TED Conversations

Paul Lillebo

Constructive citizen, independent


This conversation is closed.

Does permitting same-sex marriage lead to permitting polygamy? And so what?

Traditional western marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This involves two restrictions: 1) as to sex (M & F) and 2) as to number (1 & 1). The first (sex) seems to have been enforced in all societies until the past decade. The second (number) has not been restricted at all in many cultures - it's mainly the West of the last few hundred years that has insisted on monogamy. Even today many societies permit polygamy. Clearly, allowing same-sex marriage is a more radical decision than allowing plural marriage.

Recently same-sex marriage has been legalized in some states. The reasoning is that marriage, with its social and financial advantages, should be allowed among persons who love one another, and that this "natural human right" should not be denied on account of the sex of the parties.

Overlooked in discussions of same-sex marriage is this: if we decide that the "sex restriction" in marriage is an abrogation of a natural right to marry whom we love, it may be difficult to maintain the "number restriction." The argument for someone wishing to marry more than one loved one is the same (but less radical) as that for same-sex marriage. I see polygamists soon in the courts and legislatures demanding their right to marry those whom they love. And the courts will not deny their "natural right."

Legislation responds to "the squeaky wheel." Gays have squeaked, but polygamists have not. The full effects of laws are rarely discussed. One effect may be that redefining marriage will result in a new kind of domestic association, where groups of various sizes and sex ratios may join together in a new form of marriage.

In that future the best course may be to base all domestic relations on civil contract law, freeing marriage from its religious connections. In this future we may marry whom and as many as we wish, with a contract that tells our rights and duties within the group, along with rules for secession, etc. Sounds like a complex contract, but a logical outcom


Closing Statement from Paul Lillebo

Thank you all for good contributions. The answer in the end is that we must wait to see what the future brings. In the meantime, we all have the opportunity to try to influence our future. That's a fun - and often frustrating - part of the game of life.
Paul Lillebo

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 25 2013: Your point is forceful when you speak of, ". . . a natural right to marry whom we love. . .". If that is truly a natural right, what happens when someone wants to marry their own family member, or their pet alligator, or the entire cheerleading squad? Logic demands that a system which honors all love as sufficient grounds for marriage cannot forbid ANY marriage so long as there is an expressed desire to marry the object of one's love. That is simple logic. Now, if someone argues the loved one must NOT be a member of the same sex; or an immediate family member; or of another species; or a pluality of persons; now we are abrogating that "natural right" by imposing regulations. Either society says anything goes or it says only certain things go. Which of these is the case in America?. . .
    • thumb
      Apr 26 2013: Are you really sure, Ed, that the concept of "a natural right to marry whom we love" must include the right to marry a pet alligator? You're right that it's simple logic, but may that not be too simple? I would think that limiting marriage to human beings is not denying anyone their natural rights.
      • thumb
        Apr 26 2013: I do not agree that "a natural right to marry" exists. I am arguing that IF it did exist then any social, or legal, restriction upon that right would not be just and reasonable. Such a natural right does not exist and I believe marriage is limited to the union of one human male and one human female. I agree with your words in the post: "if we decide that the "sex restriction" in marriage is an abrogation of a natural right to marry whom we love, it may be difficult to maintain the "number restriction." I believe your logic applies to more than just bigamy. If I love my alligator/sister/mother/ and want to be joined to them in marriage society must not restrict my "natural right" to do so. If homosexual marriage is justified based upon some "natural right" why not bigamy, why not sanctified incest and bestiality?
        • thumb
          Apr 26 2013: You are basing your argument under the assumption that Incest and beastiality is natural. It is NOT natural and is harmful. Incest leads to inbreeding and beastiality is cruel to the animals.
          Homosexual marriage however involves two consenting adults.
          So I think that Homosexuality and polygamy IS justified based on the natural right to marry but incest and beastiality isn't.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.