The Case for Plural Marriage

The slippery slope gets slicker and steeper

This article is just one more piece of evidence that the redefinition of marriage won’t end with legal gay “marriage.” The trajectory that we are on means that legal marriage may very well be defined out of existence. If all unions are privileged in law, then no unions are privileged. There is evidence that this is precisely what the sexual revolutionaries have wanted all along.

The redefinition of legal marriage in our culture will not end with same sex “marriage.” The polygamists are waiting in the wings for the opportunity to make their case—a case that will be all the more compelling as arguments for gay “marriage” take hold across the country. If marriage becomes defined as legal recognition of whoever it is that you love, on what basis will the polygamists be excluded?

But redefinition won’t end with polygamous marriage either. The polyamorists are beginning to make their case as well. In an article for Slate magazine, Jillian Keenan argues that polyamorous unions should be on an equal footing with all other marriages. The polyamorous “family” featured in the article includes two men and two women, all of whom share one another sexually. Their relationship is defined as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.”

What does all of this have to do with legal marriage? According to the article,

Despite the stereotype of polyamorists as sexual anarchists who wouldn’t be interested in legal marriage anyway… 65 percent of poly families would choose to legalize their unions if they could, and an additional 20 percent would at least consider the option if it were available.

Keenan goes on to argue that children can flourish just as easily in polyamorous families as they can in a traditional family. If that sounds outlandish to you, here she is on her own words:

Studies have found that diverse parenting environments, including polyamorous ones, aren’t necessarily better or worse for the children involved. In fact, children in some plural families can actually benefit from the increased resources, care, and flexibility that additional adults provide. From a global and historical perspective, the phenomenon of the two-parent nuclear family is relatively new, and not the only environment that can be healthy for children. The happiness and well-being of kids in all kinds of families (monogamous, polyamorous, heterosexual, homosexual, or single-parent) depend far more on things like stability, boundaries, support, and love—not on the private, responsibly conducted sex lives of the adults involved.

This article is just one more piece of evidence that the redefinition of marriage won’t end with legal gay “marriage.” The trajectory that we are on means that legal marriage may very well be defined out of existence. If all unions are privileged in law, then no unions are privileged. There is evidence that this is precisely what the sexual revolutionaries have wanted all along.

This article also shows that our public debate about the nature of marriage often excludes certain voices. To argue that polyamory is immoral is simply not allowed. One can make an appeal to equality or to “best outcomes for children,” but one can hardly make the case anymore for a public policy based on a moral norm (at least in the realm of sexual ethics). In this article, the moral goodness of polyamory is simply assumed. Those who would argue that monogamy and heterosexuality ought to be the norm are not even a part of the conversation.

This article also shows that many people in our culture take it as self-evident that sexual license must not only be tolerated but also enshrined and privileged in law as a social good. It is more an assumption based on libertarian notions of equality than it is an argument based on a moral premise.

The slippery slope gets slicker and steeper every day.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and cultureThis article is used with his permission.