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Paul Lillebo

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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

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    Apr 27 2013: I think there are two important anchors around which this debate should focus are:
    1. What is a natural law as far as two human beings of differing sex should have a union?
    2. What is a marriage?
    I'd like to ignore the 'traditional western marriage' as that would disqualify almost half of world population being interested in this debate.
    1. The natural law here is, IMO, a union primarily based on procreation and progression of gene-pool. Stripped of all decorations, this is an ancient social trait prevalent in many higher primates other than humans with varying lengths of time, sexual loyalty to the partner, increased participation in off spring rearing and rudimentary structures of a social family unit. The basis is purely biological and survival. I don't think there is a question of 'love' in this natural law. When required, this law can jolly well permit polygamy - normally a dominant male maintaining a harem of females but a whole bunch of males 'servicing' a queen female is also not unknown.
    2. Marriage is a comparatively recent idea when human society was well developed socially (about roughly 3000 years ago). It went through social experiments along the lines of biological and survival primacy with increasing amounts of inputs from emerging human values. In ancient India, for example, there had been many variations of marriages.
    http://weddingexpo.amritatv.com/ancientindia.html (please don't get misled by the title Hindu Culture, because that's a popular misconception, rather read Indic Culture in its place). It is also believed that marriages within the same bloodlines were proven not 'genetically wise' and got weeded away. However, restrictions within same race, social ranks, skin color etc were examples of marriages with increasing social inputs as biological/survival primacy started to get sublimer.
    Interestingly, marriage remained just social (customary) to start with, then got religious and its legal definitions are quite recent.

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