Once “romantic love”, instead of child rearing, became the sine qua non for marriage in the United States, no one should be surprised that the legitimization of same-sex marriage ushered in a slippery slope, predicted by many including Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, that legitimizes polygamy.
DeVine Law concluded that the “slope done slipped” with the legalization of marriages not constituted of just one man and just one woman. But the mantra of gays and lesbians has been that they should be able to “marry who they want” just like heterosexuals, especially since many such couples also can’t and don’t produce children; and of course, we were assured, this would not lead to the legalization of polygamy.
Not so fast says a federal judge in Utah:
Fueling debates over marriage and religious freedom, a federal judge declared on Dec. 13 Utah laws criminalizing polygamy are unconstitutional, ruling on a case involving the Brown family from TLC’s reality series “Sister Wives.”
U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups’ ruling attacked sections of Utah’s laws against cohabitation, saying in his decision that the phrase “or cohabits with another person” is a violation of both the First and 14th amendments.
In his decision, Waddoups, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, writes that while there is no “fundamental right” to practice polygamy, the issue really comes down to “religious cohabitation.”
The judge’s ruling does not say that Utah has to recognize multiple marriages, said Brad Greenberg, a research scholar at Columbia Law School. The Supreme Court has repeatedly indicated that determining who can marry is almost exclusively the province of the states, he said.
“A ban on polygamous marriage does little to deter those who want to enter into multiple marriages, some illegally, and then live together,” Greenberg said. “So Utah’s criminal ban on cohabitation sought to address these practices with a broader ban. That is what Judge Waddoups ruled was unconstitutional, because it criminalizes conduct outside Utah’s ability to define marriage, and in doing so encroaches on First Amendment protections.”
Judge Waddoups’ decision only rules that the state’s criminalization of polygamy, and not the refusal of Utah to recognize such marriages for purposes of affirmative law, is unconstitutional. His ruling reminds of the Supreme Court’s in Lawrence v Texas which struck down criminal laws against sodomy in 2003. But the divorce of marriage from its traditional child rearing purpose, so that society at large is not primarily financially responsible for the needs of the children of others, leads inevitably to the logical result of which this case portends.
In Europe, whose welfare states long ago essentially began treating children as wards of the government, marriage rates are very low. The United States may be headed toward a future distorted differently, with any combination of persons (and who can even rule out non-persons such as pets given the elevation of who one “loves” and the “right” to marry) being “married”.
It seems to us obvious that polygamy does a relative disservice to, and is decidedly not in the best interests of, children produced in such arrangements, as opposed to children that can look to one mother and one father, in most circumstances, for their welfare.