Bench Memos

A Candid Case for Polygamy

On Slate, Jillian Keenan argues, “We need to legalize polygamy, too”:

Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.…

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us.

From those who make arguments in favor of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, I’ve never heard a convincing explanation why those arguments wouldn’t also compel recognition of a constitutional right to polyamory. (See, for example, Ted Olson’s feeble answer to Justice Sotomayor’s question at oral argument.) Yes, of course, there would be some administrative complications in, say, prorating spousal benefits. But for those who regard polyamory as essential to their happiness, those minor complications could hardly justify denying what the Prop 8 plaintiffs vaporously describe as “a right … that is central for all individuals’ liberty, privacy, spirituality, personal autonomy, sexuality, and dignity; a matter fundamental to one’s place in society; and an expression of love, emotional support, public commitment, and social status” (emphasis in original).

The only minor flaw that I see in the “slippery slope” argument is that polyamory may well be upslope of same-sex marriage. By contrast to the novelty of same-sex marriage, polyamory—or at least its polygamous version (one husband, more than one wife)—has a long history. Within the broader tradition of marriage, insisting on the difference between two and three (or two and seven) is surely more arbitrary than recognizing the difference between a male-female union and a same-sex union.

Most Popular

Media

‘Anonymous’ Falls Flat

On the menu today: The op-ed page of the New York Times made the deliberate decision to hoodwink America about the identity of “Anonymous”; the sense of guilt that pervades legacy media -- a very apt label; and wondering whether or not we will even see long lines on Election Day with early voting being so ... Read More
Media

‘Anonymous’ Falls Flat

On the menu today: The op-ed page of the New York Times made the deliberate decision to hoodwink America about the identity of “Anonymous”; the sense of guilt that pervades legacy media -- a very apt label; and wondering whether or not we will even see long lines on Election Day with early voting being so ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More
Economy & Business

Daylight Savings Forever

Before I became a parent, I didn't have especially strong feelings about the time shifting by an hour twice a year. Like most people I was aware of the downsides -- increased car accidents, schedule confusion, etc. -- and I figured it would be better to knock it off. But I didn't feel personally offended by ... Read More
Economy & Business

Daylight Savings Forever

Before I became a parent, I didn't have especially strong feelings about the time shifting by an hour twice a year. Like most people I was aware of the downsides -- increased car accidents, schedule confusion, etc. -- and I figured it would be better to knock it off. But I didn't feel personally offended by ... Read More

Hunter Biden on Tape?

In a newly released recording, a man purported to be Hunter Biden is heard rambling about (a) his legal representation of Patrick Ho, a convicted former Hong Kong official he refers to as “the f***ing spy chief of China”; (b) his business dealings with Ye Jianming, the corrupt Chinese high roller, whom Hunter ... Read More

Hunter Biden on Tape?

In a newly released recording, a man purported to be Hunter Biden is heard rambling about (a) his legal representation of Patrick Ho, a convicted former Hong Kong official he refers to as “the f***ing spy chief of China”; (b) his business dealings with Ye Jianming, the corrupt Chinese high roller, whom Hunter ... Read More