On the eastern seaboard of America the empathetic conservative might feel through his toes slight trembles as the Founding Fathers roll over in their graves. Who would blame them?
The Supreme Court rules that homosexual sodomy is, in the poetry of Justice Kennedy, a liberty "... both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions." (Stand back Maya Angelou.) Up north, the Ontario Appeals Court chucks the restriction against same-sex marriage. Vermont throbs with the knowledge it will become the first state to legalize gay marriage.
Yes, a slight localized trembling from beneath.
But wait till news reaches the tombs of the Bible's patriarchs. The Richter Scale'll top ten. Even the defiant locked jaws of the most self-righteous liberal will rattle as Lamech, Noah, Abraham, Esau, David, Saul, Solomon and sundry other polygamists of the Bible men turn double flips and flail in their graves.
One sympathizes with the patriarchs. Legalize gay marriage? After having outlawed polygamy? What, give the Sodomites the thumbs up while throwing Noah and Abraham in the klinker for having a couple extra wives? Even Jesus embraced the Mishrah, which allowed for polygamy. What gives?
Time to beat the news curve and be the first to become acquainted with America's newest rights-deprived minority, the polygamists. They'll be in the news soon. For as night follows day, Vermont and other states will soon legalize gay marriage. And as lawyers follow ambulances, so too will polygamists demand restoration of their civil rights. They'll get them, too, for as the Supreme Court makes sense of these matters, it's more sensible to legalize polygamy than same sex marriage.
First, a vocabulary primer. Polygamy refers to all forms of multiple-partner marriages. Polyandry is when one woman has more than one husband. Polygyny is one man having multiple wives. It's safe to say that 99.9% of practiced polygamy is polygyny.
It is noted that only about 15% of our world's rich and diverse cultures prescribe monogamy exclusively. The other 85% accept polygamy as a valid form of marriage with between 10 and 20% of men partaking in the practice. Among these it is the rarest and bravest man who takes more than two wives. Globally, the number of people legally practicing polygamy vastly outnumbers the homosexual population!
How is that America outlawed polygamy? The Bible gives it the go-ahead in the form of polygyny, along with celibacy and monogamy. (Polyandry and homosexuality are verboten.) As Israelite men of yore no doubt resented and envied Solomon selfishly taking 700 comely wives, not to mention another 300 concubines, so too did the Mormon practice of polygyny grate in the moral craw of late 19th century lawmakers.
Polygamy was outlawed in America in the late 1880s through a series of federal acts aimed at Mormons. The major sect of Mormons, the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), complied, in part to obtain statehood for Utah. Out of the dozens of Mormon sects that have formed, the term Fundamentalist Mormon can be applied to those who continue to support polygyny.
Today, most reside in a few towns along the southern border of Utah. Estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. You'll find more homosexuals wearing funny costumes, holding hands and kissing at Disneyworld on Gay Pride Day.
Though polygamy is illegal, it has not been prosecuted since 1953 when the Arizona National Guard stormed the Short Creek polygamist colony on the Arizona/Utah border. As it didn't sit well with the monogamous public to see soldiers taking children away from parents and locking fathers behind bars, this remains the last federal or police action against polygamy.
Judging from personal ads posted on the pro-polygamy site 3Coins.com, polygamists don't appear to deviate much from the American norm. Envision "The Ozzie and Harriet and Veronica Show" with the Nelsons as fundamentalist churchgoers. They believe in family values, the Bible, and fidelity more fervently than most monogamous heterosexual couples I know. Polygamists actually start to come off a bit dowdy. Surely they'd get better press if they'd hold parades and wear colorful, flamboyant costumes.
Here are some excerpts from the personal ads.
"I am seeking a Christian family that would not be seeking any more than 3 wives. Looking for a peaceful life free of chaos with a man who can support his family emotionally, physically, and financially."
"Hello. I am 23, female, white. My husband is 39. We are serious about Plural Marriage, and all the Eternal Principles that surround it. I was born and raised Amish and we live many of their standards. My husband is very dependable and a true family man. We would like a sisterwife."
"Hi! I am bubbly, optimistic and outgoing. I am 5' 8" and have my parts in all the right places. I am Christian and firmly believe that a man should be the head of his family in all things and want to live my life that way in a plural marriage. I am heterosexual only, and am NOT looking for a sexual relationship with a sisterwife."
"Married white couple seeks woman to join our family. We're 26 years old, married eight years with two young children. Looking for a special life partner to enjoy God's blessings together."
"I have STRONG family values, and morals. I have been raising my son and daughter alone. I would love to have a family for them. I believe in love. I want to be loved and I want to love in return. We are looking for a family, someone who can accept us for us:) Someone who is honest, loving, and caring. Someone who loves children. Someone who has time for us."
Mostly an optimistic, wholesome, a bit lonely, loving bunch of folks by all appearances. There are other ads that are merely thinly disguised calls for long-term swinging partners. And a few from insufferably self-righteous domineering men of overbearing religious views. But mostly normal folks.
NOT THAT ALL IS PEACHES and cream within the community. Those domineering men, the David Koresh wannabes, are the pox of middle-America polygyny. I came across several sites (Lovenotforce.com is one) dedicated to eliminating the bullying husband who preys on weaker, confused women and abuses his wives. (Practices monogamists and homosexuals never partake in, of course.)
Other sites offer handy advice for husbands who want a second wife but need to convince the present wife. Apparently the old line, "God revealed to me that I need a second wife and as my Christian wife you must obey me," no longer cuts the mustard. The wife must understand why a second wife (or sisterwife in polygyny parlance) is the right option, or it's a no-go.
It should be no surprise that there is a professional anti-polygamy group, though it is surprising that it is comprised of what appear to be Mormon women feminist professionals (still legal in all 50 states). Tapestry Against Polygamy (TAP) argues that polygyny is a vehicle for oppressing and abusing women, and that it is unhealthy for children. TAP makes the wild claim that there are over 300,000 people in polygynous relationships. It hobnobs with Utah government officials to enact legislation and extract sums of money.
Call me a cynical conservative, but my brow furrows in suspicion when I hear the clarion call of "We only want to help women and save children! Just give us more money and power."
When the polygamists see same-sex marriage legalized and hire their own lawyers to sue for the same rights, you'll see TAP and sundry feminist and leftist children's rights groups congregating like sharks. They're inherently opposed to polygamy because of its connection to traditional family values, the Bible and God.
Unless it's homosexual polygamy, of course. Having three homosexual dads will be a "spatial and transcendent dimension" of childhood, whereas having a straight dad and two heterosexual moms is a sick, twisted perversion found only in the Bible.
Call me a cynical conservative yet again, but surely homosexual marriage will be legalized in this country. Legalized polygamy will naturally follow. For if you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a glass of milk. And if you give a mouse a glass of milk, he'll want a plate, and if you give a mouse a plate . . .
What isn't known is how the mighty LDS church will respond. It accepted God's revelation to its President in 1890 to follow the law of the land and comply in forbidding polygamy. Will it do the same when the law of the land reverses itself in, say, 2009? Will Orrin Hatch arrive at his Supreme Court nomination hearings with three wives, only to be grilled by Senator Barney Frank with questions his husband helped him prepare?
Thanks to our Supreme Court, the future may not be conservative, but it won't be dull.