While the United States is occupied with the federal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, Canada has its own pending marriage case, which is likely headed for the Canadian Supreme Court. Canada, which redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples in 2005, against the backdrop of successful provincial lawsuits against the country’s marriage law, could be moving on to bigger things — literally. Specifically, polygamy and polyamory, as this case invokes the question of whether the government can continue to criminalize multiple-partner marriages. The case itself, initiated by the British Columbia Attorney General under a special provision of that Province’s law, arises in the wake of failed prosecutions of polygamous sect members in British Columbia.
Advocates of polygamy and polyamory seem to have an ally in the Law Commission of Canada, a statutory body of government appointees who propose changes to modernize Canadian law and report to the Justice Ministry. In 2001, the Commission issued a report, Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Adult Relationships, that questioned the continuing illegality of consensual polygamy in Canada.
Polyamory is the end-game of proponents of same-sex marriage, but it poses even more problems for children:
If we take seriously the idea that marriage laws have an educative function, polyamory raises red flags. On each of the core functions of marriage — promoting fidelity, providing a tie between children and parents, securing permanence for spouses and their children — polyamory seems particularly harmful. Both traditional polygamy and polyamory promote types of infidelity (though the former is of a more orderly variety), of course, but the chaos of polyamory blurs distinctions of parenthood more significantly than does a setting where a child has an established set of parents and lots of half-siblings. The ethic of “choice” at the root of polyamory does not bode well for permanence either.
As complicated as the day to day existence must be for children in homes with multiple adults acting as “parents,” the breakup of polyamorous relationships would be dramatically more complicated for children. There would be an exponential increase in the possible divisions of a child’s time, of decision-making authority and demands for the child’s loyalty, when the dispute involves three or more people than when only two disputants are involved.
Clearly, when it comes to marriage, the adage “the more the merrier” does not apply.
I should note that research on legalizing polygamy is funded by the government in Canada. The 3 authors of that study are feminists, and like third-wave feminists, they oppose the unequal gender roles inherent in traditional marriage. Studies showing the harm caused by polygamy and polyamory presumably do not receive funding from the government, since those studies would not create domestic-dispute-resolution work for the government’s courts. Traditional marriage is bad for government, because it doesn’t require bigger government agencies, or more social programs. Traditional marriage has to go if government is to continue to expand its power.
At some point, I would expect the government to begin to regard traditional marriages and families with suspicion and distaste.