Civil Unions and Multiple Wives

In the wake of the post Chris put up, which gathered a fair bit of attention, I felt that it might be a good time to re-post this, which I posted at my personal blog back in 2005.


Jackie Passey posted yesterday about a topic I feel is pretty much unassailable, Civil Unions for Everybody. The idea, which I fully agree with, is that marriage is a religious concept, that happens to bear the same name as a legal concept. Most of the uproar over the gay marriage issue is based upon the contention that it will somehow damage the “sanctity of marriage”. This claim underscores the fact that church and state have become much more intertwined on the issue of marriage than is needed. We would be much better off if the government never broached the subject of marriage, and instead gave any consenting adults who wanted one a “civil union”.

Of course, that leads to the slippery slope argument. Many have claimed that if we allowed same-sex marriage, we would then have no moral argument against polygamy. In fact, in Utah, the legal abolition of polygamy has just been challenged in the courts, but remained illegal.

To them I say, what of it? A civil union, which the state calls “marriage”, is just a legal agreement on ways to divide property, provide “group” legal benefits based upon a mutual contract, and help to handle things such as next-of-kin issues. Who’s to say that this needs to be limited to two people? After all, how is it that much different from a legal partnership in a business? It is multiple people contractually binding themselves to one another for the perceived benefits of the arrangement. As long as all members bound by the agreement are consenting adults, I fail to see the problem.

I’ve said that people who scream about the “sanctity of marriage” don’t understand that the best way to preserve it is for the government to butt out of the deal. Marriage has become a legal arrangement, and as such, the government cannot discriminate as to who is acceptable to meet that legal arrangement. Marriage and religion will both be better served by extricating them from the government. If we then still allow the government to endorse and protect civil unions for anybody who wants one, all parties are better off.