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Paul Lillebo

Constructive citizen, independent


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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: Part 2
    Whatever it was, all the ideas that marriages were to have had remained primarily a sexual relationship between two persons of differing sex. There had remained exceptions, but I think the overwhelmingly greater number of such marriages were between persons of differing sex.
    I am by no means against same sex marriages but I think within the idea and meaning of marriage this is an oxymoron. The latest coinage of a civil union is way more rational. I don't think the gay people care much about what their relationship is called as as long as they can have that legalized with full human dignity. In a 9 Bn people world, the biological/survival propriety is also not important anymore, because much higher threats to human social structures come from elsewhere.
    To conclude, in todays world marriage cannot be claimed as a natural law anymore, because it has been modified by way many social value oriented inputs compared to biological roots from which it sprang. The same sex marriage is not demanded on account of any natural law rather developed human values towards relationship rights. Therefore allowing same sex marriage does not appear to encourage further demands of natural law of polygamy (in societies where it is not prevalent), IMO.
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      May 5 2013: I'm sure you're right that there will not be any great demand for a right to polygamous marriage in western countries. But in the U.S., we do have a number of persons who practice this form of marriage, although illegally. And it only takes one person to file a court case demanding his or her rights, to get the case labeled a constitutional issue that may go all the way to the Supreme Court. I wonder, after the various restrictions on who may marry whom have all fallen by the wayside, if the Court would not find that the restriction by number (two persons) is also untenable and must yield, thus allowing plural marriages. Of course, my question and our discussion of it is only an intellectual exercise, like most questions here, and "future history" will settle the question one way or the other. I still find it interesting to muse on.

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