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Polygamy: A line in the sand
Theodore Dalrymple often writes of the duty of intellectuals to "draw bright lines" around civilization in order to define and protect it. One of those lines must certainly be drawn around monogamy. Monogamous marriage is the basic institution of our society through which all our civilizational values are transmitted from generation to generation. Considering that monogamous marriage is a very ancient institution, I question the wisdom of any attempt to tamper with it.
Stanley Kurtz, one of the few journalists following this issue in depth, writes in NRO this morning about the current course of affairs with our northern neighbor:
The Slope Slips
(...) Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler famously said, “We don’t see any connection, I repeat, any connection between the issue of polygamy and the issue of same-sex marriage.” Calling such slippery-slope fears “alarmist,” Cotler authorized the four just-released polygamy studies, in part to put an end to the claim that polygamy would follow same-sex marriage.
Apparently Martha Bailey missed the memo. Not only does Bailey call for decriminalizing polygamy, she directly links her legal argument on polygamy to same-sex marriage. This happens when Bailey confronts the barrier that adultery law poses to her plan to decriminalize polygamy. Although adultery is not a criminal offense in Canada, it serves as a way of proving the key ground of divorce, “marital breakdown.” So if Canadian law recognizes adultery as a cause of marital breakdown, how can Canada accept polygamy? Easy, says Bailey. Why not just redefine adultery to mean, not sex with a third party, but sex with someone outside of a marriage of however many partners? To validate this reinterpretation of the meaning of adultery, Bailey points to the precedent of same-sex marriage, which forced a legal redefinition of adultery away from an opposite-sex dalliance. Hey, if we can redefine adultery for the sake of same-sex couples, why not redefine it to please polygamists?
It’s like this. The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence. If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage. Legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless. At that point, Canada can move to what Bailey and her friends really want: an infinitely flexible relationship system that validates any conceivable family arrangement, regardless of the number or gender of partners...