Understanding Polygamy

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by DrStrangelove, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. DrStrangelove macrumors 6502

    DrStrangelove

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    #1
    My wife and I have been watching "Big Love" on HBO since it started maybe 5 or 6 weeks ago. No, I don't TYPICALLY get my education from television soap operas (fiction) but I'm assuming that they're trying to keep things somewhat "real." Which got me to thinking yesterday.

    Polygamy is against the law. Easy enough to understand. Yet they say that there are polygamists in Utah (and I suppose in other states-- anyone marrying more than one person regardless of religion would be considered a polygamist but that's a different path)-- while these men have multiple wives the show depicted them as only having one "first wife." This is the wife that they are legally married to according to the state. This is the one that they have the marriage certificate for.

    The other wives, presumably, are married to the husband in the eyes of the church and no where else. There is no legal process or document that links the husband and wife. Yet, in the show, other Mormons and government want to crack down on the practice of polygamy. So much so that it's important, again according to the show, for them to keep their mulitple wives a secret.

    So I got to thinking. I could have babies with five different women on my block. I could be actively engaged with each of them (relationshipwise) in an ongoing fashion. I would have to support my children with them. I'm ALLOWED to do this. It would not be illegal for me to call them all "wife." If the practiced polygamy in this faction of the mormon church (I realize that these folks are by large the minority at this point) isn't even a state sanctioned process how can it be illegal?
     
  2. scem0 macrumors 604

    scem0

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    I think it's absurd that what consenting adults do among themselves, which causes no harm to anyone, is illegal. Polygamy is very harmless as long as no one is being forced into marriage, and if they are then that is wrong, but it also has nothing to do with polygamy. Why in the world should it be illegal?

    e
     
  3. nbs2 macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    Couple of points to consider here -

    1) This isn't really part of your question, btu the reason they hide it from the church is that it is contrary to church policy and they will be excommunicated for it. I suppose it seems silly to stay a member of a church when you are committed to commiting an excommunicable offense, but I suppose there is an underlying faith. Plus when you are in a community where you go to the same church (or any social gathering) as all your neighbors, they will notice pretty quick that you aren't going any more. Can make for uncomfortable and awkward. It does seem strange that in SLC, where less than half the people are Mormon it would be as noticed, but I guess it would still be pretty noticible.

    2) The history of the outlawing of polygamy has to do with the First Amendment. Remember that Congress shall make no law aabridging the freedom of religion. Now, Mormons weren't all that popular back in the mid 1800s (not that we are all that popular now), with extermination orders being given by governors and people being tarred/feathered and looted and mobbed on a regular basis. At the time, the church was practicing polygamy. By going after the practice (which was not an underlying tenant of the faith - it was generally only practiced after the husbands of women were killed by mobs) rather than the relgion, the law could justify the arrest of church members.

    Remember, the law was passed in a time when people didn't just live with each other without getting married and bastard children brought shame on all involved - so your scenario would be even more outlandish (and I think even more illegal at the time)
     
  4. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #4
    I've never understood the objection to polygamy either. Can someone clarify?
     
  5. grapes911 Moderator emeritus

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    IMO, this is one of those issues that the government should stay out of. I do not think the government should have any authority to ban polygamy. That being said, I try not to judge other people morals, but I cannot ethically support it. It just seems wrong to me. I know that may sounds like a poor reason, but it's just how I feel. I see marriage as something special between two people.

    Polygamy was legal in Utah before it was a state. The US government did not like it and they gave Utah a choice when applying for statehood -- ban polygamy or not become a state. As you can probably guess, the people of Utah wanted to be a state more than they cared about polygamy.
     
  6. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    Try asking your mother, sisters or other female relatives. The dynamics and power structure inherent in such arrangements serve only to benefit only one person...
     
  7. grapes911 Moderator emeritus

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    #7
    I totally understand your point, but I thought I'd throw this out there:
    While not as common, polygamy has been known to go the other way. One woman and many men. There are even instances when there are multiple men and multiple women.
     
  8. srobert macrumors 68020

    srobert

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    #8
    Can't female be polygamists? i.e.: 5 multiple husbands? Just curious. I don't know much about the subject.

    Ah. thanks. Your post made it to the thread while I was writing mine.
     
  9. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #9
  10. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #10
    Yes, it's called polyandry, as opposed to polygyny.
    From Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyandry
     
  11. leftbanke7 macrumors 6502a

    leftbanke7

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    I really don't think anybody would give a crap about polygamy now if it weren't for the fact that these girls under age 18 are being forcably married to their uncles by Warren Jeffs and his happy-go-lucky clan.

    Any religion with the term "fundamentalist" in the title should make one step back and wonder a bit.
     
  12. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #12
    This sounds more like religious abuse rather than a discussion of polygamy per se. Or am i reading it wrong?
     
  13. grapes911 Moderator emeritus

    grapes911

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    #13
    I think it's more than just "religious abuse". I'm sure there are some loving families consisting of polygamy, but generally the family structure resembles more of a dictatorship.
     
  14. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #14
    But outside of religious framework, is it necessarily always that way? Just trying to get a handle on this.
     
  15. skunk macrumors G4

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    #15
    It's bound to be, isn't it? Just think of the dynamics.
     
  16. mpw Guest

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    #16
    I've thought about this recently too.

    The government here are dragging their heels to bring about changes to the 'Sexual Offences' laws that were last amended to de-criminalize homosexuality as recently as the 1990's.

    The present situation is that: (I'll be crude here for the sake of brevity)

    Sexual Intercourse & Marriage:
    Man-Woman 16years+ = OK but NOT anal & can get married.
    Man-Man 18years+ = OK but can’t marry.
    Man-Woman-Woman 16years+ = OK still no anal but oddly can marry ‘cause polygamy is technically legal.
    Man-Woman-Man = Go to jail pervert.
    Man-Women & Man sitting reading in the corner of the room = Go to jail perverts.
    Man-Man & woman sitting reading in the corner of the room = Go to jail perverts.

    Various options have been suggested to reform these laws and the likely outcome next month will be to legalize anal intercourse between men and women and to lower the age of consent for homosexuals to 16years. Those two changes have been hard fought and are only happening because of legal pressure from the EU/UK governments.

    The next stage is to bring further equality by legalizing same sex marriage and this is likely to be some years away given that one quote from a leading politician during the debates on the changes above called for a raise of the age of consent to 21years all round and stated that the act of anal sex between even a consenting married male/female couple was depraved and disgusting.

    However part of the consultation process for this next stage has begun and I’ve been asked to provide some feedback to the legislators and it struck me that true equality would allow legal recognition of marriage in pretty much any variation you care to name.

    I’m not talking about changes to the existing laws that cover fathers marrying daughters (or sons) and sisters marrying brothers etc. but I can’t see a problem with legal recognition of consenting adults entering into a polygamous marriage.

    I see a system that just has one state of ‘Civil Partnership’ which grants all the legal protection to the partners within the marriage that is presently granted under a ‘traditional’ marriage regards of the number or gender of the partners.

    I’d appreciate your views.
     
  17. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    The point of civil marriage, as opposed to religious marriage, in most countries is to provide a framework for legal issues. Inheritance, child support, citizenship, etc, etc. I'd say that the most important aspect of civil marriage is the children. Since children figure less and less in civil marriages, a case could be made to legalize polygamous marriages. What would need to be done however, is totally overhaul the legal system.

    In a divorce, if one person wants out, does that person get a share of the income and assets of the other two? What about child support? There are a lot of questions that would need to be answered before things could go forward. It would truly be opening a Pandora's box of legal issues.

    Since most countries confer citizenship or at least legal immigrant status on those who are married to a citizen, wouldn't this start a flood of immigration? What if the third partner was significantly younger, would this create some kind of imbalance in the relationship? What kind of safeguards would be in place to protect the youngest partner?

    Why should the government provide legal protection for them? I think that is the most compelling question to be brought up.
     
  18. mpw Guest

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    I agree with a lot of what you're saying, especially it being Pandora's box, but that in its self is one of the worst reasons for not taking action.

    Why should the government provide legal protection? Its another good question which is as relevant today with 'traditional' marriages as it will be in the future with any changes to marriage laws.

    My point is that yes each partner would be an equal partner and that should one be divorced from the other partners the assets would be split as they are now. As I understand it a court would decide an equitable split of assets perhaps each partners would get a third rather than a 50/50 split which is perhaps more normal now.
     
  19. dops7107 macrumors 6502a

    dops7107

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    #19
    'Scuse my ignorance. What are these arrangements that you refer to? :confused: (honestly - is this polgamy or what?)
     
  20. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #20
    I was wondering that myself, actually. They're not in my handbook either.:confused:
     
  21. mpw Guest

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    #21
    Just that it's legal for any number of women and up to ONE man to have consensual sex together or for TWO men to have sex (they can even have anal sex whereas the woman can't, even with their husbands) But you can't have sex between TWO men and have anyone else male or female even in the room.
     
  22. dops7107 macrumors 6502a

    dops7107

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    #22
    :eek: Thanks for clearing that up. I'll have to ask my mother to leave next time ;) :D
     
  23. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #23
    No, not one of the worst, one of the best, IMO. Traditional marriage has clear goals whereas polygamy seems to underscore inequality no matter how you slice it. There's a compelling reason for the government to ensure that there isn't an excess of young men or young women who are unable to find a partner. China and India are on the verge of experiencing this now with China's one child policy pushing many couples to abort female fetuses and the Indian desire to have male children.

    Polygamy would also appeal to the rich who could afford multiple partners more easily than the poor. Isn't that just promoting class boundaries instead of reining them in?
     
  24. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #24
    like ugg, i find the legal implications more interesting. for example, an employed man with health insurance could marry all his female friends who are otherwise uninsured, and grant them health insurance.

    meanwhile, a gay employed man with health insurance cannot grant his partner the same benefit.

    that seems pretty messed up to me.
     
  25. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #25
    If it's one man and two women and the man dies, are the women still legally married? Would they have to get a divorce before they could remarry?
     

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