Rose McDermott—Polygamy: More Common Than You Think

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Polygamy—or more specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to more than one woman—has been widespread in human history. And it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Muslim enclaves—including in Paris, London and New York.

A 2006 report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights reported that approximately 180,000 people were living in polygamous households in France. For decades, France allowed entrance to polygamous immigrants from about 50 countries where the practice was legal. When the French government banned polygamy in 1993, it tried to support the decohabitation of such couples if a wife wanted to move into her own apartment with her children.

In Britain, where immigration laws have banned the practice for longer, there appear to be about a thousand valid polygamous marriages, mostly among immigrants who married elsewhere, such as in Pakistan. Such families are allowed to collect social security benefits for each wife, although the government has apparently not counted how many are doing so.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted April 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

Sounds to me that its time has come.  No way to prevent it now.

April 1, 1:46 pm | [comment link]
2. deaconmark wrote:

One day Chicken Little was scratching in the garden when something fell on her head.
“Oh,” cried Chicken Little, “the sky is falling. I must go tell the king.”
So Chicken Little ran and ran, and she met Henny Penny.
“Where do you travel so fast, Chicken Little?” asked Henny Penny.
“Ah, Henny Penny,” said Chicken Little, “the sky is falling, and I must go and tell the king.”
“How do you know that the sky is falling, Chicken Little?” asked Henny Penny.
“I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and a bit of it fell on my head,” said Chicken Little.

April 1, 2:00 pm | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

Why surly you are not opposed to loving committed multiple partner living arrangements?  Or do you mean that it’s no big deal when it happens?

April 1, 2:20 pm | [comment link]
4. carl wrote:

3. Br. Michael

A polygamous marriage where the husband has sex with each wife sequentially is inherently patriarchal, and damaging to women.  It serves to perpetuate male dominance and oppress women.  Only those women who possess a false consciousness would ever support such an anti-feminist arrangement.  However, a coupling of multiple individuals each of whom are free to have sex in any combination is a mutual and equal arrangement.  It’s totally different.  Don’t you see?


April 1, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
5. advocate wrote:

I direct you to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s Outline of Theological Principles.  This document suggests that we bless of “covenantal relationships, including same-gender unions.”  Doesn’t it make you wonder what else might be “included”?

April 1, 3:09 pm | [comment link]
6. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Legally, there’s no rational basis to differentiate between gay marriage and polygamy.  If you legalize one, it will only be a matter of time before you must legalize the other as well.  That’s the real elephant in the room everyone has ignored from the beginning in the whole marriage debate.

April 1, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
7. Ian+ wrote:

I believe the case in the British Columbia courts right now is to be based on the argument given by Jim the Puritan above. Until now most people have said you can’t logically make that case. But we’ll find out this year in Canada.

April 1, 3:44 pm | [comment link]
8. Teatime2 wrote:

I dunno. I’ve seen a couple of news magazines that featured polygamists and the women seemed happy. One group made some good points—it included a career woman and stay-at-home mums. The mums were happy to stay home with all of the children, the women liked and trusted each other very much, and the career woman could work knowing that her child was secure and well cared for at home. I guess it’s like having built-in BFFs.

I think the men have the worst end of it, lol. I’ll bet the women put up a united front against him rather often, hahahaha. Hey, if having a couple of wives keeps the men from being out tom-catting like so many married men do, then it’s beneficial.

April 1, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
9. Larry Morse wrote:

I trust Carl was being sarcastic?
  Jim’s argument is wholly sound, as we all know, and homosexuals and ssm will shortly have to face the problem - provided that the concept of polyamory has not already institutionalized itself sub rosa.
It may have, you know, for the liberal culture has made it mandatory to destroy preexisting standards.
  Polyamory’s central problem is that is has no rules that we can recognize. Accordingly, five men can marry ten women or the other way around, and such arrangements will make, say, social security or medicare (or child support)impossible to implement. Clearly the Constitution was not designed to handle a question of this sort.
To apply it will make a mockery of the document’s scope and design.
It will also make the word and the concept of “marriage” impossible to define in any meaningful way.
    A polyamorist “marriage” could be additive,e.g. with members drifting in and out of the “union.” Inclusivity has always had this inherent weakness, that it destroys standards of necessity, for all standards require exclusivity for the standard to be known at all. So plastic, so fluid, a social arrangement would make a social contract of any sort impossible. But it is surely the narcissist’s dream of utopia.
  What test In Canada is being referred to here?  Larry

April 1, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
10. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I think we’ve lost the battle in the secular world, but that is why in the Church we need to make it clear what marriage means to Christians.  I actually think churches need to get out of the secular marriage business; once gay marriage is adopted churches should no longer be in the position of cooperating with or giving civil marriages validity by participating as “agent” of the state.

We should have our own ceremonies in church as a commitment and covenant before God and that’s it.  If folks want to also have a civil marriage they can do that, but the church marriage is the one that counts for us.

April 1, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
11. Br. Michael wrote:

I think Carl was having a bit of fun.

April 1, 6:53 pm | [comment link]
12. Fr. J. wrote:

Polygamy, up for a vote at a General Convention near you!

April 1, 7:19 pm | [comment link]
13. Larry Morse wrote:

Dead right Jim. I have been arguing that for years. Once again the rule should be that the state can grant civil benefits but not marriage, and the church can sanctify marriage but not grant civil benefits.
    And Jim I am by no means sure that the Supreme Court will grant civil marriage since civil partnerships already exist and because declaring ssm constitutional will be opening the doors to polyamory which I doubt this court will tolerate. This is too flagrant an imposition on long standing cultural norms. The Warren court might, but not this one. For me, the sooner the court faces this question, the better, because Obama will pack this court with the left if he gets a chance.  Larry

April 1, 11:10 pm | [comment link]
14. Teatime2 wrote:

Jim, I absolutely agree with your post 10. That’s something I’ve argued for a while.

If the two concepts of civil marriage and religious marriage aren’t considered differently, then they should be. Clergy doubling as agents of the civil authority in this matter was a huge mistake.

April 1, 11:13 pm | [comment link]
15. Br. Michael wrote:

I too agree with 10.

April 2, 7:54 am | [comment link]
16. carl wrote:

10. Jim the Puritan

We should have our own ceremonies in church as a commitment and covenant before God and that’s it.  If folks want to also have a civil marriage they can do that, but the church marriage is the one that counts for us.

Churches can already perform their own marriage ceremonies.  The FLDS routinely solemnizes marriages to second, third, fourth wives.  These marriages have no legal validity in the eyes of the state.  (That’s how they avoid charges of polygamy and still get welfare benefits for children.  The woman are technically single mothers.)  What matters then is not the church ceremony or the church understanding but the legal structure that is enforceable in law.  A couple married only by the church in accordance with this arrangement would not be married in the eyes of the law.  The woman would have no legal recourse to any violation of the marriage covenant.  She would have no legal protection, and could be discarded at will. 


April 2, 9:47 am | [comment link]
17. Churchman wrote:

I was surprised that this CNN article by an Episcopal priest didn’t receive more commentary when it was published:
My take: Why this female priest loves ‘Sister Wives’

April 2, 2:29 pm | [comment link]
18. Teatime2 wrote:

A couple married only by the church in accordance with this arrangement would not be married in the eyes of the law.  The woman would have no legal recourse to any violation of the marriage covenant.  She would have no legal protection, and could be discarded at will.—Carl

Carl, you see this as a negative, it seems. I see it as a positive. First off, women don’t need special “protecting” and they’re already “discarded at will” (so are men) when the dreamy romance fades or things get tough. The difference is that all involved would have to wear their big boy/girl pants and resolve the issues themselves instead of tying up the courts and making lawyers rich over it.

It’s all about responsibility. I actually know women who have done quite well for themselves marrying and divorcing several times and collecting divorce settlements. Don’t you think that if there wasn’t the promise of the courts intervening if things didn’t work out that people would think a whole lot more seriously about entering into a legal marriage?  I don’t blame men one bit for being very leery of marriage, knowing that if it turns out they chose wrongly, they could lose half of what they earned.

April 2, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
19. carl wrote:

18. Teatime2

you see this as a negative, it seems. I see it as a positive.

Given that you see polygamy as an acceptable alternative to adultery, I am not surprised.  We obviously do not share any common ground on either the nature or purpose of marriage.  However, you might investigate the experience of the Soviet Union when it essentially abolished marriage soon after the Communists took power.  Leftists you see have always recognized the fundamentally conservative nature of the nuclear family and sought out ways to destroy it.  The Soviets being good little Leftists acted upon their convictions with perfectly predictable results.  What the Soviets discovered is that allowing people to couple and decouple at will creates major social headaches in terms of illegitimate children and women who required financial help to raise them.  Men would promise to “marry” a woman, register with her in the official record, have sex, and then simply delete the registration.  The Soviet state (like all states before it) discovered that it had an interest in legally binding men to the responsibility of raising their offspring.  That doesn’t just mean financial support.  That means acting in the role of a father.  The West will discover this as well as:
1.  Marriage continues to dissolve.

2.  The children produced become more and more feral, more and more uncompetitive in the global market.

3.  Economic decline sets in as a result.

But too late to save the Republic.  Welcome to the future.


April 2, 7:57 pm | [comment link]
20. Larry Morse wrote:

Carl, ou are approaching this wrong way to, as is Teatime. What you say about sacramental marriage may or not be true. Sometimes it will be; sometimes Teatime’s approach will be. The solution to this part of the problem is obvious, however, and I have said it here many times: The couple goes to church for the sacrament of marriage; the couple goes to the town office for a civll partnership. Together., these cover both elements that you and Teatime are at odds over. Now of course, no one need get both, but many people will do so simply because each yields benefits of importance.
  Why is this solution difficult? This is hardly the proverbial rocket science. And both elements are right in front of us.  Larry

April 3, 12:15 am | [comment link]
21. carl wrote:

20. Larry Morse

Carl, you are approaching this wrong way

I don’t believe I am.  Men are sinful creatures, and sinful creatures placed in difficult situations will avail themselves of easy options.  Certainly divorce laws have shown this.  We should embrace no-fault divorce if what you say is true.  In fact, however, no-fault divorce simply imposes a self-interested behavior model on marriage with predictable results.  Individual happiness has replaced individual faithfulness as the guiding principle.  When people have no impediment to establishing their own happiness, they tend to do so - despite the consequences to those around them.

For marriage to work as intended in this fallen world, it must be legally enforceable.  A covenant always contains penalties for violation.  If those penalties can never be realized, then the covenant doesn’t really exist, and marriage becomes an elaborate form of shacking up.


April 3, 1:17 am | [comment link]
22. Larry Morse wrote:

I see your point Carl, but it need not work that way. Let us take divorce e.g. A couple has both a church marriage and a civil partnership. Will the church allow them to divorce? That depends on the church, but let us suppose the answer is a gospel No. Can the civil partnership break up - ie divorce?  The answer is yes. Can this couple marry again in a church? Sure, regardless of what Christ says. Can each take out a new civil partnership? Of course.
    But is there no penalty for breaking the church’s rule against marriage as a joining by God? For those for whom God’s word doesn’t mean much, the answer is, “Not in this life.” If they DO believe in the Christ’s admonition, while they may ignore the stricture, they will honor it in the breach, for they will feel in their consciences that they are going to need mercy when the time comes - not in fact a condition much different for most of us. Thus, the standard is being preserved even when it is being broken. Such an effect is cumulative, I believe, and they will tell their children to be mighty careful when they marry.
  But won’t these people simply shack up?  Those for whom God’s word is just talk will answer “We will if we feel like it, but probably we will simply acquire a civil partnership because the benies are good.”  For those who do believe, the above answer remains the same. They might, but they know they will have to pay for it; and they will be far more likely to marry, if they love each other, than to play a game that is not worth the candle. Even if they do take the risk, the standard is still maintained because they know what they do comes at a price.
  A marriage being made legally enforceable is pointless. What do you gain - except resistance. The conscience is engaged or it is not.
It is irrelevant in civil partnerships; it is EVERYTHING in marriage properly so called. The penalty for violating Christ’s declaration is there for all to read. If you don’t believe it,. who cares? If you do believe it, remorse, penance and the hope for forgiveness has been held out to all sinners - even to those who know they have sinned.
To KNOW that one has sinned is the first step in the development and maintenance of standards.
  I am divorced - she was a horror - and remarried - she is a delight.
Where does that find me? Same as always, ” I have done those things which I ought not to have done, and have not done those things which I ought to have done, and there is no health in me. “

April 3, 12:48 pm | [comment link]
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