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(A) There is nothing that distinguishes a gay or lesbian couple who wish to marry from a polygamous group who wish to marry other than the legal requirement that marriage consists of two people. If, however, marriage can consist of two homosexual people on the principle that they love and care for each other, then that same principle would allow a polygamous marriage if the parties love and care for each other. “If…the meaning of marriage and the right to marital status is sufficiently defined without reference to gender, then what principled objection could there be to removing its binary barrier as well? If, for instance, marriage were only defined with reference to emotional or financial interdependence, couched only in terms of privacy, intimacy, and autonomy, then what non-arbitrary ground is there for denying the benefit to polygamous or endogamous [i.e., marrying only within a particular clan] unions whose members claim the arrangement is necessary for their self-fulfillment?” (Judge Parrillo’s concurring opinion in the 2005 New Jersey appellate case, Lewis v. Harris.) Furthermore, while same-sex marriage is, historically speaking, novel, polygamy is not. It has historical precedent across time and space. Moreover, unlike proponents of same-sex marriage, proponents of polygamous unions may argue for freedom of religion.
(B) Similarly, there is nothing that distinguishes a gay or lesbian couple who wish to marry from two persons related by blood who wish to marry other than the legal requirement that bars kin from marrying. If, however, marriage can consist of two homosexual strangers on the principle that they love and care for each other, then that same principle would allow relatives who love and care for each other to marry. Remember there is no requirement under the law that they engage in sexual intercourse. So, a woman and her daughter who care for the daughter’s child could marry each other.
(A) Polygamous Unions
If our courts, our legislatures, or our employers (private or governmental) were to recognize unions consisting of one man and two or more women, based on the principle that the man loves the women and the women love the man, then additional forms of plural marriage would logically need to be recognized.
i. Polyandrous Unions
The conventional term for a marriage of one man and two or more women is polygamy. More properly, it is polygyny. Polygamy is a broader term encompassing any form of plural marriage. Given the equality of the genders, polyandry, consisting of marriage between one woman and two or more men, would need to be recognized.
ii. “Rim” Unions
For polygamous marriages (both polygynous and polyandrous), the marriage is like a hub and spokes of a wheel. There are multiple marriages between one person, the hub, and of two or more of a different gender, the spokes. The two or more individuals of a different gender share a spouse but they are not married to each other. If polygamous marriage were recognized, however, then marriages between persons on the “rim” of the wheel would also need to be recognized. Thus, if Man A is married to Woman B and married to Woman C, the two women could marry each other. This form would be particularly suitable for a Woman B who is bisexual and for Woman C who is a lesbian but wants the benefit of marriage to a man.
iii. Interlocking Relationships
Moreover, while polygamous unions have historically been exclusive, based on the principle that, where love is marriage should be able to follow, there is no reason for polygamous unions to be restrictive. Thus, Woman A could be married to Men A, B and C, and Man B could be simultaneously married to Woman D and Woman E. These would be interlocking polygamous unions. We would devise new terms to describe the various resulting relationships, perhaps using terms endemic to organic chemistry.
Government and society have interests in polygamous unions. Such unions would provide an alternative to the maintenance of mistresses or gigolos. They would encourage adults to care for each other. There would be less reason to divorce, a form of serial polygamy. We would be more accepting of people from, for example Africa, who have a tradition of simultaneous polygamy. See Nina Bernstein, “In Secret, Polygamy Follows Africans to N.Y.”, N.Y. Times, March 23, 2007, p. A1; Diane Riehm Show, April 12, 2007 (interview of Debbie Rodriguez, author of “Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil,” married to an Afghan man with another wife).
(B) Not Strangers
The law of marriage bars marriage between blood relatives, but the degree of kinship (or consanguinity) varies by state (and country). If, however, two (or more) people who fall within the proscribed degrees of kinship love each other and wish to take care of each other, there is no principle articulated by the advocates of same-sex marriage that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry but continue to forbid relatives from doing so.
Government and society have an interest in promoting caregiving, for example by allowing two elderly sisters to marry, see Burden v. United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights, 2006) (two sisters sought “civil partnership” to avoid being forced to sell their common home to pay estate taxes after the first sister dies), or to ensure that a man can care for his elderly aunt or disabled nephew. They could marry and obtain the benefits of marriage.
We could also argue this: Students of anthropology know that cultures define kinship and degrees of kinship differently. For example, a Native American tribe may consider a man and a woman as brother and sister (and therefore forbidden to marry under the tribe’s customs) where Western culture would not regard them as brother and sister. Who is to say that the traditional Western definition of kinship is right or wrong? Or that the Western definition of kinship matters when it comes to love and marriage? What was all that fuss about Henry VIII’s marriage to his relative Catherine of Aragon? If we can change the traditional norms of Western marriage, if a child can have two gay fathers but no mother, or two lesbian mothers and no father, then surely we can change the definition of kinship.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
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H/T to National Review Online