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: First I would like to say that the same-sex marriage does exist in our history albeit quite far back.

    Secondly I would like to say that I support your last statement of basing all domestic relations on a civil contract law. Marriage is a legal agreement between two people. Yes, marriage is about love but also has legal obligations. I think a human being should have the right to choose who and however many partners they want. If they would like to go into a legal contract with the said individual(s) all the power to them. Marriage is not something someone enters lightly therefore if they are willing to marry more then one individual let the person do so. They most likely have thought about it long and hard.
    • thumb
      Apr 26 2013: Louise,
      If your first sentence is correct, I may be mistaken where I said in the set-up that the sexual restriction "seems to have been enforced in all societies" until recently. If you have more specific information about where and when same-sex marriage has been legal in the past, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
    • thumb
      Apr 26 2013: Paul,
      Louise's statement is correct, and I brought this to your attention in my first comment on this thread. Check out this link....scroll down to "Ancient". And of course there are LOTS of other references regarding the information you seek.


      The statement from my first comment on this thread...
      "Same sex partners have lived together since the beginning of time, so I do not understand why you say..."The first (sex) seems to have been enforced in all societies until the past decade". Nothing was "enforced", regarding same sex partnerships, it simply was not recognized as a legal union."

      When I wrote that it was not recognized as a legal union, I was refering to past modern times. It actually WAS recognized in ancient times.
      • thumb
        Apr 26 2013: I've read the Wikipedia reference you give. It says specifically that none of the ancient examples given there is known to have been actually recognized in law. They seem to all have been a matter of extra-legal celebrations, even if by an emperor. There may of course be other references that can give examples of actual law-based same sex marriage in the past, but I haven't yet seen any. Laura's statement also does not refer to legal marriage, which this discussion is about. You repeat again that "same sex partners have lived together ..." We all know that, Colleen, and that's not the issue. While same sex partners were living together, the state or the church was enforcing the restriction against their legal marriage, as I wrote. That's also well known.
        • thumb
          Apr 26 2013: Paul,
          When you refer to "Laura's statement", do you mean Louise Layton's statement?

          The link I provide DOES NOT say "specifically that none of the ancient examples given there is known to have been actually recognized in law".

          It says the ROMAN EMPIRE did not legalize same sex marriage. With the other examples, there is no mention of legality. They say that the marriages were supported by the citizens with huge celebrations....again...no mention of legality.

          IF the marriages were illegal, do you honestly think the rulers would be marrying same sex partners and having huge public celebrations? That doesn't make much sense!

          Paul, honestly, it is difficult to know what this "discussion is about" because it seems like you keep changing your mind. If you KNOW all this Paul, as you say, why the heck do you keep asking the questions??? So you can simply tell us that you know all that already???

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.