January 5, 2013
From Same-Sex Marriage to Polygamy and PolyandryBy James M. Arlandson
I keep hearing same-sex marriage (SSM) activists assuring us that no one else will legally redefine the essence of marriage, after they enjoy the privilege of doing so. It's a red herring to distract us from the real issue: redefining it for them alone.
But if we redefine marriage for one group, there's no logical reason to deny other nonconformist advocates their right to do so, especially if they successfully argue their version of marriage on utilitarian grounds -- it benefits or does no harm to society.
I don't know who invented the slippery slope fallacy, but he or she shouldn't be decorated with a medal. Sometimes the slope exists, it really is slippery, and people actually slide down it. In the 1950s, Lucy and Ricky were shown in separate beds. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Brady Bunch parents shared the same extra-wide king-size bed, but were far apart. Today? No need to describe primetime or daytime TV. The sex drive is powerful, and society has publically slid down that slippery, muddy slope long ago.
Here are two more nonconformist groups clamoring for their share of the marriage mud pie.
Islam allows polygamy for men. They can marry up to four women if the men can afford them (Quran 4:3). Of course religious scholars can't deny the clear teaching of the Quran. Allah wills it. So they inform us of the social benefits of polygamy.
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) is made up of devout religious scholars, most of whom have their doctorates in Islamic law or other Islamic subjects. They are qualified to write fatwas (religious rulings or opinions). The site uses the Question and Answer format.
A reader asks for ten reasons why Islam allows polygamy. Then Dr. Main al-Qudah,an assistant professor of Islamic studies in the American Open University and an Imam of MAS Katy Center in Houston, Texas, replies with four reasons in fatwa no. 2134:
Polygamy in Islam is permissible for different reasons, like:
1. The sexual energy of men is more than that of women in general. So, in some cases, one wife is not enough to fulfill the conjugal desire of her husband.
2. Pregnancy and delivery negatively affect the shape and physical attraction that women have.
3. Worldwide, the percentage of females is always more than that of males; eventually, there must be a solution, either to permit adultery and prostitution, or to allow polygamy.
4. One husband could take care of more than one wife at the same time; socially, financially, and even sexually as I mentioned above. However, the opposite is not right because of the physical and psychological capability that Allah the all mighty gave men.
Next, a questioner, writing in polished English and adhering to the standard Islamic defense of polygamy, asks AMJA about passing laws allowing polygamy in the USA. The enquirer lays out its social benefits:
...There are many women who could benefit from plural marriage here in the US. In particular, women who are widowed, divorced, and older single women, many are with little or no nearby families (especially immigrants, refugees, and reverts to Islam), many are forced to work long hours to make ends meet, and so forth. They are not finding suitable husbands easily, though like any other woman they could benefit from the protection, security, dignity, and comfort of marriage. The Muslim men here are among the most affluent and educated in the world, but they are marrying only one woman while single Muslim women are left to struggle alone or become dependent on the masjid [Mosque] and the government welfare system. Since polygamy is still illegal in the US, is it advised for the Muslim community to try to make it legal so that the benefits of polygamy can be attained? The Mormon religious community is attempting to make polygamy legal; is it okay for Muslims to join them in this cause? It is not fair that in the US one man can literally sleep with hundreds of women with no penalty or responsibility, but multiple women cannot get the benefits of marriage from one responsible man. What can we do under these circumstances?
So what is the answer? Dr. Hatem al-Hajis the Dean of Sharia Academy of America, is Board Certified in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics, and is Associate Professor of Fiqh at Sharia Academy of America and Islamic University of Minnesota. Since the questioner was so thorough, Dr. al-Haj replies in a short fatwa (no. 2550):
Allah said: "Should He not know what He created? And He is the Subtle, the Aware."
Remember, those fatwas are in an American context, not a distant sultanate. Muddy business, that.
We now peer, not leer, into polyamory or open, nonmongamous relationships, including open marriages.
Traditionally, monogamy has been defined as relational and sexual exclusivity between one man and one woman. But some nonconformists say that while they have their primary partnership, they allow hook ups with others. "It's a redefinition of marriage," says one.
A mature student in my class told us of her friend who is in a polyamorous relationship. Her husband gives her "free rein," so to speak.
Derek McCullough and David S. Hall, Ph.D., say monogamy is a cultural myth and polyamory is an option:
...Much of the evidence seems to indicate that human attainment of the cultural ideal of monogamy is a myth. The moral argument for monogamy is a weak position. A better moral argument can be made regarding what is best for each individual and for society, that is, do we make life better for each and all by insisting on sex only in monogamous marriage of heterosexual couples, or on letting individuals find responsible ways of relating that, in Pagan terms, "harm none". Liberal religion has taken a fine stance supporting homosexual and heterosexual couples, and unmarried couples as well. What is so hard about seeing the parallels to the "more than a couple" part?
In the old days, polyamory used to be called adultery or fornication. But the "moral argument for monogamy is a weak position." Apparently, in a diverse and tolerant society any point of view and feeling becomes the new norm. McCullough and Hall use the long history of polygamy to shore up the naturalness of polyamory. It's evolutionary biology, you see. Liberal religion can endorse it. In their whole piece they project such a cool, open-minded vibe and write in such soothing psychological terms,old-school vices become new-school virtues.
Things are a little confusing for me, however. Polyamorists may not get married, but if they were to do so, apparently they would become polygamists of sorts. Yet it would not be limited to one heterosexual husband and four heterosexual wives as we see in Islam's old-school polygamy. Instead, we're entering a brave new world, so any combination of men and women and sexual orientation would do (e.g. four "husbands"). Despite the confusion right now, we would get used to their marriage, just as we're getting used to SSM. "Progress" is inevitable.
One gay activist who works hard at redefining marriage says the ultimate goal is to change society. "In the end we will have so remade society, it will have to adjust to us, because it will seem absurd not to." Others say marriage has no essence, so we can "fiddle" with it as society evolves. Scholars rewrite the definitions in the trade dictionaries and encyclopedias to go with the muddy flow and establish new norms. Now the public has to catch up.
Further, to borrow a question from SSM advocates, how would polygamy or polyamory harm your individual traditional marriage?
Whether or not it harms an individual marriage is difficult to say, but here are some knotty issues to ponder: The polyamorists want to get married at a Bed and Breakfast, privately owned by a crazy religious simpleton who advertizes for wedding parties. But he objects to the whole lifestyle (too irreligious and confusing) and denies them his own facility? Would he be sued?
What about the employers providing the partners with insurance and incurring extra costs? Would insurance companies get sued if they denied them coverage? Would the employers?
What about tax breaks if polyamorists have children? What about adoption? If a religious adoption agency said no, would it get sued for discrimination? Does polyamory produce a wholesome environment for the child? Apparently the polyamorists say yes. After all, one of the partners may already have a child, and now she lives with loving, built-in caretakers and babysitters. No need to hire strangers. Heather has two daddies and two mommies who "share" their love.
Despite the confusion, this question still remains: since same-sex activists are redefining marriage in the law, how can we logically deny advocates of polygamy and polyamory their right to redefine it legally? If we did, we would be called "polyphobes."
The outcome of all these three nonconformist arrangements -- SSM, polygamy, and polyamory - is a muddle, for now. It's taking SSM some time to be acceptable; I imagine it will take polygamy and polyamorous marriage even more time. But we'll be told it's inevitable.
One Canadian judge recently concluded polygamy harms children, women, monogamy, and society. But another judge, even the U.S. Supreme Court, finding expert testimony like the scholars at AMJA, and citing a long history of polygamy, might redefine marriage in multiple ways because she (or they) believes a variety of nonconformist marriages would not harm anyone or society. Such marriages may even benefit society.That's what we're told by the elites like religiously conservative al-Qudah and al-Haj, and socially liberal McCullough and Hall, odd "bedfellows" who tear down traditional marriage.
As to SSM, we'll find out in July 2013 what the Supreme Court will rule. I hope the court sends the issue back to the people. Activist judges open the floodgates to redefinitions with no end in sight. Any small clique that legally decides this issue for more than 310 million Americans puts democracy at risk.
However, Obama not only endorses SSM, his administration refuses to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by the legislative and the executive branches, all elected by the people.And down the slippery slope we slide.
SSM activists have been battering down the door of Ye Old Institution of Traditional Marriage; therefore, the advocates of polygamy and polyamory are now taking up axes and sledge hammers. Next come the wrecking ball and the professional demolition crew of politicians and judges.
While the demolition is going on, the whole edifice is sliding down the sloppy, slippery slope.
Muddy business, that.
FOLLOW US ON