Growing up in a religious household for most of my life, I had always heard that polygamy would come after gay “marriage.” I was never fully convinced that this would happen, even though I did not actively support same-sex marriage. If you asked me about my opinion on the issue a few years ago, I would respond: “Not sure/don’t care.” In fact, I even voted that way on a forum poll in 2011.
Only in the last year have I become concerned with this issue. I think that if equal protection under applies to the right to marry someone of the same gender, it must also apply to the right to marry more than one person. More and more, I see the inherent problems in redefining a basic social institution.
But this is a shocker. I wasn’t expecting people to openly argue in favor of polygamy before they’ve officially triumphed over supporters of traditional marriage. But here it is:
Recently, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council [reintroduced a tired refrain](http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=03AKmrj3ABA#%21): Legalized gay marriage could lead to other legal forms of marriage disaster, such as polygamy. Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and other social conservatives have made similar claims. It’s hardly a new prediction—**we’ve been hearing it for years. *Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?*
**We can only hope…
Yes, really. While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too.** Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice.** More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.**
Many people argue that there is no such thing as a “healthy, responsible” polygamous family, particularly for the children born into one. “Children are harmed because they are often set in perennial rivalry with other children and mothers for the affection and attention of the family patriarch,” argued John Witte Jr. in the Washington Post. “Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin,” agreed Libby Copeland in Slate. The earnestness of these arguments is touching but idealistic. Men in monogamous marriages can’t be spread too thin? Children in monogamous families don’t rival each other for the attentions of their parents? Two-parent families are not the reality for millions of American children. Divorce, remarriage, surrogate parents, extended relatives, and other diverse family arrangements mean families already come in all sizes—why not recognize that legally?…
**And if she wants to marry a man with three other wives, that’s *****her damn choice.
We have a tendency to dismiss or marginalize people we don’t understand. We see women in polygamous marriages and assume they are victims. “They grew up in an unhealthy environment,” we say. “They didn’t really choose polygamy; they were just born into it.” Without question, that is sometimes true. But it’s also true of many (too many) monogamous marriages. Plenty of women, polygamous or otherwise, are born into unhealthy environments that they repeat later in life. There’s no difference. **All marriages deserve access to the support and resources they need to build happy, healthy lives, regardless of how many partners are involved. Arguments about whether a woman’s consensual sexual and romantic choices are “healthy” should have no bearing on the legal process. And while polygamy remains illegal, women who choose this lifestyle don’t have access to the protections and benefits that legal marriage provides.**.. **The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. *We’re not done yet.***
The words are in bold for both emphasis and ridiculousness. I laughed at some of this because it is so ridiculous! When someone told me when I was 8 that in Massachusetts people of the same gender could get married, I thought they were joking. It seemed so wrong and laughable.
This is the next phase of the culture war, and we must be on guard.