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15 December 2013


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This can be a little confusing, and I'm only married to a lawyer, not one myself. In the United States, religious marriages have no legal status. Marriage involves the signing of a marriage license, which is a state-issued document. The fight over gay marriage is whether same sex couples can obtain this document. That's why you see gay couples joyfully headed to courthouses, not churches.

My reading of this is that the judge has not said polygamy is ok. It is still illegal. If you have multiple marriage licenses signed simultaneously, you're in trouble. However, Utah apparently had a lawon the books that said that if you cohabit with multiple women for a set amount of time, you're de facto married to them, even if you haven't signed a marriage license. They used that to prosecute these folks for polygamy. It's those laws which has been called into question, not polygamy itself.

There are probably a lot of legal technicalities involved here. In the first place, there will likely be an appeal of this. In the second, it's quite possible that a different legal tactic might be used to enforce laws against polygamy.

It's estimated there are tens of thousands of Muslim families in the US already using this very tactic to have polygamous "marriages."

Charles I

apples and oranges, you guys never give up on the bestiality

Nancy K

As long as the wives are over the age of 18 and are not forced into these marriages, so be it. I can see the advantage of more help with house work, cooking, child care. Someone to watch the kids for that special date night alone with your husband. If each wife and her children needed to have their own home however, it could get really expense.
My husband and I visited Tibet a number of years ago and they practice polyandry, where the brothers in a family share the same wife. Having multiple husbands just does not seem like a pleasant idea to me.
In all these various multiple marriages I wonder how jealousy works, or maybe they are more evolved people than the average American with just one spouse.

Babak Makkinejad

"Married Islamically" is a distinction without merit - Marriage is not a sacrament in Islam, it is only a contract.

What you are saying is that some Muslims enter marriage contracts under the statutes governing marriage in the prevailing jurisdiction in the United States and later they enter other marriage contracts which are not recognized by those same statutes.

I wonder if the Muslim marriage contracts can be subsumed under the "domestic partnership" laws within various US jurisdictions.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Can a man enter multiple concurrent domestic partnership agreements with multiple women (let us stick with females for the sake of clarity and decency) in the United States?

If so, is that not effective support for polygamy?

Babak Makkinejad

OK, thanks for the clarification.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

In my view it is quite difficult to overstate the importance of the idea of marriage as a sacrament in Christian culture.

I can only speak with some reasonable grasp of Anglicanism and variants of Protestant sectarian belief, although I suspect the same paradoxes apply in other variants of Christian culture. Theological conviction is not the primary issue – on this point devout evangelicals, who think the Bible is literally true, practising but not believing Anglicans, and people without a shred of religious belief but who are still part of Anglican or nonconformist culture are absolutely agreed.

One implication is that even Anglicans who sympathise with Muslims in other respects – and would for instance admire great achievements of Islamic culture, such as the marvellous art and music of ‘Al Andalus’ – find Islamic attitudes to marriage instinctively abhorrent.

Another ambiguous implication relates to the issue of ‘gay marriage’. In terms of the tax benefits which one can obtain from being married, it has long seemed to me that these should be available to gay couples who go through a civil ceremony. But this view is quite compatible with a traditional Christian view that marriage is properly a matter between a man and a woman, in which both make a pledge intended to last for life, and, at the least, make an honest stab at keeping to it.


No, domestic partnerships are between two people, neither of whom can be married or have any marriage-like arrangement.


"Can a man enter multiple concurrent domestic partnership agreements with multiple women ... in the United States?"

Short answer yes, but the state does not have to recognize any civil/religious marriage for the purpose of inheritance and other legal rights, whether the marriage bed includes one or several women. This is why you have Jewish orthodox women unable to convince their husbands to divorce, resorting to creative methods of persuasion:


If the state didn't recognize a union through a marital certificate, it can't issue a divorce decree.

To make matters more confusing, states that don't recognize common law marriage within their territory will recognize out of state common law marriage.

I agree with one of the commentators; this ruling doesn't outlaw polygamy, it outlaws equating cohabitation with polygamy. Possibly to discourage polygamy, possibly to stop fundamentalist Mormons from "bleeding the beast". I don't care if polygamy is outlawed as long as everyone who enters the contract is a consenting adult. It will not turn monogamous people into polygamists anymore than gay marriage will turn straight people gay, or, you know, find bleating sheep sexy all of a sudden. I would have preferred a civil union option, so long as I could have participated in the same contract and left marriage to the War on Christmas Christians.


I didn't realized you went to grad school in Utah (UofU it sounds like?). As a practicing Mormon (member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) I'm glad my church ended its practice of polygamy something like 115yrs ago--my wife is angelic, but one is still plenty enough for me, thanks!

So while this is an interesting development from a legal/theoretical standpoint, I'm not sure how much impact it will have on "Mormons" in general.

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of people here are talking about polygamist "Mormons" in a way that might create false impressions. Of the ~15M worldwide members of any church that could be remotely considered as "Mormon" (ie any that are an offshoot of what Joseph Smith originally started), something like 99.9% of them belong to faiths that actively reject polygamous relationships, and which practicing polygamy would get you excommunicated. I know there might not be any other convenient shorthand for a breakoff sect in Southern Utah that has as much in common with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as Lutherans or Methodists have with Catholics. Not offended at all, just trying to point out that the sects that do condone polygamy these days make up less than 0.1% of the total population of "Mormons" even defined as loosely as possible.

So for most of us "Mormons", this ruling is as much of a shruggable curiosity as it is for most of the rest of you.




I see this as a civil liberties issue. No offense meant but I don't really care about the LDS church's position on polygamy. pl


Many years ago I heard a woman on the radio say she liked being in a polygamous marriage because it allowed her to pursue her own interests instead and didn't have to devote as much time and energy on her husband as she would have in a monogamous relationship. For her polygamy offered increased independence.

Claiming more than one wife and her children as dependents for tax purposes and social services is the only harm to society I can see. If a man or woman can financially or emotionally (good luck with that) support his polygamous family, fine.



No offense taken! I actually agree with you--what is law shouldn't be driven by doctrines of churches. I had originally intended to include more on my thoughts about the civil liberties issues, but the comment was getting too long.

Personally, as a libertarian, I lean towards the opinion that the government should get out regulating/defining marriage altogether, and handle all of the legal benefits currently tied to marriage via some sort of civil union law. I'm not 100% convinced that's the right approach, but so far it seems like the best way of protecting both civil liberties and religious liberties that I've heard of.



"Short answer yes, but the state does not have to recognize any civil/religious marriage for the purpose of inheritance and other legal rights, whether the marriage bed includes one or several women. "

Just so we're clear, and I don't think we disagree, domestic partnerships are a legal entity in some states. They confer certain legal rights which differ by state. Common law marriages are apparently not very common.

They are written so as to avoid a back door to polygamy. You can't have three domestic partners or a spouse and a domestic partner. If you want to live with three women, you can. But if you die intestate, they'd better not expect to inherit.

Some states recognize common law marriages, others do not. But all states recognize each other's marriages. So if you obtain a common law marriage in one state, it is recognized in another.

Babak Makkinejad

My understanding was that in East Asia marriage is also a sacrament and not a contract.

Let me assure you that while sympathetic to the Christians in general, I do find Christians insistence of Marriage being a sacrament rather amusing and - on the plane of reality - unworkable; as that famous Englishman, Henry VIII, amply demonstrated.

As for "... find Islamic attitudes to marriage instinctively abhorrent.", my friend, that is just plain envy - they are itching to have a second wife - without a doubt.


@ Charles I - Is pedophilia more attractive to you then?


In an attempt to be not humourous.
There are only four types of marriage arrangements available to humans with humans.
One male to one female, one male to several females, one female to several males, and the Heinleinian line marriage of several females and several males simultaneously. ( An economic arrangement that sounds a bit like a commune).
Polygyny ( one male several females ) has two serious issues, the first is the superfluous male issue. It shows up immediately a society allows polygyny. If a society allows polygyny and the average is 4 females to one male. Then 75% of the born males are superfluous. What does a society do when 75% of its males are unnecessary and will have no skin in the game, no reason to contribute to a future in which they will have no offspring. In some societies the solution is castration after the testes drop. This was the Ottoman solution. In other societies sale of slaves is the profitable solution. Far away and out of mind. The Bight of Benin and Brazil, Barbados and other sugar plantation countries come to mind here.
In other societies, the solution is to send the unnecessary men out to find nearby communities to pillage and abscond with the fecund females. Local war is always a chancy deal but better to have the excess males killing "others" than to have them assassinating local Polygynists and redistributing the local ladies.
And if those first three options are unavailable, gladiatorial combat and increased socially encouraged prostitution might work for a short while.
The second serious issue in polygyny will appear several generations down the road and is the result of having so few males line contributing to the gene pool. Too many half brother and half sister matings, too many first and second cousin matings. This consequence will appear sooner the higher the average number of wives in the generations of polygynists.
Polyandry ( one female to several males ) is the society of the bee, ant and termite hive.
I can not find any human society where this arrangement obtained for any length of time.
Paraguay after the Chaco wars was close to a societal mandated polygyny because there were so few men available to procreate. This was a self righting situation because by sexual maturity, a human population will be 50/50 barring wars and sex linked medical plagues


In a society that encourages a man to take a mistress as well as a wife, over time 50% of the men born into that society become non contributors to the future population and as such have reduced motivation to contribute to the advancement and upkeep of the current polity.
3 simultaneous sexual consorts means 66% of the born males have no sexual or procreative future.
4 the Koranic rule; 75% of males born will not have progeny.
10 simultaneous spouses means 90% males redundant and dangerously unable to enjoy female companionship. It matters not if a man can "support" them, they will be redistributed in bloody and uncivilized ways. ( I believe that the military suggests a 3 to 1 superiority [ that is the Koranic again ] for the offensive.
Now if it were possible to trick nature into delivering multiple female births per male born, you might have a workable finagle. Human species pretty much squeeze them out at a 50/50 ratio.



Your exposition of the possibilities of male mating sound like rubbish to me. Having lived in such societies I find your numbers to be unconvincing. I suggest you document your statistics. pl


Mathematical calculation:
Given a society of 10K mating age humans half male half female.
Variable: Average number of wives per husband. Range 1 to all the women. second variable, % of marriages polygynist.
0% polygynist implies that the men and women assort into monogamous marriages. There may be voluntary choice of bachelorhood and spinsterhood and celibacy but there is no theoretical involuntary non marriage.
1 polygynist marriage of 2 wives in the society , there is now one man who cannot have a local wife no matter how much he might wish.
and so on and so on up to
100% of the marriages in the society are polygynous with a 4 wife/husband ratio. 5000 available females /4 = 1250 husbands.
5000 males -1250 husbands = 3750 surplus males who cannot have a local wife, cannot father a legitimate child, have no skin in the game.
Increase the size of the society as much as you wish, the mathholds. Make polygyny the law for all 7 billion humans and the math still obtains only now there is no place not local for the unspoused to go and pillage a spouse or three.
It's not statistics it's just the logical implications and conclusion that one draws from the mathematics of polygamy.
Colonel if the numbers do not suit because they are appended to humans; the same calculations hold true for wildebeest, kudus, sheep, cattle, lions, wolves, walrus, seals, etc. The only difference is that these animals have one successful herd bull for all the females.

scott s.

Anglicanism adopted 39 articles of Religion, specifically XXV "Of the Sacraments" declares matrimony do be non-sacramental, rather a state of life which "have not the like nature of Sacraments". This view was adopted by Methodism verbatim as Article XVI of the (now) United Methodist Articles of Religion.



Humans are not wildebeast. "Mathmatical calculation?" That sounds as though your mind has been destroyed by too much schooling. My wife says that the real effect is that fewer social derelicts will reproduce. pl


There is a great deal of coercive pressure towards conformity in any social group. In this case I think the perceived joys of a promiscuous lifestyle fed into this conduct. Something similar is an unexpected byproduct of the sexual and feminist 'revolution' of the sixties. Just look at a college campus today. They succeeding very will in teaching an young adults how to have a nurturing emotional relationship with a life partner. "More is better" seems to be the thing. Just like too many calories makes on fat, too much of transient relationships makes one hollow.

If you oppose gay marriage you are not conforming, of course you must be a bigot. Especially in that liberal town just east of me.


Just wondering --

Did you ever wish you yourself came from the kind of society?

How about the fundamentalist Mormons?


Is it possible for a society in which polygamy is common not to be grossly unequal in many ways?

Are not the men with multiple wives "winners" who dominate that society, even far more than they would have been had they merely been financially wealthy or popular with women or the father of many children or naturally talented or gifted in any way?

It seems to me that men with multiple wives in a place in which polygamy is common exercise enormous power and control, far more so than they would otherwise.

They all seem to be little kings, at the expense of everybody around them.


Gay marriage, whatever anybody thinks of it, does provide the opportunity for a group of marginalized people -- marginalized by both custom and law -- to do what the rest of us who are not gay do.

I do not see the same parallel experience with polygamy.

We have had a lot of change in our social and sexual customs in my lifetime. Each change has made some people think that because X change, then A, B, C, and D will have to change too.

A lot of times that's not true -- or it will be only A that changes.

I do not think polygamy will become popular. If we agree to pay for it as taxpayers, we're nuts.

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