There was an interesting exchange between Justice Alito and Mary L. Bonauto, one of the lawyers arguing on behalf of same-sex marriage before SCOTUS. Alito asks Bonauto how polygamous unions could be denied the right of marriage in the future if SCOTUS ruled in Bonauto’s favor given that the rationale offered for legalizing same-sex marriage seems to apply to polygamous unions as well. Bonauto’s response was…well…interesting. After shooting herself in the foot, the best she could come up with was a statement of faith that it wouldn’t happen due to some practical and legal concerns. Not very persuasive. The fact of the matter is that once you dispense with the opposite-sex prerequisite for marriage, the idea of “two and only two” no longer makes sense. The rational basis for limiting a marriage to two people is that there are two sexes, and the sexual completeness of one man and one woman. As Robert Gagnon has written:
The principle of monogamy, restricting a sexual relationship to two persons at a time, is predicated on the twoness or binary character of the sexes. Because there are essentially two and only two sexes, the presence of a male and female in a sexual relationship is necessary and sufficient for reconstituting a sexual whole, so far as the number of persons in the union is concerned. A third party is neither needed nor desirable. If society repeals a male-female prerequisite, there no longer remains any logical or nature-based reason for society to withhold approval from multiple-partner sexual unions….
Given the rationale for accepting same-sex marriage, polygamous relationships are equally justified. Indeed, a better case can be made for polygamous relationships because they have (1) historical precedent and (2) can claim religious grounds. In fact, the case is already being made. It’s only a matter of time before the logic of same-sex marriage is applied equally to polygamous unions. People will be shouting “marriage equality” and “love isn’t limited to two” on this issue too, and only the “bigots” who think the number of people in marriage matters will stand opposed.
Robert Gagnon, “Why the Disagreement Over the Biblical Witness of Homosexual Practice?: A Response to Myers and Scazoni, What God Has Joined Together?”; available from http://robgagnon.net/articles/ReformedReviewArticleWhyTheDisagreement.pdf; Internet; accessed 15 December 2006.