Multiple Marriage and the Texas Polygamy Case: The Blowfish Blog

I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog, about the Texas polygamy case. At first I didn’t think I was going to write about it, since I didn’t think I had anything original to say about it. (Pretty much what I had to say about it was, “Oh, my god, that is so awful.”) But then someone asked me what I thought of the question of legalizing multiple marriage — in general, as well as in light of the polygamy cults — and I decided to write this piece. It’s called, somewhat unimaginatively, Multiple Marriage and the Texas Polygamy Case, and here’s the teaser:

One of the main objections to legalizing multiple marriage is that, in the world as it is today, multiple marriages tend to be abusive. Groovy polyamorous triads aren’t the norm, the argument goes. The norm for multiple marriage, in this country and around the world, is coercive and abusive religious cults that effectively imprison women and children. And if we don’t have laws against multiple marriage, these abusive cults will be legitimized, and there will no protection for their victims.

I’m not sure whether that’s true or not. I don’t know if anyone has ever done a good, careful study on the frequency of multiple relationships, either in this country or around the world, to see if the coerced cult variety really does outnumber the consensual free-adult variety. If there has been such a study, I haven’t seen it.

But here’s the point I want to make.

When the Texas polygamy compound got raided and arrests were made, nobody was charged with bigamy.

The charges so far have all been related to child abuse. And the case seems to be largely in the hands of Child Protective Services.

So how does the illegality of multiple marriage help the victims of these situations?

To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Multiple Marriage and the Texas Polygamy Case: The Blowfish Blog
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5 thoughts on “Multiple Marriage and the Texas Polygamy Case: The Blowfish Blog

  1. 1

    Now, I haven’t looked this up but, I have heard from a reputable source that LEGALIZING plural marriages might just put an end to the practice
    Because –
    Since these unions are not legally recognized, each “wife” can apply for public assistance as a single female w/ child or children. This brings in quite a bit of $$$ to the “compound”. If one male has 5 wives and each wife has 5 chidren and applies for assistance… do the math.
    If these unions WERE legal, the MALE “head of household” would be forced to provide financially for his wife/wives and children. No more assistance from the government (well, actually the taxpayers).
    Now, do you think this just MIGHT give them cause to convert to another CULT………I mean religion?

  2. 2

    Penn & Teller did an episode on this, managing to find some people with fairly complicated relationships, none of which where horrible abusers, etc. The problem is, if the only people “allowed” to do something are the religious nuts, then all you get are religious nuts doing it visibly. The ones doing it invisibly are a) not recognized as doing so, and b) trying damn hard to make sure no one finds out. Its all bloody stupid.

  3. 3

    Child abuse is just what the focus should be on. No one really gives a shit whether people are legally married or not, outside of the homophobic pro-female slavery crowd, and in this case they can’t say anything since they are the ones committing the crimes.
    If the marriages were recognized by the state, the children would be considered family members, so the child slaves who do all that construction work for no pay, would not be in violation of the child labor laws. Although that’s just one more thing nobody seems to call them on.

  4. Nan

    Both Utah and Arizona have gone after polygamists on welfare fraud charges in the past, although I haven’t seen any news stories recently. For years it was ADC (now known as TANF) that made some of the polygamous arrangements possible. It’s really easy to support multiple wives and several dozen children when your fellow taxpayers are subsidizing your harem.

  5. 5

    I recently had a discussion on this subject over on the Skepchick blog, and it amazed me to see otherwise rational, intelligent, and well-educated people condemning polygamous relationships because of FLDS and the like. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to wrap their brains around the idea that my love for one person in no way reduces or limits my love for another. Moreover, if the issue is forced marriage, why do we need laws against polygamy, which is harmless? There are already laws against forced marriage, aren’t there? Yes, it would be a bit of a legal headache, I’m sure, but I can’t imagine it being a bigger headache than trying to explain to a hospital that you are qualified to make judgment calls regarding the treatment of someone else’s wife or child. Every problem that a homosexual couple faces without the legal right to marriage, a poly relationship faces as well, with the added complication that there’s often a record of the people in question being married to other people.

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