy laws (try to) protect women. Religious sects who practice polygamy are always one man with multiple wives, often not consenting (a 14 year old girl with a 45 year old man forced into marriage/rape by her family). The majority of people pushing for polygamy do so to enslave women. I think a lot of people have a relativist argument here, particularly regarding muslims. (It’s ok for a muslim man to have 7 slave-wives because it’s in their culture). However, I might argue that the laws should cover these aspects of abuse rather than polygamy itself. I believe that, for example, 3 adults in love with each other should be allowed to marry if that’s what they want. But it is a tricky subject, much more than gay marriage, where clearly there is no grey area. Gay marriage should be legal, period. And to be clear, slippery slope arguments are bullshit (in my humble opinion…).

    • Minus

      The movement for gay equality and gay marriage has been driven by the fact that there are large numbers of gay men and women demanding their rights. I know, and have known, hundreds of gay men and women. I have never known a polygamist. I have never heard of a woman who felt that she was being denied her rights to have multiple spouses. When and if a social movement demanding “equal rights” for polygamists arises, we will have to deal with the question. Meanwhile, lets deal with the real world. We have enough real problems without having to make up new ones.

  • dcortesi

    Can we just get your dad his own FTB blog? Please? I’d put it tops in my RSS reader…

  • Makoto

    I notice the “slippery slope” arguments always ignore the “consenting adults” portion of the equation. When one-man-one-woman get married in the US, they are consenting and of legal age for their areas.

    But then they jump to the polygamy issue (not mentioning the consenting adults part) and then to pedophilia or bestiality, neither of which have consenting adults as the other halves to begin with.

    Apply the same rules to hetero, homo, and poly relationships (basically keep it to consenting adults), and I think that solves most possible issues, other than the ones we already have with hetero relationships (abuse and so on, which we need to fix for all relationships anyway).

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Legalize same-sex marriage and who knows what could happen? I’ll tell you where this will end up – electrons could be allowed to have a +e charge instead of the God-ordained -e, causing the whole of chemistry as we know it to collapse.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Have you heard of positrons? Apparently this god-thing you speak of actually did make e+ particles.

      Scientismists have even gotten them to combine with anti-protons to make anti-Hydrogen atoms.

      How cool is that?

  • Kjeld

    I agree that Polygamy is a possible next step but not in the way it has been discussed in the other replies to this article. A look at the trends suggests to me that the concept of marriage itself is in decline. There is much talk here of how the state should deal with marriage laws regulating the lives of more than two partners. I don’t think that’s the right way to go. What the gay marriage debate is bringing to light is the fact that state sanctioned marriages are inherently flawed. There is no good way to write marriage laws to account for all possible tastes (as must be done to ensure equality for all).

    Better that we remove the state from marriage altogether. Give individuals a chance to arrange for inheritance, visitation, insurance, child custody, property rights, etc. on a purely contractual basis. If you want your 10 closest friends to have rights to visit you in the hospital, so be it. If you want custody of your minor children to pass to the two men you slept with during the last year, so be it. If you want to co-own a home with 3 sexual partners, so be it. Getting rid of the state support of the marriage concept removes all the inherent inequalities. Marriage could then become a purely religious issue for those so inclined.

    • watry

      Removing the state from marriage might be the optimal situation, but huge chunks of laws and ordinances at all levels would have to be changed (think tax law, for instance)and likely repassed. It would be cost- and time-prohibitive.

      Rewriting for gender-neutral language would be comparatively simple. Rewriting for polygamy would be a lot harder, and I have no idea how to deal with that, but would it be as involved as removing marriage from the law altogether?

    • steve84

      I certainly I agree that marriage is being used too much to regulate society today. But getting rid of it entirely isn’t useful either. Rather it needs to be reduced to the essentials. At some point government went overboard and automatically used marriage to assign benefits when that wasn’t strictly necessary. Ironically, it’s largely for that reason gay people are demanding to get be able to marry now. There are many rights that could easily be assigned to someone else. At the same time, it does make sense to restrict some benefits to people in a close and lasting relationship.

      Other countries are farther along with that. For example, in the UK you can declare anyone your next of kin, and although it has less legal significance there than in the US, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be like that everywhere.

      • John Horstman

        But getting rid of it entirely isn’t useful either. Rather it needs to be reduced to the essentials.

        The assertion of those of us who wish to do away with civil marriage entirely is that, in practice, there ARE no essentials. There is no aspect of “marriage” that is actually universal to marriages, except those dependent on how the law is written (and even then, not all aspects of the law actually apply to any given arrangement – for example, residency and citizenship rights for spouses don’t apply to the overwhelming majority of marriages, which are between people who are already naturalized citizens).

        Also, changing the law wouldn’t be in the least bit complex – or even necessary, strictly speaking. Just nullify marriage: for the purpose of any law, no one is considered to be married. For all existing marriages, the extant implicit contracts convert to equivalent explicit contracts by mutual consent of the involved parties, or they can be re-negotiated on a piecewise basis. Done. Now it may be the case that certain laws don’t make as much sense if no one is legally married any more, but I maintain that those laws are already problematic, and that the very worst outcome is that married people are suddenly treated exactly the same as single people by the law (the HORROR!). Such laws could be re-assessed on a slower basis, as necessary; I don’t see any validity to some doomsday nightmare scenario if marriage suddenly ceased to be a legal construct.

  • Mr. Creazil

    I support polyamory as long as it’s equal. If you’re going to allow men to have multiple wives, then women should be allowed to take multiple husbands. Ditto for men with their husbands and women with their wives. That still leaves the hairy legal questions of how divorces and wills are handled if a network of such marriages forms, that could be interesting. Or a bureaucratic nightmare, either way.

    • machintelligence

      That sounds like the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”

  • Banned Atheist

    Slightly off-topic (not related directly to slippery slope)…

    Homosexuality is an intrinsic attribute of an individual, and the legal argument for extending marriage rights to that individual are likewise rooted in the intrinsic rights of individuals to equal protection.

    Polyamory OTOH is an extrinsic attribute of a group of people, not an individual, and it’s not denying equal protection to anyone in that group to outlaw marriage between multiple individuals, because nobody’s intrinsic rights are being denied. Now if heterosexual polygamy was legalized, THEN there would be an equal protection argument for homsexual polygamy. Until that day, however…

    Not that I personally find anything morally objectionable to consenting adults engaging in polyamorous relationships (and not that I would do that — it’s hard enough to get one relationship right).

    I’m just sayin’. Equal protection.

  • John Horstman

    Simple solution to ALL of these problems: end civil recognition of marriage and make in entirely a matter of private social or legal contracts between individuals (for things like power-of-attorney, inheritance, medical proxy, shared assets, etc.). This has the added benefit of not granting privileges to people in romantic (or perhaps non-romantic but convenient) diads that are not conferred to people who decline to establish long-term social-legal partnerships. Seriously, in every argument for gay marriage (which I definitely think should be legally recognize as long as straight marriage is legally recognized), I always stop to wonder, “Why should the specific rights gay couples want be restricted to marriage?” Why can’t a specify a list of people who are allowed to visit me in the hospital or speak on my behalf concerning medical treatment if I’m incapacitated, irrespective of the relationship of those people to me? What is the justification for differential taxation (sometimes better, sometimes worse) for a married couple (that may or may not habitate a single domicile but still qualifies as one household for tax purposes) versus an unmarried cohabitating couple, a non-cohabitating couple, a cohabitating non-couple, or two random strangers? Why should, “I really like to spend time with and fuck this person,” be a legitimate reason for legal residency and eventual citizenship if a particular legal contract is signed, but not if it’s not signed? Why is that a better reason for residency than, “My family was starving and we were regularly hunted by death squads”?

    Why, in short, should civil marriage exist in the first place?

  • Cabo Cara

    People need to understand that polygamy is NOT “sister wives” and “big love”. AZ, UT, TX and other states “turn a blind eye” to true polygamy where children (girls as young as 12) are married off to old men and then live off of welfare, food stamps and medicaid (known as “bleeding the beast”)… as discussed in new book “plygs”, a fact cased journalistic view at the REAL world of polygamy … Warren Jeffs, the leader of this group (serving a life sentence for child rape) has recently ordered that only 15 men in the group can have sex with ANY of the women… it is a SAD, SICK way to live. this group in AZ / UT / TX are nothing but pedophiles and welfare cheats…
    BUT they wont let an ADULT, TAX PAYING, gay couple marry …. go figure….

  • lofgren

    I don’t think that taking the state out of marriage is the right move.

    Marriage and adoption are basically the only two mechanisms in our society that allow adults to choose their own family and compel the state to recognize that. Marriage is between consenting adults and adoption is (typically) between a minor and an adult, although rare cases of an adult adopting another adult do exist.

    The word “marriage” comes with a significant amount of cultural baggage, but in the civil sense all it means is that the state (and institutions regulated by the state) recognize as a matter of law that another person who is not of your blood is entitled to be considered a part of your family.

    Forming an adult family is something that most of us do at some point in our lives, even if only temporarily. Further, choosing an adult family – and compelling others to recognize your adult family as such – should be a basic right. Otherwise the accidental bonds of birth will always be more important, legally, than the often closer and at least equally significant bonds that we form with our sexual, romantic, and parenting partners.

    Family units behave differently than single individuals. They form different bonds with their communities. They move less. They tend to spend and live more conservatively. They tend to value stability more than singles. They spend their time differently. They have different values. When my wife got sick my life stopped. I couldn’t work, I didn’t go out, I never traveled. Our lives are inextricably bound. If she died or went back into the hospital, it would have a much greater impact on my life than if I were single and she were a transient girlfriend who passed away or became sick. I mean that practically, not emotionally – we own a house together, we share health insurance, we share life insurance, we share car insurance, we share all of our property, etc. Therefore it is worthwhile for the state to track family units differently than single individuals and to treat them differently.

    (I don’t want to get bogged down here talking about specific, currently implemented benefits of marriage and whether it is appropriate to restrict those – or to thrust them upon – married couples. I am speaking only abstractly of the benefit to the state, to the community, and to the individual of treating individuals differently from family units.)

    Further forming an adult family consisting of at least two consenting adults is so common that it is highly beneficial to offer some consistency, in the form of state and federal regulation, in the way that family units are treated by regulated industries. A world in which I have to negotiate the existence of my family separately with every service that I want to recognize it – a world that many homosexual families currently live in – strikes me as extremely difficult to navigate and also ripe for predatory behavior both on the part of those services and on the part of individuals who join an adult family under false pretenses. E.G. it makes it easier for life insurance companies to exploit loopholes in order to deny paying out what is due to the deceased’s spouse (again, a situation that gay widows and widowers have struggled with), as well as for one spouse to feign commitment to the family while hiding wealth and leeching off of their partner.

    Simply by signing our marriage certificate, a very large number of protections were set into place to protect my wife and our family. This is largely the result of state and federal regulation, although those regulations are built upon a traditional definition of marriage that seems a little old-fashioned to a lot of us.

    While I do not doubt that a standardized private marriage contract would be developed by enterprising lawyers were the state to remove itself from marriage regulation, that would still be less secure and far more complex than the state standardizing a contract and maintaining it.

    Note that couples who do not like the state’s standard marriage contract are perfectly free to draw up their own, but part of the reason that most married couples opt for a standard civil contract is because of the level of complexity and negotiation that such a contract requires – from your employer, to your bank, to your doctor, to your undertaker, every private industry that you want to respect your chosen family needs to be individually compelled to recognize this private contract as if it is equally binding as a civil marriage, while those who use the standard civil marriage contract are automatically entitled to those considerations.

    One thing that IS very common is for couples who do not like the default contract to augment or modify that contract with a prenup agreement. So for those who do not like the default civil contract, mechanisms already exist to tailor your own.

    Rather than taking the state out of the marriage game, I would much prefer to see marriage laws broadened to respect as many “non-traditional” families as possible. For that reason I would support allowing polygamous marriages. Most arguments against polygamy seem to be arguments against particular implementations, rather than arguments against polygamous relationships in general. If something is acceptable in the abstract but problematic in its typical implementation, then I reserve the right to judge on a case-by-case basis whether those implementation issues are sufficient that the thing should be illegal. In the case of polygamy, I believe that we can address the problems with specific implementations (for example, child brides or polygamous marriages being used to devalue women) through other laws and regulations on how polygamy is implemented, without restricting the rights of people who want to be in polygamous relationships that are not oppressive or abusive.

    tl;dr: Whether you call it marriage or not, there absolutely must be a way for individuals to compel the state and other industries to recognize the legitimacy of their adult families as equal to or even more important than the blood relationships that are respected by default.