Thursday, April 18, 2013

legalize polygamy

From Ed Stetzer this morning ...

In 2004, The Washington Post's published an article which refutes what they see as Santorum's silly slippery slope argument that gay marriage will lead to polygamy. In 2012, Slate reports that Santorum is still making the crazy claim. Now, in 2013, Slate publishes an article saying that gay marriage will, well, lead to that thing they mocked earlier. Here is the article... which at least acknowledges the irony of the moment (with no apology for earlier articles).

For decades, the prevailing logic has been that polygamy hurts women and children. That makes sense, since in contemporary American practice that is often the case. In many Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints polygamous communities, for example, women and underage girls are forced into polygamous unions against their will. Some boys, who represent the surplus of males, are brutally thrown out of their homes and driven into homelessness and poverty at very young ages. All of these stories are tragic, and the criminals involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. (That goes without saying, I hope.)

But legalizing consensual adult polygamy wouldn't legalize rape or child abuse. In fact, it would make those crimes easier to combat.

Right now, all polygamous families, including the healthy, responsible ones, are driven into hiding (notwithstanding the openly polygamous Brown family on TLC's Sister Wives, that is). In the resulting isolation, crime and abuse can flourish unimpeded. Children in polygamous communities are taught to fear the police and are not likely to report an abusive neighbor if they suspect their own parents might be caught up in a subsequent criminal investigation. In a United States with legalized polygamy, responsible plural families could emerge from the shadows--making it easier for authorities to zero in on the criminals who remain there.

Many people argue that there is no such thing as a "healthy, responsible" polygamous family, particularly for the children born into one. "Children are harmed because they are often set in perennial rivalry with other children and mothers for the affection and attention of the family patriarch," argued John Witte Jr. in the Washington Post. "Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin," agreed Libby Copeland in Slate. The earnestness of these arguments is touching but idealistic. Men in monogamous marriages can't be spread too thin? Children in monogamous families don't rival each other for the attentions of their parents? Two-parent families are not the reality for millions of American children. Divorce, remarriage, surrogate parents, extended relatives, and other diverse family arrangements mean families already come in all sizes--why not recognize that legally?

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