The justices, Gohmert said, decided improperly that modern marriage between same-sex couples is a new development that requires equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.
And that decision, he argued, will pave the way for multiple-partner marriages.
“Once you move marriage beyond the scope of a man and a woman, you really don’t end up with a good place to put a limit,” said Gohmert, who also argued that such practices were a mile-marker on a nation’s way to the “dustbin of history.”
“I think polygamy is wrong, bigamy is wrong, and it’s a crime in many places — but how will that be justifiable now that the court has removed this?” Gohmert said. “There’s some [who] believe polygamy is a way to go.”
In the amicus brief, Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia, and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general or Indiana, used a novel justification to make their point in one section of the 55-page brief — namely that gay marriage could lead to polygamy.
“Responsible parenting is not a justification for same-sex-couple marriage, as distinguished from recognition of any other human relationships. It is instead a rationale for eliminating marriage as government recognition of a limited set of relationships. Once the natural limits that inhere in the relationship between a man and a woman can no longer sustain the definition of marriage, the conclusion that follows is that any grouping of adults would have an equal claim to marriage. See, e.g. , Jonathan Turley, One Big, Happy Polygamous Family , NY Times, July 21, 2011, at A27 (“[Polygamists] want to be allowed to create a loving family according to the values of their faith.”).”…
“Because any interest in same-sex couples bears no link to any characteristic innately limited to them, it contains no limiting principle for excluding other groupings of individuals,” the brief states.
Anita Wagner Illig, a longtime polyamory community spokesperson who operates the group Practical Polyamory, is unsure of the direct impact of a ruling that would legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.
Until recently, she noted, “the polyamory community has expressed little desire for legal marriage,” but now more options seem possible in the future. “We polyamorists are grateful to our [LGBT] brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail,” Illig said…
But Illig concedes, “there will be quite a lot of retooling of the legal system necessary to establish marriage equality for marriages of more than two people. A marriage of two people of the same sex requires a lot less in terms of adapting today’s systems, such as Social Security, for example, to accommodate it.”
Anne Wilde, a vocal advocate for polygamist rights who practiced the lifestyle herself until her husband died in 2003, praised the court’s decision as a sign that society’s stringent attachment to traditional “family values” is evolving.
“I was very glad… The nuclear family, with a dad and a mom and two or three kids, is not the majority anymore,” said Wilde. “Now it’s grandparents taking care of kids, single parents, gay parents. I think people are more and more understanding that as consenting adults, we should be able to raise a family however we choose.”
“We’re very happy with it,” said Joe Darger, a Utah-based polygamist who has three wives. “I think [the court] has taken a step in correcting some inequality, and that’s certainly something that’s going to trickle down and impact us.”…
The key difference in their missions, Wilde said, is that “gays want legal marriage and polygamists don’t” — they just want their lifestyle to be decriminalized.
David Cohen, a professor at Drexel University who specializes in family law, says that the lack of mainstream acceptance for polygamy does not bode well for its legalization.
“There is no political movement in this country that is anywhere near making the same gains for polygamy that have been made for gay marriage,” he says.
Judith Areen, law professor at Georgetown University, says that the outcomes of these two cases are more telling of state’s rights than the potential for polygamy. Thus, only state-wide support for the practice would bring about this change.
“If you’re in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage, that state will not recognize the Windsor ruling,” she says. “These cases suggest that states have the authority. So while states are divided on gay marriage, they are uniform on polygamy.
In fact, you could argue that there is an even better argument for polygamy than for same sex marriage. For one thing, there’s a long tradition (just look at the heroes of the Old Testament.) It’s also intimately tied to religious practice, which means that by prohibiting polygamy, we might also be undermining the “free exercise thereof.”
Why should we impose our values on others?
Now, you might say that there is historical evidence to support the fact that polygamy is bad for women and children. This is sophistry. The truth is that right now about half of all marriages end in divorce, and lots of kids are already struggling, so it’s not like traditional marriage is a panacea. Besides, nobody is forcing you to be a polygamist. This is a choice.
There are practical reasons, too. It’s harder and harder these days to make ends meet. As a man, I can only imagine how much more efficient it would be to have one wife in the workforce and another wife at home with the kids. This would be much better for the children than shipping them off to some nursery school. And having three parents is a lot better than having just one … or none.
As a former tour-guide at Mormon historic sites, I have encountered more than one fundamentalist Mormon family in which the strutting husband seems to regard his flock of servile wives like glorified property. We’re not wrong to want to discourage this. Moreover, those remote compounds in which exile fundamentalist communities brainwash their girls and discard their surplus boys are intolerable horrors. But this is all the more reason to bring polygamy out from the margins of our society. As with sex work, the horrors here have little to do with anything inherent in the practice and almost everything to do with the fact that we’ve made it illegal and dishonourable.
Same-sex-marriage activists have wisely sought to separate themselves from advocates of even more exotic marital arrangements. However, as Mr Lewis suggests, the idea that marriage is an inherently heterosexual institution is less plausible than the idea that it is inherently exclusive to couples. If a man can love a man, a woman can love a woman and a man. And if they all love each other… well, what’s the problem? Refraining from criminalising families based on such unusual patterns of sentiment is less than the least we can do. If the state lacks a legitimate rationale for imposing on Americans a heterosexual definition of marriage, it seems pretty likely that it likewise lacks a legitimate rationale for imposing on Americans a monogamous definition of marriage. Conservatives have worried that same-sex marriage would somehow entail the ruination of the family as the foundation of society, but we have seen only the flowering of family values among same-sex households, the domestication of the gays. Whatever our fears about polyamorous marriage, I suspect we’ll find them similarly ill-founded. For one thing, what could be more family-friendly than four moms and six dads?