When social conservatives argue that legalizing same-sex
marriage could lead to legalized polygamy, same-sex marriage advocates
either laugh or sneer. It's a scare tactic, they say. It'll never happen.
Last year, however, as Canada legalized same-sex marriage, Prime
Minister Paul Martin commissioned a $150,000 study to debunk the polygamy
argument. Big mistake: The study confirmed the scare tactic by recommending
that Canada repeal its anti-polygamy law.
It also suggested that a legal challenge to Canada's
anti-polygamy laws would succeed. "Why criminalize behavior?" asked Martha
Bailey, one of the study's three law-professor authors. "We don't
Confession time: I am one of those who, for years, has argued
that legalizing same-sex marriage would not open the door for polygamy. The
limit for marriages would remain two, I argued. Two doesn't mean three or
Wrong. In these politically correct times, do-gooders expand
definitions until words or institutions lose all meaning. Marriage can
mean what you want it to mean.
And: If you don't prosecute all crimes in a category, you can't
That's essentially what Bailey argued.
The study recognized the "strong association between polygamy
and gender inequality." Then the authors apparently decided that Canadian
law should eliminate any legal unfairness in inherently unequal
One Kuwaiti wife can't move to Canada to live with her husband
and another wife. That's unfair to the wife and unfair to Muslims. The study
noted, "The parties most likely to suffer from this rule are the left-behind
wives." To eliminate that inequity, these professors are ready to provide
legal cover for all polygamous (and polyandrous) marriages.
"There's a logical extension to it," laughed Rob Stutzman, who
worked on the Proposition 22 campaign in 2000, a measure that limited
marriage in California to a union between a man and a woman. "If you accept
the premise that marriage should be whatever relationships people want to
enter into," he said, polygamy is legit.
Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign, which supports same-sex
marriage, finds any linkage of polygamy to same-sex marriage "offensive." He
warned against reading too much into one Canadian study. In America, he
said, "two people is the defining element in our system of government on
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who has pushed for
same-sex marriage in California, noted "a unique nature of a relationship
with two. If you go beyond two, you can't draw a line anywhere else that
isn't arbitrary." I agree, but the Canadian study gives me pause. The
authors use a very American argument: that adults already are living in de
facto polygamous relationships, so why make their arrangements illegal?
The answer is that even if authorities cannot and should not
jail adults for group cohabitation, the state should not extend legal
protections to those unions.
Extending marital protections to same-sex couples bestows
equality. Extending protections to unequal unions protects inequality.
The Washington Times interviewed polygamous Mormons who argued
they lead happy, harmonious lives. That may be, but the practice is poison
for cultures at large. Rich men marry many wives. Poor men do not. Women
have few opportunities and limited rights. It can't be good for the kids.
Consider polygamy's most famous son: Osama bin Laden, whose father sired 54
children with 22 wives.
Many elites argue that Canada is 10 years ahead of America when
it comes to gay rights. But when legal scholars are so progressive that they
are willing to shove marriage back to the Stone Age, they reveal a culture
with a death wish.
American advocates for same-sex marriage may want to reconsider
supporting civil unions in lieu of same-sex marriage. Or some way to limit
marriage to two adults.
This isn't the nanny state. It's the opposite. If you want to
keep the government out of family life, don't legalize marriages that, when
they dissolve, split property (and kids) between one husband and three