Afternoon InquisitionReligion

AI: The New and Improved Ass Kicking Thursday Afternoon Afternoon Inquisition.3

I received another suggestion for the “The New and Improved Ass Kicking Thursday Afternoon Afternoon Inquisition”. As you may recall, these are questions you all send in when you have something important you’d like the readers to discuss, or when you can tell that I’m totally out of good ideas. (Use the comments or contact page to suggest more.)

Today’s topic comes from Skepchick reader, here_fishy, who tells us:

In British Columbia right now, there is a debateon about whether or not polygamy should be legalized. As someone who supports gay marriage, I feel conflicted and confused about this issue. On the one hand, polyandrous families most often involve one man with several women, they most often enter into this arrangement because of religious beliefs, and they often involve the exploitation of women and young girls. On the other hand, the current law basically states that it is illegal to enter into any “marriage-like arrangement” with more than one person, which smacks of the government getting overly involved in the personal lives of the public, which is exactly what I oppose about the limitations on gay marriage. Current laws exist that can prosecute child abuse and statutory rape, and fundamentalist Mormons are certainly not alone among religions in degrading women… so I’m curious about what Skepchick readers think about this issue?

Is polyandry something that should be allowed (considering that polyandrous relationships are not necessarily religious, and the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation), or should polyandry remain illegal because it often involves the abuse and/or denigration of women?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET. And the New and Improved Ass Kicking Thursday Afternoon Afternoon Inquisition is something Sam made up. Look for it to appear when Sam is out of ideas, sick, or just too drunk to even blink.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. I have struggled with this issue for some time for the very reasons mentioned above. And having done quite a lot of reading on the subject, I can say that it isn’t only women and girls who are exploited in polygamous communities. Teenage boys are very frequently kicked out (or driven out of the community and abandoned by mothers who are ordered to do so) in order to make as little competition for the older men who want to marry very young women. Not only that, but men who are married are often ordered out of the community, or have their wives “confiscated” (like property or possessions) when the few men who run these communities are upset with them for any reason, real or imagined. The religious communities who practice polygamy offer people only one choice if they want to be “saved”. This is exploitation and manipulation at it’s worst and of course we all agree it is reprehensible. But it seems that we have not been successful in stopping it even with laws against polygamy in place. So what does that mean? Should we approach it from a different angle, focusing more on the other illegal activities or encourage the prosecution of polygamists? I wonde if these kinds of relationships are positive, even when they are not exploiting and manipulating? Because how can a relationship between one man and many women (or the other way around) ever be a fair and equal relationship? There is constant competition and frustration between the partners of the same gender. Then again, is it any of my business? As you have said, this is a really hard one.

  2. “polyandrous families most often involve one man with several women”

    Polyandry is a one-woman-many-men arrangement, so no, they don’t. Sounds like ‘polyandry’ should be replaced with ‘polygamy’ everywhere in this post…

    Anyhow, yes, I’d say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with allowing polygamous arrangements… if people want to call themselves whatever they want they can do so without harming anyone, and as far as a legal perspective goes, there’s no issue with one person entering into any other sort of contractual arrangement with any number of other people of whatever gender… obviously abusive situations should be dealt with as abuse, of course.

  3. I don’t like the idea of polyamory *at all.* I cannot imagine myself being happy in that kind of relationship, and I can’t see myself making others happy in that kind of relationship.

    That being said, I can’t think of a reason to take the choice away from others who may be better suited to the lifestyle. Yes, these sorts of relationships frequently have oppressive gender roles and are abusive – but I think that a lot of this has to do with which ones make it into the media versus the more egalitarian/caring relationships that are private and never make the news. I also don’t see “someone might abuse it” as a legitimate reason to restrict freedom.

    Rather, I think that we need to do exactly what we currently do with marriages – work to prevent abuse and deal with it when it happens; ensure that no one intoxicated or under the age of majority can enter a polyamorous relationship, and provide non-judgemental resources for individuals trying to escape polyamorous relationships.

    Were it put to a vote, I would vote in favour of giving people the choice. After all, I would hate to be someone’s second wife and be turned away from visiting my husband at his hospital bed just because the society I live in doesn’t recognize my relationship… Not to mention how badly child custody battles could play out if the relationship was never recognized in any official capacity to begin with.

  4. “On the one hand, polyandrous families most often involve one man with several women…”
    No, that would be polygyny. Polyandry is one woman with multiple husbands.

  5. Well, there is another reason why a marriage is between two persons and this has to do with transferable, social-economic benefits one had accumulated over time. If I build up a pension, other form of retirement fund or other form of benefits that the government/society is backing up with money, then this is transferable to my spouse. I die prematurely, my spouse gets the pension I paid in to. Now, if this was suddenly transferable to my spouses, how would we deal with that? Do they split the money or does society/the government/the others that have put money in the retirement funds have to generate more money just so all my spouses get the money I was entitled too?

    Although I thought about this many times, I still have no idea how to deal with issues like these.

  6. @Dax: Unmarried people with multiple children have their social security split amongst them. IMHO it seems pretty straightforward that the same thing would be applied to multiple wives.

  7. I agree with @Dax. Too many legal problems.

    – Here in the U.S. we have the concept of joint tax returns. Would I be able to file a joint return for 25 people?

    – Is marriage transitive? If A marries B and A marries C are B and C technically married? I see problems no matter how this question is answered.

    – What is the parentship status of children brought into the relationship? If there were two husbands would the law follow the sperm or the legal relationship? If it follows the sperm would every child have to have a paternity test?

    Legally this gets really, really messy. What I would prefer is to have marriage erased as a legal status and seen only as a social status. Then any group of two or more people could do anything they damn well pleased. Hospital visitation privileges, inheritance, child custody could all be worked out as separate issues. Automatic legal privileges granted to married folks would disappear. Everyone would truly be equal in the eyes of the law.

  8. Carrying on from Jen’s other marriage thread, I honestly feel that this entire argument does little more than reinforce my opinion that marriage, in any and all forms, is a ludicrous anthropogenic construct that is far, far, far past its sell-by date.

    Historically, marriage is mainly about various forms of social control and reinforcing false so-called family values and various and sundry obsolete economic/property ownership arguments. The whole concept is thoroughly antediluvian and is the foundation of all kinds of draconian social controls, morés, cultural constraints, and so on and so forth.

    Perhaps, in the long run, society would be better served if we just shifted the whole thing into a simple, basic, duration-specific and legally binding partnership agreement written out as a legal document. Skip all the sentmental horseshit, the irrational emotional binds-that-tie, the myth building corporate monolith (the “business” and byproduct market of marriage is worth billions), and approach the whole matter with eyes wide open, rather than the current mode of eyes mostly shuttered by rose coloured glasses.

    NB: This post is not an attack on any individual or on any community. It is simply a statement of my opinion about the outdated social institution, which many folks hold on to with the desperate teeth of angry sentimentality, that we call marriage.

    Furthermore, this post is not a lecture laying out demands on how people should behave. Again, it’s just a statement of my opinion.

  9. Damn…

    Everything I was going to say has already been said by davew.

    Prick totally stole my thunder.


  10. The creep in BC is a dirtbag that uses religion to sway women to be his personal servants. That’s not a marriage issue.

    We don’t ban monogamous marriages because some husbands beat their wives. Why should poly relationships be treated differently. It’s a case of confirmation bias telling us that one thing is wrong when it’s probably the same.



    What I would prefer is to have marriage erased as a legal status and seen only as a social status. Then any group of two or more people could do anything they damn well pleased. Hospital visitation privileges, inheritance, child custody could all be worked out as separate issues. Automatic legal privileges granted to married folks would disappear. Everyone would truly be equal in the eyes of the law.


  11. It’s not my bag but consenting adults ought to be allowed to enter into whatever living/sexual arrangements they wish, so long as it is all limited to said consenting adults.

    While I agree that some forms of multi-marriage are sexist, so are some man-woman marriages. I don’t want my right to be married to my husband to be in question because some other couple exemplifies patriarchal dominance. Similarly, some standard marriages produce sexual abuse of children; my marriage shouldn’t be contingent on the behaviour of other married people.

    As for the legal complications, let them sort it out themselves. It’s not like people aren’t already doing so (oh, if you think there aren’t groups of adults out there co-habiting in sexual relationships and performing creative paperwork stunts to maximize health care coverage, then please stand still while I grab my clue-stick). That which has been traditionally split two ways can now be set to be split 2+x ways. Children are already raised by multiple guardians who may or may not be genetically related in lots of homes, frequently multiple homes.

    Married/family life is already rife with legal complications aplenty. I don’t see how letting a small number of people be more inclusive in their lifestyle when they make the choice to do so is such a big deal.

    eta: And yes it’d be nice if the state wasn’t involved at all, but it is, deeply so, and that’s not going away, so I vote for extending rights since getting the state out isn’t realistic.

  12. I’m really having a hard time with the whole thing. On the one hand, I’m polyamorous, and I think that poly partnerships and families deserve legal respect and protection. Not to mention the women, girls and young boys who are in the Mormon sect at the heart of the court debate who are being badly hurt and stuck in secrecy.

    On the other hand, I have a really, really big issue legitimizing and giving official government approval to groups like the FLDS.

  13. I’ve always been conflicted on this one.. and I’ve gone back and forth on the issue a lot. A -whole lot-.

    … but in the end, after a lot of personal reflection and “soul” searching and just plain critical thinking… what wins out is the fact that I am NOT a fan of regulations on people’s personal relationships, so I really have to examine this one very carefully in as non-biased a manner as I possibly can, whether I like it or not.

    So while part of me cringes at even the mentioning of the word “polyamory” (or polygamy, or polyandry), the fact is, I’m not technically anti-polyamory.

    What I am is anti-child-abuse, anti-religion, anti-cult, anti-degradation-of-women, anti-exploitation, and anti-douchebags. I’m anti-being-in-a-really-bad-situation, but the fact is, you can be in a bad situation whether you’re married to one person, fifteen persons, or no person. Bad shit happens. That’s life.

    So, if you can have a polyamorous relationship without any of the nasty little side-effects? Then hey, I’m not trying to stop you. You go right ahead. I don’t feel I can deny someone a relationship with multiple people when I’m also fighting for the right for a man to marry a man and a woman a woman. It makes no sense for me to then turn around and say “Sorry, it’s too complicated to marry TWO men,” or “Sorry, it’s not ‘right’ to marry four women.”

    I can’t say that, and so I won’t say that.

    People need to do whatever is best for their own lives. As long as everyone involved is an adult and is consenting and is in a healthy (and we can’t call it “not healthy” just for being unusual, there must be something -else- to bring to the table) state of being, then I am not at all against it.

    I just don’t particularly like the thought of it.

  14. There’s one thing about polygamy that always makes me wonder why men thinks it’s a good idea (let alone that I can’t imagine why any even semi-conscious woman would agree to it). For every man who has, for example, five wives, there are four guys walking around with NO wives. Don’t they get pissed off?

  15. regarding the “polygamy/polyandry/polygyny” mix-up: I caught it after I sent the e-mail, but didn’t get a correction out in time. Sorry!

    Interesting opinions here that mostly mirror mine. I think that the state of “marriage” should be a ceremonial, not legal, arrangement. Spousal benefits should go to whomever you identify as your spouse. One of the complications that I initially thought of was the issue of benefits. I envisioned situations where employers might try to limit the number of dependents that they will provide benefits to, particularly in cases like Bountiful where the women most often don’t work; therefore, don’t pull down benefits of their own. But I guess it would be like trying to limit the number of children a monogamous couple has – no one would dream of that.

    So my opinion now is that it shouldn’t be illegal. Existing laws, however, should be used to prosecute those who try to exploit children or abuse women (currently, they are rarely prosecuted in Bountiful). Furthermore, I think that it should be mandatory to teach children in their schools about the options available to them as they get older so that they can make an informed choice.

  16. Perhaps polyamory (having multiple sex/romance partners on an open basis) should be encouraged as a way of keeping relationships real, whether marriage is actually involved or not.

    And it’s not just atheists or the non-religious who endorse polyamory. Some Unitarian Universalists do too.

    I’m married, but I have no problem with the concept of polyamorus relationships. Consenting adults should be allowed to do as they please. But religious leaders forcing young girls to marry much older men is immoral no matter how you try to justify it under the First Amendment. THAT is perversion!

  17. First, a clarification: The blanket term is “polygamy” – Legalize, legalize, legalize. The fact that it presents certain legal complexities to family dissolution doesn’t strike me in the least as a cause for prohibition, any more in principle than it does to adoption, sperm donations, surrogacy or gay parenting, for that matter. It is simply that, a series of legal complexities- and custody and support arrangement are made to fit as it is.

    Now, it is true that some fraction of the public proponents are fundamentalist Mormons, and some fraction of those are engaged in rather revolting practices, and quite a few of the rest are misogynists that fail to see the power imbalances in their faith (the husband on Sister Wives on TLC describing his wife’s discussion of a women taking multiple husbands as “vulgar” sticks in my mind.) That being the case, even in the states where bigamous cohabitation is illegal to specifically fight fundamentalist Mormons, the legal system has realized that if the idea is to prevent the mistreatment of women and children, that’s the wrong place in the cycle to attack, instead going for statutory rape charges-given that it is both unenforceable and nets otherwise functional families too- and I think that’s a stance that ought to be reflected in the law.

    On the other side, of course, are equitably minded, humanistic polyamorous folk who made the totally understandable personal choice that there is nothing carved into a mountain side about one partner being the optimal way to structure a family, and they, in their diversity and (from experience, occasionally overwhelming) emphasis on fairness and equal choice between sexes, being lumped in with men who heard from a man that stared into a hat that they could have all the womenfolk they wanted, and that’s not fair.

    As has been mentioned, there’s the corollary with gay marriage. The state has had a template on the way to organize families largely informed by one train of religious thought, and poly-whatever fits into the same boat- a way of organizing your life that has plenty of precedent in the biological and historical record that has been excluded from the public square. Gay marriage has managed to gain considerable ground in otherwise conservative states by drawing itself as a one-t0-one, non-threatening analogue to heterosexual marriage, and I know activists (who I happen to agree with) that while expedient, that may have missed the point that families can come in an infinite number of shapes and the law ought to admit that.

    Which brings me to my last point. I used to think that the only equitable solution was to eliminate marriage as a legal institution all together- and if I woke up in Bizzaro-world tomorrow and that was part of the national discussion, I wouldn’t be too bent out of shape. I don’t think that’s optimal, though. The law is theoretically reflective of the best of human behavior, and there is undeniably a human tendency to form units of exceptionally high mutual interest, and the law needs to make allowances for that. What would need to happen, though, is that the legal process for forming those “clumps” needs to drop all the religious and historical connotations, and simply be a “Family Formation Contract” or what have you (hell, it can still be a marriage license if it helps the faithful sleep at night,) that grants all the signatories certain mutual legal and economic rights, regardless of number or gender.

    I do admit, though, that I find it really, really unfortunate that the public lobby for what should, to my mind, be a relatively obvious expansion of civil rights, is a bunch of wackaloons like the FLDS, who want the right, but not uniformly applied and for all the wrong reasons. It’s as if Bernie Madoff came forward and made a case for Swiss-style numbered bank accounts. There’s no public voice and compound living for the people living quietly and secularly who decided to have an odd-shaped love life because it works for them, but there is for a group with a history of banishing teenage boys and shopping around teenage girls to old men. I guess that “God told me to have lots of wives” is more palatable than “I thought about this hard, and think I can fairly allow other people into my family, because it’s nice.”


  18. I am VERY close friends with two MFF triads (a family with one man and two women). One of those triads includes my ex-wife. In NEITHER of this situations are the women in any way unequal to the man. In both situations the women CHOSE very consciously to be in a triad relationship. I happily attended a commitment ceremony for one of these triads a year ago, and I will for the other should they choose to have one.

    I would love to see their families get more recognition than they currently have. The legal recognition would be nice, but at the very least the assumption that there is something about this set-up that is somehow unfair to the women should go away. There is nothing about polygamy that isn’t feminist – there IS something about fundamentalist religion that usually is.

    For the record, I would love to be in an MMF triad at some point, but that hasn’t come around for me yet. Here’s hoping.

    Another note: In both of those triads all partners are permitted to have relationships outside of the primary triad. And of the 6 people, 5 of them do. The one who doesn’t? One of the men.

  19. A few years ago, there was a raid on a polygamist ranch. I’m sure people remember it. It was all over the news. In the very early reporting, there was very little information about what was going on, and a couple news reports I saw were using “polygamist” as an ad hominem attack in the absence of good information. Although I had some suspicion that there were bad things going on at the compound, the reporting seemed thin on arguments, and the ad hominem didn’t sit well with me. If “polygamy” just meant marrying multiple people, was there actually anything wrong with it?

    So I spent some time thinking about my position, and came to a conclusion. I didn’t have any problem with “polygamy” if it just meant marrying multiple people; if people wanted to create social and legal contracts because they loved multiple people, that was fine with me. My problem was the baggage that the word “polygamy” seemed to come with. Usually, the polygamy we hear about is misogynistic; men can choose to have multiple wives, but women don’t have the same right.

    Since then, my position has been that people should be free to marry whoever they want, and however many people they want. Nobody should be forced to marry, or forced to marry more than one person, or forced to marry only one person.

    Obviously, many polygamous relationships are inherently unequal at present, but I feel like a better solution to the problem would be to combat the underlying misogyny (which exists in many religions), rather than curtail people’s rights.

    As an addendum, I found out about the polyamory community later, and now consider myself an ally of polyamory (although not a practitioner).

  20. Love/like another adult, live with them if you like. Exploit a minor go to jail. It could be that the legal difficulties and systemic social aversions for these relationships will preclude any reasonable or fair solution for this type of issue in the foreseeable future.

  21. @Charles Minus: I’ve heard this argument before (and others like it), and I’ve always been really uncomfortable with it. First off, it’s similar to an anti-gay argument about societal male/female counts.

    It seems to have an assumption of required one to one straight pairing. More than that, it’s almost always in the form “men won’t have enough women,” which to me carries the weird connotation that men are somehow entitled to women.

    I feel like you’re talking about Mormon style polygamy with your post, but in case you’re talking about polygamy in general, the argument also completely breaks down when women have the right to marry as many people as they want to.

  22. I generally agree with a lot of folks about the principal of allowing multiple marriages.

    The one thing I do wonder is about consent? It seems to me that all parties should have to consent to anyone having an additional partner – in good polyamorous relationships this is already the case.

    But I do think that, for this to work legally, you’d need a robust structure to ensure that no one is being forced to let their partner take on an additional partner – with the associated division of space, money, benefits, time, etc.

    Likewise, custody of children would need to be considered, how would non-bio parents get rights assured?

    Basically, the principle is sound, but a LOT more work needs to be done to make the practice work. Homosexual marriage is pretty straightforward – just make it gender neutral, and you’re there. Still need to clarify if non-bio parents get rights automatically or if that is a separate process, but otherwise, not so difficult.

    Whereas polyamorous marriages need a legal frame work established to make it work. And I don’t think the places where they are legal are the kind of places we want to borrow from…

  23. Okay, okay. I finally registered just because this topic annoys me.

    I am a woman. I am currently in relationships with two men. Like any relationship, you are actually able to choose whatever style suits you.

    Neither man has additional sexual relationships (at least they haven’t since I took up with them). My fiance is my primary, and my secondary is more of a best friend who I also have sex with.

    Unless you outlaw monogamous relationships because they can be abusive too, banning polygamy because “it’s bad for women” is silly. Give these poor women some help, as anyone in an abusive relationship should get. But to paint polygamy as “then bad menz will marry all the women”…come on.

    I would be on board for a re-organization of marriage, if the worry that everyone’s just going to marry each other and get all of the sweet, sweet perks is just that scary (sounds just like one of those terrible arguments against gay marriage). I always liked the idea of contracts, myself. Heinlein wasn’t too bad on that subject.

    Somehow I refrained from registering for the last polyamory/monogamy post. I’ll say it now, cause it goes for both topics — all relationships are what you make of them. Mono, poly, asexual, whatever.

  24. @here_fishy:

    regarding the “polygamy/polyandry/polygyny” mix-up: I caught it after I sent the e-mail, but didn’t get a correction out in time. Sorry!

    Sorry about that. I copied your email into the post and then took off for Thanksgiving. I didn’t see your update email until later.

  25. I can’t believe I’m actually seeing members of the skeptic community using “but it would be difficult to work out legally” as an excuse not to grant people rights.

    Does it mean that we need to have a serious discussion? Yes. Does it mean that we might have to make some changes to the legal privileges and rights that marriage entails? Possibly. Does it mean that we should deny marriage to concenting adults because it’s 5pm and the bureaucracy wants to just go home for the day? Hells no.

    As for the idea that there won’t be enough women, BS. Nate @24 called it.

  26. In theory, I don’t have a problem with it at all. Consenting adults should be allowed do marry who and how they like. How Adam and Steven, or Steven, Lilith and Eve, or Adam, Steven and Eve chose to love or marry does not affect me, so why should I stop them from living how they want to live.

    In practice, it can be a little trickier. Many of the groups that most likely would practice polyamory, women have a sub-equal role, and in frequently have little choice. Women and in many cases the child are treated like property.

  27. I’m a monogamous sort of girl. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a conservative family, but -really- my life is complicated enough without adding another guy to the mix. One is enough for me, thanks very much. Sure, there are other people I am attracted to but the benefits of monogamy- for me- make it easy for me to resist these side temptations.

    I don’t begrudge others polyamory, though. However, I know of two examples of friends who’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked out very well- not that it can’t work, but the messy complications are sometimes just too messy, especially if one party is more polyamorous than the other. Then again, how many monogamous relationships also fail?

    My suggestion: get facebook to recognize it. Petition facebook to recognize multiple partners. Facebook isn’t any sort of legal recognition, I know, but it is a platform for social networking and change. I don’t think facebook currently recognizes multiple partners. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  28. @Holytape: I’m not sure I’d agree with the characterization of women being second class citizens in polyamory. Obviously this is the case in religious polygamy, but from the exposure I’ve had to the polyamory community (mostly through the Polyamory Weekly podcast), I get the impression that many of the leading voices in the community are women.

  29. I checked on the Facebook thing. You are correct that you can only be “in a relationship” or “married” with/to one person, although they do also have the In an Open Relationship and It’s Complicated options.

  30. So, a bit of a counter-point to the “religious plural marriages are used to oppress women and ostracize young men from their families”… those are facts that I don’t think I need to rechew.

    If plural marriages (polygynist, polyandrist, pure polygamy) were legal, could this not also provide a safety valve for such groups? Currently, they have to live beneath the radar… “marriages” are religious only, and kids who grow up in these communities are either force-wed or ostracized. The entire community keeps things under wraps because they have to.

    If you make polygamy legal, however, many of these groups open up. They can start to go mainstream, which means they’re participating, with their families, in the marketplace of ideas. Sure, yoy’ll have some groups that split off and form their own little communes of weird, but taking them out of the shadow is also allowing them to come out from beneath the big rock they’ve been hiding under… at which point, they’ve got to compete with other ideas out there.

    I’m not expressing this well, I know. I tend to agree with the idea that, if marriage is going to be a legal institution, it needs to have a broad definition… but can also see simply eliminating its legal status. However, I think we will be more successful broadening the definition, rather than trying to remove it entirely. Removing marriage as a legal institution will face far more opposition.

  31. Regarding the whole civil union/marriage debate in some states, I’ve thought about the following:

    -Everyone gets civil unions–well, if they want to form a partnership with someone(s). These are legally recognized and have specific legal rights in terms of hospital visits, assets, etc.

    -Marriage is a religious thing. Each religion can do what they want. If people also want a religious marriage in addition to a civil union, that’s up to them. Personally, my partnership will be religion-free so I’d just have a civil union. No legal rights are associated with marriage. This is symbolic, an expression of religion.

    Keeps state vs. church separate and keeps the religious nuts happy. Thoughts?

  32. I do see the point of legalizing if it can force the communities more out into the open to help prevent the abuses in communities like the fundamentalist Mormons. However, the downside is that the groups that are the worst with it, even if it’s legalized, will still find ways of keeping women isolated to keep them powerless and continue the abuse against women and children.

    Polygamy is a pretty broad term. There are all sorts of polygamous relationships. For example, in some it’s a one man with multiple wives who consider themselves as “sisters” but not spouses to each other. Others can consist of multiple men and women who consider each one to be a spouse. Any sort of laws to recognize and legalize will likely leave some polygamous people angry that their needs aren’t being met, not counting those who are against legalizing polygamy in the first place. And unlike gay marriage, I can see how this would force changes to a lot of laws of marriage as it is. For example, right now in most US states, a woman’s husband is automatically the legal father of any baby born to her. For women who are just in a relationship with one man, it works out great, especially if they used donor sperm. However, if a woman has three husbands, who’s the father of the child? The one she married first? The genetic father of the child? Who can make medical decisions? Who can sue for custody if they split up five years later?

    If one spouse is in the military, do all spouses get benefits? Does each one get a pension? Or is split up between them? And what happens if 1/5 of the pension can’t support them? I admit I see marriage as both a social and a financial/legal institution. However, every generation does change marriage, from way back to establishing minimum ages to allowing divorced women and widows to sue for custody of their children to no fault divorce, so I do expect to see polygamy favoring laws slowly come into place over the century.

  33. Too bad I’m late to this party. As others have pointed out, the correct term is polygyny and not polyandry.

    Anyway, making polygynous marriage illegal doesn’t actually stop it from happening. In this case, it’s better for the state to recognize these marriages so that the abused women will at least have some legal rights to property, alimony, etc., if/when they do actually leave. There’s a lot that can be done to stop this abuse, but refusing to recognize these marriages only does more harm to the victims.

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