Letting Marriage Evolve without Imposing on Traditionalists


A lesbian couple have filed suit to challenge the definition of marriage in Puerto Rico. Ada Conde and her partner, Ivonne Alvarez, have been together for 14 years and were married in Massachusetts in August of 2004. She is suing the health secretary who, according to published reports, oversees the demographic registry as well as the registrar of vital records.

At present, the District of Columbia and 17 states allow same-sex marriage.

Opponents of gay marriage have long suspected that the judicial system will be a major weapon for gay rights supporters in their fight to overturn traditional marriage law and restrictions. Further, social conservatives have long argued that opening the door for gay marriage will also open the door for other forms of marriage, like polygamy and group marriage. More on that in a moment.

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Regardless of where one stands on the issue of gay marriage, a fundamental question is being left out of the debate. That question is: do consenting adults have the right to choose with whom they spend their lives?

Any answer other than “yes” is a criminal contradiction of the idea of liberty within a democratic republic. Republicans and Democrats generally agree on this concept in theory, but in practice is where the problem lies.

Christian conservatives have long stood against any marriage outside of the traditional man-woman concept. Curiously, while researching this article, I found that many feminists support polygamous marriage. I previously assumed that, given the history of the more negative side of polygamy — as with the FLDS Church — the feminists and progressives would rail against polygamy as patriarchal. Yet, that is not the case, according to Jessica Mack, a contributor for MS Magazine.

The New York Times and other publications, however, have come out strongly against the practice.

Meanwhile, the TLC programs Sister Wives and My Five Wives have provided a look inside the world of polygamy today, and it appears vastly different than the story told after the raids on the FLDS compound in Texas. These programs show the complicated dynamic of the day to day lives of these two families, and, for the most part, they appear just … well … normal. Except, of course, for the whole multiple wives thing.

Sister Wives: a popular reality show depicting a polygamist family. Source: TLC.

It appears that Christian conservatives or other traditionalists are correct in saying that gay marriage will lead to other forms of marriage. However, I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing. If we agree that adults get to make adult decisions, shouldn’t that include whom and how many people we marry?

This is not to say that traditionalists do not have a right to oppose the idea on religious grounds. Christians should not be punished for refusing to do business with gay couples or pay for contraception they do not support. These are individual choices as well.

Where we go wrong as a society is when we try to use government to force segregation, like the infamous Jim Crow laws, or when we charge bakers with discrimination because they refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

Liberty is hard. Our rights should never interfere with the rights of others to disagree or to not participate, and government should never be used as a tool to force our opinions or beliefs on others.

My prediction is that Ada Conde and her spouse will win their case, and that polygamy, polyandry and group marriage will be legalized over time. Perhaps if we could get past these emotional discussions about who gets to marry whom, we could get on to more important issues like our US$17 trillion national debt.

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