2006/08/21

Life's Rich Pageant - Living Our Convictions On Marriage

August 19,2006 | SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Calling their lives blessed, more than a dozen young women and girls from polygamist families in Utah spoke at a rally Saturday, calling for a change in state laws and the right to live the life and religion they choose.
When Utah was admitted to the Union, it was required to write a ban on polygamy into it's constitution, and ever since the practice has been marginalized, surviving in small communities spread thinly over a 4 state area. Now without getting into a huge debate about moral or religious values, I want to pose a simple question to of us inclined to support gay marriage, the monogamous relationship du jour: In order to gain the support of a broad coalition, would you be willing to support polygamy? And if not, why not?

Certainly many members of the LDS church support what they refer to as 'plural marriage'. Though it's not at all clear if traditionalist Mormons and liberals could find common ground. For example, I don't think that the contemporary use of 'plural marriage' includes polyandry. But for me, the answer to the question of the allowable forms of marriage is pretty simple. Though it wasn't obvious at first. I'm inclined to allow any arrangement between consenting adults, and the key word is 'consenting'. In other words no minors...period! You don't get to marry off your underage daughters. Kids don't get to marry (plural or otherwise)--shouldn't be doing it anyway. No man-boy/woman-girl relationships. Let's keep this between people who already have the right to decide things for themselves.

I know there are objections, and I could spend hours enumerating and then addressing them here, but I think that I'll leave that for the comments.

25 Comments:

I've always said we were wrong in forcing the LDS to abandon their beliefs.

I agree with you in principle although Lord help my husband if he ever suggested it.

The problem isn't with polygamy; it's with the enclaves such as Colorado City, AZ who force young girls into plural marriages and throw their young men out so they won't be a threat to the ruling few.

Two key words. "Consenting" and "adults" although it could be said that a minor isn't able to consent.
I get your point, and, while I'm not sure that I agree with it entirely, it is a valid one. . .

I'm just not sure that making a "committment" to another person can involve more than two people. Does that make sense?
As you said, as long as it's between consenting adults, it's none of my business what polygamists do any more than it's my business what gay couples do. It may not be for me, but I'm cool with it.
On this subject, I have some direct experience, since I now make SW Utah my home. My whole family background is mostly mormon & if not for polygamy, I would not exist (my gr-gr-grandmother was a 5th wife). Now, I'm a live & let live person, don't bother me & I won't bother you & I sure don't care what consenting adults do, period. But (big BUT), seeing & living with polygamy in this area has made me very INtolerant of that lifestyle. Consent is not what they are about at all.

The men do NOT actually legally marry more than one wife, so that means all the secondary wives and their children are using various welfare programs designed for single parent households (your tax dollars at work). The men do not select their wives or vice-versa. A fundamentalist prophet dictates those choices. In those UT-AZ border towns where polygamy is practiced, if you don't stay on the good side of the ruling prophet guild, you will find yourself unemployed & out of whatever common-owned house you were being allowed to live in (all real estate titles are held by the FLDS). It is NOTHING like that HBO show! The women all dress like actors in an old pioneer play. I'm not kidding.

So, yes I object strongly to people being held in thrall to some disgusting elder who thinks god told him a man must prove himself capable of subjegating many women in order to earn a place with the patriarchs (or some such BS which as you can see excludes the idea of polyandry). They grow up in these isolated little towns in fear of being ostracized, spritually & physically. Outsiders are considered evil infidels, so they guard their little kingdoms to protect themselves & their children from from any contemporary ideas. Free will is a foreign concept in those communities.

Kvatch, I know you posed this as a simple question, so let me just simply say that these intolerant fundamentalists would NEVER unite with liberals, much less support gay marriage ... it would just NEVER happen.

Any other mormon questions? D.K.
When in Rome...
D.K., I can't disagree with a thing you've said, but I suppose that members of the FLDS are not really who I'm talking about since consent is key. Moreover, if a family's not in it for a relationship sanctioned by the state--rather than simply trying to scam the government--than again it's not really a relationship.
sorry Kvatch, FLDS are the only polygs we see down here in So Utah, so I really don't know much about the ones up around SLC. Possibly they are more integrated into the community, but I think the same cult consent issue applies to them. And, of course, plural marriage has NOT been sanctioned by the state since it became a state. Believe it or not, most mormons wish the whole polyg issue would just disappear; they do not support it. As far as "traditional mormons", I'm sure they would be the same hard sell re: any liberal view about gay marriage, they would just be a little more polite about it. Or, are you running into more liberated mormons where you are? Cuz I sure don't see any here in the belly of the beast. D.K.
I don't give a frogs butt what anybody does regarding marriage. As long as it doesn't hurt or affect me...they can do whatever they allow those 'guilds' to dictate to them. If it is anywhere near what HBO portrays...they are welcome to eachothers lives and miseries.
The bottom line with any relationship is that it is not exploitative.
I guess, having said that, that if parties to to a polygamous marriage
know what they are doing and why it probably has bugger all to do with what I might think.
Or, are you running into more liberated mormons where you are? Cuz I sure don't see any here in the belly of the beast.

D.K., not at all. I raised the whole issue more as a theoretical exercise--a challenge to liberals to expand our thinking on the issue. Let me see if I can state it succinctly: If we want to gain support for same sex marriage, we need to concede that any form of committed relationship between consenting adults (polygamy and polyandry included) is acceptable.

Sumo, Cartledge...well said. Misery loves company! :-) And in your average polygamous or polyandrous relationship...the more company...the more misery.
Cartledge summed up my opinion of this whole issue: "The bottom line with any relationship is that it is not exploitative."

I think God should be the final judge in these situations. We are mere mortals trying to second guess Him. If "consenting" adults believe God blesses their union, then let them marry and answer to Him in the end.
As long as all are willing and no one gets hurt, have at it.
I just had a spirited discussion with the husband on this today. I agree that whatever consenting adults want to do with their lives, so be it. My problem with these folks is that they take girls out of school at aroung age 12, marry them off before 16, and by the time they are 20, they have 3 or more kids, making getting out of the cult impossible. The only way this survives right now is because they practice systemic child abuse.

If adults want to live this lifestyle because it is their choise, that's up to them. Unfortunately, the only was it survives in the US today is by denying young girls the chance to decide the course of their own lives.
I thought it was "gay" marriage that would promote polygamy...I guess the heteros bet them to it.
Oh, this reminds me of a fun LDS joke a friend once related to me...she lived in Salt Lake:

"What's the difference between LDS and LSD? With LSD the hallucination wears off."
Kathy, PoP, absolutely. So how does one answer arguments about child rearing. Certainly polygamist marriages are raising kids...by the bushel. Presumably polyandrist marriages could as well. This is a tough question for me, since I'm very firmly on the side of homosexual couples being allowed to have, raise, and adopt children.

Sothis, so are you also against arranged marriages for adults? (That's not intended to be a slam. I'm genuinely curious.)
WS...like the joke, but as to your earlier comment: How about a gay, polyandrist marriage? Now that's complex.
kvatch, "many husbands for one husband" ?? hmmm, and they could adopt all those excess polyg kids. kinda solves some population issues. i like it. D.K.
Kvatch, I'm starting to think marriage as we know it is outdated. I say that as a married woman with 2 kids. However, I don't think being married makes me feel any more committed. It's a legal arrangement that's beneficial in our society. Like divorce. It's hard for me to say who should be able to do it(like gay couples!) and who shouldn't (personally, polygamy just creeps me out, but not everything is about me, unfortunately).

Some random thoughts:
1. It's hard enough being married to ONE person.

2. I think potential exploitation, esp. of young women, has to be taken into consideration. I feel that society has to try to protect the most vulnerable and powerless among us. And women in that setting tend to be vulnerable because they are young and powerless in the given power structure. Hope that makes sense. I've only had 2 cups of coffee so far!

3. Divorce would get even hairier. I shudder to think of it.

Excellent question, Kvatch.
I'm starting to think marriage as we know it is outdated.

Perhaps...though I was once told by a religious fundamentalist that, because the Frogette and I decided not to have children, that we didn't have a real marriage--that we were just 'playing house'.

So using children as the metric, we might conclude that polygamist and polyandrist unions are the way to go since they multiply the chances for children (in a single family if not for the species as a whole). How's that for a piece of twisted logic?

The exploitation issue is a big problem, but I think that we already have sufficient laws in place to deal with that.
Kvatch, let me answer your question about arranged marriage between adults. I don't see a problem with it as long as the parties involved are "consenting." I don't believe two sets of parents should arrange a marriage for their child though. As you said in your post - no minors (in any of these situations).

To get to your child rearing question, I admit I have reservations about the effect non-traditional family units have on children. It has to be difficult for a child to grow up with several mothers or fathers or two mothers or two fathers. However, I grew up with two alcholic parents who made me feel different from my "Leave It to Beaver" peers. At the time, I wished I had sober parents, but never did I wish to be put in a foster home or made a ward of the court.

I also know many disabled couples who bore children and have done a good job of parenting, although at the time doctors and good intentioned people tried to convince them not to have children. Their concern was not for the adults who wanted children, but their concern was that their offspring would suffer because they weren't being raised by "normal" parents - whatever normal is.

So, I guess the bottom line is that old-fashioned ideas of what constitutes a family unit may have to be modified. That doesn't mean we shouldn't constantly be monitoring our childrens' well-being and safety as a society (teachers, nurses, police, family members, etc.), but we shouldn't assume that untraditional family units pose a risk to children.
Kvatch, I just had to point you to this link about a woman in Michigan who was charged with polygamy. In her case, money was the motive and not love. ;-)
Kathy, I saw this article and it raises an interesting point.

What they're talking about here is polygamy the crime...not polygamy/polyandry the 'plural' relationship. Why? Because the other husbands didn't know she was multiply married. Technically, if the husbands knew and consented, her's would be a 'polyandrous' relationship.

She was just commiting a crime for financial gain.
Kvatch, you said what I believe, only shorter. Bravo for succinctness!

In terms of Utah polygamists, there are a whole bunch of different sects. A good friend of mine teaches anthropology at a local college, and she's met the kids of some "liberal" polygamists where all the partners entered into the marriage well above the age of consent, the women all have careers, and the kids appear to be well-adjusted and, if anything, overachieving educationwise. She's starting research on this kind of polygamy. Fascinatin'!
Thanks Lukku. I was pleasantly surprised at how much good discussion this topic generated.

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