Polygamy: The Next Sexual Revolution?

Jul 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

Nearly two weeks ago, my wife and I were watching ABC evening news and an ABC investigative reporter was summarizing a piece on Michele Bachmann?s husband, who runs a Christian counseling center in Minnesota.  One of the goals of his center is to help counsel homosexuals who desire to change their lifestyle.  The report was cynical and filled with innuendo and criticism from other professional counselors.  The Christian counseling perspective was not fairly presented.  Instead, the clear impression was that Bachman?s husband was narrow-minded and his center was doing more harm than good.  The rights and liberties of homosexuality were defended and the clear impression was that the gay lifestyle choice is ethically identical to the heterosexual choice.  There is no difference!  Immediately following that report, Diane Sawyer reported on a Utah polygamist named Kody Brown, who has four wives, Robyn, Christine, Meri and Janelle.  From this polygamist ?marriage? has come 16 children.  [This family is also the focus of as reality TV show called ?Sister Wives.?]  As Brown was interviewed, along with his four wives, he summarized his position legally as ?I have a right to do this.  We are not harming anyone.  The state has no authority over my personal choices.  We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. . .?  As Peggy and I watched this report, I said to my wife, ?Brown is using the identical argument that gays and lesbians have been using over the last few decades, framing sexual lifestyle choices around the precious terms so dear to America?rights, liberties and no harm done to others.?  Let?s think about this remarkable development.

  • First some background to the Brown polygamous relationship.  The state of Utah is investigating Brown for the violation of its state law prohibiting polygamy.  In contrast, the Browns are expected to file a lawsuit that challenges the Utah law that makes polygamy illegal.  John Schwartz of the New York Times reports that ?the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the ?intimate conduct? of consenting adults.  It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own ?intimate conduct? so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.?  Brown, in a rather typical Mormon polygamist relationship, has only one civil marriage; the rest are ?sister wives,? not formally wedded.  The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy in 1890 so that Utah could become a state.  The Browns contend that making polygamous unions illegal violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment.  When the Lawrence case was handed down, Justice Antonin Scalia noted, rather prophetically, that eventually legitimizing same-sex marriage would lead to legitimizing polygamous unions as well.  He argued that there was a threat to ?[state laws] based on moral choices against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution . . ., adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity.?
  • Second, the logic of the Brown case based on the 2003 Lawrence decision makes legal sense.  On what basis will society declare that polygamous arrangements are any different than same-sex ones?  If there is no personal harm and if there is consent, how can the courts legally deny polygamy?  Framing the matter of polygamy around rights, personal liberty, autonomy and consent is brilliant for it makes the strong case that individual freedom is the basis for polygamous choice and the state has no basis for denying that individual freedom.  If society no longer has an ethical basis for human sexuality, then how can society deny bigamy or polygamy?  As our culture now looks at human sexuality, it still has reservations about incest and pedophilia but there are really few other reservations culturally.  So, what was once unthinkable, becomes debatable and gradually acceptable.  We saw this dialectic at work with same-sex arrangements and now marriage.  We will see it at work with polygamy as well.  We are witnessing what occurs to a civilization that no longer has any moral or ethical foundation.  Lawrence v. Texas legitimized personal autonomy in terms of sexual choice into law.  It is logically now being used to challenge anti-polygamy laws.  God is merely ?giving us over? to our depravity and our debased minds as a civilization.  This is a very sad day for our nation.  We have fallen ethically and morally!  May God have mercy on us!

See John Schwartz in the New York Times (12 July 2011). PRINT PDF

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2 Comments to “Polygamy: The Next Sexual Revolution?”

  1. carolyn says:

    for the record i think that incest and pedophilia are disgusting. however i do not think that saying that the government should not regulate the sexual actions of consenting adults who desire to be polygamist is against the founders vision. as far as marriage goes what would you say if i told you that i think that blacks marrying whites should be illegal. i think i do not want to live in a society where that occurs. should the constitution support that? what we are debating here is whether rights should be protected. an just because one segment of society lobbies for it’s morals to be supported in law over another one does being the majority give them the right to enforce it? or was the constitution framed to allow all the freedoms to be expressed without fear? for years the catholics imprisoned the protestants and vice versa(depending on who was in power). i think we should have been praying for this country the moment the first white person married the first black person.

  2. […] Eckman, J. (2011). Polygamy: The Next Sexual Revolution. Issues in Perspective with Dr. Jim Eckman. Retrieved from http://issuesinperspective.com/2011/07/11-07-23-2/ […]