Not the next civil rights battle

Recently a lot of discussion has taken place on what some are calling the “next great civil rights battle of our time”. The subject, you may ask? It is polygamy, or the more politically correct term “bigamy”.

In a column in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer argues for polygamy, claiming that the arguments used by LGBT citizens in debates on marriage equality for same-sex couples can now be used to further polygamy.

Writer William Saletan disagrees, in a column written on

My friend Charles Krauthammer makes the argument succinctly in the Washington Post. “Traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender,” he observes. “If, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one’s autonomous choices,” then “on what grounds do they insist upon the traditional, arbitrary and exclusionary number of two?”

Here’s the answer. The number isn’t two. It’s one. You commit to one person, and that person commits wholly to you. Second, the number isn’t arbitrary. It’s based on human nature. Specifically, on jealousy.

After going on to give numerous examples of polygamy vs. jealousy, Saletan ends his column with some wonderful words:

Krauthammer finds the gay/poly divergence perplexing. “Polygamy was sanctioned, indeed common” for ages, he observes. “What is historically odd is that as gay marriage is gaining acceptance, the resistance to polygamy is much more powerful.” But when you factor in jealousy, the oddity disappears. Women shared husbands because they had to. The alternative was poverty. As women gained power, they began to choose what they really wanted. And what they really wanted was the same fidelity that men expected from them.

Gays who seek to marry want the same thing. They’re not looking for the right to sleep around. They already have that. It’s called dating. A friend once explained to me why gay men have sex on the first date: Nobody says no. Your partner, being of the same sex, is as eager as you are to get it on. But he’s also as eager as you are to get it on with somebody else. And if you really like him, you don’t want that. You want him all to yourself. That’s why marriage, not polygamy, is in your nature, and in our future.

Like Saletan, I do not believe polygamy should be sanctioned. It goes against our human nature. Saletan makes this point very plainly:

The average guy would love to bang his neighbor’s wife. He just doesn’t want his wife banging his neighbor. Fidelity isn’t natural, but jealousy is. Hence the one-spouse rule. One isn’t the number of people you want to sleep with. It’s the number of people you want your spouse to sleep with.

Oh so true. I really think it is disappointing that polygamists are now trying to use arguments that LGBT persons have used in order to get their rights from the Government.

If people want to sleep around, then let them sleep around… that is how I view polygamy. On the other hand, two people who are committed to each other deserve to have recieve the benefits and privileges that will help them to better care for each other and their children. That is all same-sex couples are asking for and it is about time that the Government wise up.

It just makes sense to marry one person. Marrying multiple persons does not make sense, precisely because of the jealousy issue. Common sense = the best way to go.

5 Responses to “Not the next civil rights battle”
  1. Ryan Radford says:

    I don’t particularly like Krauthammer normally, but this time I think he has a point.

    You know I’m not mormon, so I don’t particularly care for polygamy, just playing devil’s advocate… but who are you to say it’s wrong, Matt? Who is anyone to say it’s wrong? Thirty years from now, polygamists may be fighting the same discrimination you fight today, so why fight against their rights? They’re people, too! Love is love!

  2. I don’t see how you can support a claim that polygamy “goes against human nature”, given that thousands of cultures have practiced and currently practice polygyny and/or polyandry. And do please remember that “polygamy” includes both polygyny and polyandry. Saletan completely glosses over that when he makes ignorant statements like “what [women] really wanted was the same fidelity that men expected from them”. Yes, social norms can and change, but very little actually “goes against human nature” – honestly, that kind of “argument” is almost always just handwaving and is rarely backed up by any kind of anthropological evidence.

    I agree that the Christian fundamentalist, usu. Mormon, form of polygyny that USians think of as the only form of “polygamy” is distasteful and often unethical, but then my opinion of traditional, patriarchal, Christian-fundy monogamous marital relationships isn’t much higher. However, that is certainly not the only form of non-monogamous relationship possible.

    I find it mildly insulting that you characterize all non-monogamous relationships as being about “sleeping around”. Sure, some people have open relationships, but they’re not asking for the benefits of marriage with their non-long-term partners. Many polyamorous relationships are polyfidelous, and just because it’s a relationship of N people with N>2 does not mean that the people in the relationship have to be any less faithful to each other than in a relationship where N=2. Anyway, I don’t see why long-term partners in a polyamorous relationship shouldn’t have the benefits of marriage. Just because you have jealousy issues doesn’t mean everyone else does.

    (Disclaimers: I am not currently in a polyamorous relationship but would be perfectly willing to have one were the opportunity to arise. I am personally against marriage and marriage rights for any group don’t matter much to me on a personal level.)

    In fact, this whole post makes me wonder if you even aware of the polyamory movement or for that matter the historical prevelance of polygamy. If you haven’t heard of polyamory, I recommend starting with the Polyamory FAQ and the other information available at You might be surprised at how wrong some of your preconceptions about polygamous and polyandrous relationships are.

  3. (small correction to previous comment: “yes, social norms” in the first paragraph should be something like “and yes, social norms” – nothing to do with the preceding two sentences, i just deleted some parentheses and that makes it read oddly)

  4. Matt says:

    You’re judging someone marriage choices. Isn’t that what you’re against?

    How can you judge a group when you’re against being judged yourself?

    Double standard. Sorry, buy you’re in bed with these folks (no pun intended) and there’s nothing you can do. You can pick apart the differences and give all the reasoning, but every reason can be turned back on you.

    Those against your choices will not invest the time to learn the subtle differences you claim. You’re going to be grouped together in one lot. Distancing yourself is not the solution.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] I have done a post on the connection (or lack thereof) between marriage for same-sex couples and polygamy before. Entitled “Not the next civil rights battle“, the post was a horrible attempt on my part to explain my political and personal opinions on polygamy. The essay by Jonathan Rauch is a good one and it expresses many of my own thoughts in much better wording. […]

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