Legalising poly marriages – why not?

No, honestly, why not? I know why yes, that question is boring, I don’t need anyone convincing me that it’s possible and probably very rewarding to love and be in relationship with more than one person, or that having legal protections for such relationships would be nice.

But I’m curious what would the challenges of such a possibility be.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be socially popular, some people would definitely give you strange looks if you decided to petition for opening marriages to more than two spouses. And churches will definitely give you a hard time, calling you a perverted libertine and whatever other slurs they can come up with.

They have been doing it when it comes to marriage equality for the LGBTQ people, but history shows us that the fight is worth it and bigotry loses at the end.

So let’s assume we live in the world where people can agree that the government isn’t there to police anyone’s morality if it doesn’t hurt other people. What would the actual challenges be?

I looked it up on Kialo to see what ideas people had.

It’s simply not needed

People can already date as many people as they like. There is no need for a legal acknowledgment in form of marriage.

The government has no compelling interest to sanction or incentivize any type of marriage, including polygamy.

I’d agree with those claims, if they referred to abolishing the institution of marriage completely. If, however, marriage still exists and claims like these one are used to restrict only some kind of marriages from being allowed – that’s not a logically sound argument, that’s just concealed discrimination.

As long as we live in a society where relationships are being validated by the government and guarantee some legal protections, this institution is exactly as needed by the monogamous couples, as it is by polygamous groups.

What about human rights?

Polygamy violates human rights.

How exactly does it? How does an egalitarian, consensual polyamorous marriage violate human rights? I’d argue the opposite, actually: it gives you an option of legal protections for your relationship regardless of its “shape”. That extends your rights, doesn’t it?

I know, I know, polygamy is usually associated with women in Arabic countries held in harems against their will and being abused by their husbands. But is polygamy really the problem here? Not patriarchy? Not misogyny? Not religion?

Usum non tollit abusus: The misuse does not negate the use.

Health risks?

Polygamy comes along with health risks.

I’m pretty sure this person is confusing having sex with multiple partners with getting married to multiple partners.

Marriage is a social and legal contract. No, it does not pose any health risks by itself.

Legal issues could get complicated

Conferring and navigating the legal rights conferred by polygamy to multiple partners vis-a-vis themselves would be unworkable.

During medical emergencies swift decision making is often necessary. So, a legal stalemate could be harmful to an injured spouse.

At first that felt scary. I imagined I’m unconscious in a hospital bed and one of my spouses thinks I should be treated with X, but the other is sure that it should be Y. Precious time is running out as they can’t reach a consensus... Will I die because of having too many spouses?

And then I remembered: plenty of people have two parents, right? As children, unmarried, it’s their parents’ right to decide about their treatment: what if they disagree?

I honestly don’t know, the rules are probably vastly different depending on a country, but I’m guessing... They both probably live together, share the same values, etc., so that wouldn’t happen often. If it does, they both love the child, want their best and will therefore be willing to reach a compromise regardless of their own differences. Maybe there’s some default by law, maybe someone’s word takes precedence because of reasons. And, if time is not too short, one can definitely ask the court to arbitrate.

The point is: if we manage to solve that problem in case of two disagreeing parents, why not two spouses?

I didn’t see anyone mention is specifically, but the whole “it would get complicated” has to also include the property law: how does it work if three people are married to each other? what if one person is married independently to two separate people? what if they get a divorce, who gets the house?

I totally agree, that’s damn complicated. But you know what else is complicated? The current property law. Even between two spouses, the possible types of agreements between them and all the problems they might encounter, seem endless for me.

We already have plenty of situations, unrelated to any type of romantic relationships, where something is collectively owned by more than two people: firms, cooperatives, joint-stock companies, ...

Programming is damn complicated, but I do it every day. We have lawmakers and lawyers to navigate us through complicated legal issues. We can do it.

Just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

Summing up

Yeah, it would probably get a bit complicated. Why is it a reason not to do it though?

A photo of me

About the author

Hi! I'm Andrea (they/them). I tell computers what to do, both for a living and for fun, I'm also into blogging, writing and photography. I'm trying to make the world just a little bit better: more inclusive, more rational and more just.

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