Should polygamy be legal?

Thanks to the raid at the Yearn for Zion ranch in Texas and the subesquent chaotic custody hearing, polygamy has been front-page news this week. And the press hasn’t been good for adherents of plural marriage. But is that fair?

Of course the alleged practices of the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) that prompted the raid are abhorent, but is plural marriage to blame?

Polygamy is practised in many societies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, and has even made it on to TV in the US with Big Love on HBO. In today’s Western society, when affairs and divources are commonplace, is it necessary to outlaw polygamy? Or should greater efforts be made to end the practice?

Let me know what you think – for some background reading, here are the thoughts of and an interview with former polygamists, and a good summary of the situation in North America.

27 Responses to “Should polygamy be legal?”

  1. 1 Will Rhodes
    April 18, 2008 at 14:49

    I have been following this case a lot in CNN – sorry Beeb, your coverage is no way near as in-depth on it, but we can understand why.

    What I have seen on CNN is the demonisation of this cult and polygamy. Now, let me say this and hope that people read the point I am against polygamybut I am not against the rights of a person to religious freedom. Under the constitutional rights of these people they have this.

    I think they whole thing will have to be played out in the US, legally wise, because from what I see many things can, and probably will, go wrong.

    In the summary of the situation link:

    Even with “normal” polygamist households, there is public contempt, says McClain, adding that it ranks up there with incestuous marriages. She ticks off problems such as domestic violence and welfare fraud.

    “Not every polygamist household has all these problems,” she says. “But there is enough concern that this is harmful to women, not good for children, and harmful to boys as well.”

    I have seen the debate on this fall under the “Think about the Children” banner – the emotive way to cease all objection with that term. It is the same as saying ‘If you object to what we are doing you condone child abuse’. That isn’t the case at all – what is being playing out is many things one being peoples constitutional rights in the US, and a lesser part in Canada.

    So, should it be illegal – I would have to say no – but I would also encourage education as to why it isn’t a preferred way of living. As we know, most men and women do not want to be in a multi-layered relationship.

  2. 2 Neal H
    April 18, 2008 at 15:25

    Personally as someone who favors marriage rights for same sex adults, and having seen a wide range of open and closed relationships work and fail, and watching traditional marriage fail so often, I have nothing against more than two adults joining in a marriage or marriage-like arrangement if that’s where their hearts and minds lead them.

    Polygamy is really clouding the issue in the ranch raid case in Texas, in my opinion. Polygamy is against the law currently, but like jaywalking it seems rarely enforced unless there is another factor to prompt action. If this group was simply engaging in adult multiple marriage, there would likely not have been any raid.

    What prompted action was underage girls marrying, perhaps against their will, and getting pregnant. The raid was about protecting children. US society can perhaps smirk, gasp or otherwise ignore polygamy, might find the practicioners a bit daft, but the allegations leading to the raid amounted to rapes of minors and marriage of minors possibly against their wills.

    Even if a child was so indoctrinated in that sect as to agree to a marriage, it is not legal to do so, the idea being that they are not of age to make legal and lifechanging decisions. I’m not sure if the law would apply differently for an “emancipated minor” who declared independant of her birth parents and was living as an adult, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, these are very dependant people.

    I don’t buy for a minute the carefully scripted responses a small group of women gave reporters during a guided tour of the compound. They knew what to say and what not to say. Apparently church records from the compound document underage marriage and pregnancy, and that is what this all is about, the polygamy by itself really only painted a big target on the compound saying “watch us carefully, we are nutty and may do illegal things.” If this was happening in individual homes over a 5 county area no one might have noticed.

  3. 3 steve
    April 18, 2008 at 16:05


    Gee, well, if they get multiple divorces, then there can be be multiple blogs by multiple women screaming out for attention.

    it’s so funny how childish “adults” can be.

    Again, if you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, then you should be allowed to marry 10 people if you want. You should be able to marry are lamp if you want to. But in this day and age where instant gratification is the rule (if things aren’t perfect and immediately, you can find your spouse running out on you). Act at your own risk! But you should be free to do it if you choose to.

  4. 4 Jens
    April 18, 2008 at 18:17

    has nobody listen to the way these women talk. listen to the voices and how they act. it’s worse than the srepford wives. with all due respect, these women sound lobotomized. they are almost robotic in their answers and expression of feelings. what does that tell us? what do you think these guys are doing to their wives and children…….

    cults are invariable evil and are based on the supression of the followers.

  5. 5 steve
    April 18, 2008 at 18:36

    @ Jens, people should be free to make stupid decisions. If you want to smoke, you should be allowed ot. If you want to eat red meat, you should be free to. These women are adults. I don’t see how we can excuse certain behavior, such as being a prostitute, having sex with politicians, and being rewarded with a playboy spread, meanwhile society blaming everyone but her for her decisions. Jens, some people are simply stupid. In fact, LOTS of people are stupid. We really shouldn’t be in the business of protecting people from themselves.

  6. 6 Lance Stevens
    April 18, 2008 at 19:17

    Of course polygamy should be legal. This country is over regulated as it is. Polygamy in itself doesn’t hurt anyone. If a few people want to marry, who are we to stop them? It’s their PERSONAL choice and if they are okay with it I’m okay with it. As far as childeren being involved in a polygamist marriage, what difference does it make aslong as the parental figures provide a nuturing supportive enviornment for the child to develop in? It only becomes an issue when these children or people are be forced to do deviant things against their own will and against the morals of society, but this holds true for any other marriage situation in the United States aswell.

  7. 7 Chi Primus
    April 19, 2008 at 12:54

    What should preoccupy the minds of serious world leaders is combating sexual infidelity NOT polygamy cus most of the official monogamists are in fact unofficially polygamist (cus they have more that one sexual partner). What therefore the difference?

  8. 8 blacklion
    April 19, 2008 at 21:58

    Don’t see how polygamy is any worse than the serial monogamy prevalent nowadays. Unless it involves coercion or rape or sexual exploitation of minors, I see no reason why polygamy should not be legal.

  9. 9 Casandra
    April 20, 2008 at 01:57

    The problem isn’t with 2, 3, or 12 consenting adults having a marriage. The problem is with the sexual exploitation of minors. Polygamy should be legal.

  10. 10 steve
    April 20, 2008 at 17:48


    maybe it’s to protect dumb people from themselves? What’s worse than 1 divorce? 5 divorces. Some people really unfortunatley need to be protected from their own stupid decisions. Honestly, who needs marriage? Are you that insecure you need some document? You have to do what other expect you to do?

    more insecurity.. people are incredibly stupid.

  11. 11 Ahmad Hammad
    April 20, 2008 at 23:14

    And Yes, Polygamy should be allowed in America too. We see in our poor countries that if a well-off noble male marries more than 1 poor woman, it benefits the females.

    In a society where because of poverty fathers sell out their daughters for a small amount, a legalized polygamy will be a good factor in reducing poverty, along with awaring people to control the birth of children if they can’t feed them.

    In Islam, we are allowed to marry 4 women at a time. But if we are FAILED to do JUSTICE to all four, we will be punished in the life hereafter.

    The real proble with the sect FLDS was; they made polygamy Mandatory.

    Allowing is different from Compelling!

  12. 12 Bri in Boston, MA
    April 21, 2008 at 00:20

    I live in Boston, where same sex marriage is legal. Many religions consider marriage a sacrament; church and state are separate in the USA; so why is marriage in law?

    To be truly progressive and practical concerning the well being of other and especially children, we should take marriage out of law – keep it for religion – and have lawful “civil unions” between two people who desire to be legally bonded and/or raise children together. It will never work though, because people are obsessed with sex, religion and politics.

  13. April 21, 2008 at 14:16

    I believe that polygamy should not be legalised!
    First of all, the common form of polygamy, polygyny, usually leads to the production pf relatively large number of chikdren. Such marriages usually outnumber normal marriages in terms of population increase by at least a factor of two.
    Secondly, if polygamy is legalised, a person would obvoiusly have to marry one spouse at a time. After a marriage, the man, usually, goes about “hunting” for other women just because he has the right to marry many women. This is infedelity in its highest form!
    Futhermore, polygamous marriages increase the chances of acquring sexually tramsmitted infections sincethe number of sex partners increase.
    “.. and the two shall become one flesh..” Not 3, 4 or any other number. Polygamy should not be legalised

  14. 14 steve
    April 21, 2008 at 14:59

    @Bri in Boston

    I would take it further. No benefits, or anything for married or “unioned” people. The state shouldn’t recognize your personal decisions, let alone reward them with tax benefits, etc..

    In all honesty, isn’t this topic a non issue? Marriage is going to die out eventually in the west, given how disposable they are. Over half of them fail, and the other 50% aren’t all happy either. There’s no fault divorce, no concept of loyalty, if anything is slightly wrong, one party flees.

    Think about it, if you got married today there’s a greater than 50% chance you will be divorced or unhappy in the marriage (remember that the 50% that don’t divorce aren’t all happy together). Why would you want to be in a situation with such bad odds?

  15. April 21, 2008 at 15:36

    Legalizing polygamy could solve a lot of world problems–eleminate the necessity of slave trade–for sex, picking your fruit, and cleaning your toilets. Put women back where they belong and make real men, men. What kind of question is this? Society turns a blind eye to this treatment of women and children so that it can make political hay out of it when their votes don’t swing the right way. One has to wonder if this whole issue was planned as the final blow to the Romney campaign and was just too juicy to pass up when he became road kill. If our society cannot find empathy for the women and girls who are born into such a fate, who and what can they find empathy for?

  16. April 21, 2008 at 15:50

    The term ‘polygamy’ comes from Greek word, meaning the practice of multiple marriage. Thus it is the practice of marriage to more than one spouse simultaneously. As we know, polygamy exists in 3 forms: ploygyny, polyandry and group-marriage. Among the three, polygyny is the critical issue in this period.

    Of course Polygamy should not be legal, as we are not ‘the beast’. We are human being, we have knowledge, we can’t do anything subversive to our society, our culture and our mentalitty.

    Marriage is not only the physical relationship between two opposite genders, but also the mental relationship as well. The polygamy affects on the household, on the woman (as polygymy is the prime issue), on their children, especially on aduolscences and on young girls.

    I have not read all the Holly books, but I can give surity that no one Holybook says about Polygamy is good. So, polygamy should be prohibited to save the culture, the society, to save the childern. Al last, I want to say through a slogan, “Stop Polygamy, Save the Child”.

  17. April 21, 2008 at 15:51

    i am fuly agaist the polygamy

  18. 18 Khan, M.
    April 21, 2008 at 18:10

    Whenever I met with a foreigner especially from the western, an obvious question that i have to answer is about polygamy. In fact, they raised such type of embarrassing stuff just to remind me that being a muslim I belongs to this sort of society. I was really surprised to know their level of knowledge about the concept of society. I humbly tried in vain to make them clear that society and religion are two different concepts and social acceptance and rejection of any custom is much more important than verse. Anyway, It is my sincere belief that polygamists are the opportunists and can’t be accepted by a civilized society irrespective of where we are or what religion we belongs to. It is really easy to ridicule a seriuos social problem or crime being commited in the name of religion rather than helping those who are really fighting against this curse. However, this problem is no more bearing any regional and religion identity. That is why; as a sensible person, if we fail to cure this injury rigth now, it could turn into a social or universal cancer.

  19. 19 Dennis Young, Jr.
    May 11, 2008 at 01:57

    i am fully against the idea of polygamy…..

    dennis from madrid, united states of america

  20. 20 Rhonnie
    May 14, 2008 at 17:43

    Polygamy (polygyny) should be legal or decriminalized.
    I say this for several reasons:
    1.) People should be free to choose – doesn’t matter if their decisions are stupid or not, unless a person lives in a communist country they are supposed to be able to make decisions for themselves. Ever hear of consequences? Good or bad we live with them, so shouldn’t we get to choose which they will be by our actions?

    2.) Polygyny is actually quite beneficial to women. It allows them the time and space to pursue their own interests and STILL have a family. I frankly don’t understand why the women’s libers aren’t all over it.

    3.) Marriage is a religious institution that government really shouldn’t dictate.

    4.) Cheating, abuse and all the other negative things people like to blame on poly are also found in monogamous marriages but people like to conveniently forget that when the topic of poly comes up. Every hear of women’s shelters? Yeah most (if not all) of the women/children there come from monogamy not poly.

    The type of marriage does not dictate the outcome – only the people entering into the marriage can do that.
    If a family wants to have 2+ wives, they take care of their own, and the children are seen to then why would anyone else care?
    Also the simple act of decriminalizing it would remove the need for people to feel like they have to hide. This would make it much more difficult to perpetuate abusive crimes against women and children.

  21. 21 ReHope
    October 9, 2008 at 16:28

    i think polygamy should be legal; as in some countries women are over number men, and we have to take into consideration the handicapped females (e.g deaf, blind, some systemic illness, or even not beautiful women… etc who hardly will be married or have sexual relation with males because of this barrier. In addition, what about women after wars, where the men number decrease by death; so it will be a hard situation and women should find some illegal way to meet their needs (financial or sexual).

  22. November 2, 2008 at 04:02

    No because it causes too many problems

  23. 23 Lindsey Paydon
    November 17, 2008 at 05:21

    I think it should be in time. But right now we haven’t even legalized gay marriage!!! and plus the average mormon polygamists that we see today are not living healthy lifestyles. The women are often brainwashed and obviously are supressed by men. But I think years after gay marriage is passed polygamy could be looked at completely different. Instead of men with multiple wives because of their religion, it will be bisexual men and women wanting two partners. Once it gets to this point, then I support it, but I’ll probably be dead by then!

  24. 24 Tony Clayton
    February 2, 2009 at 22:39

    I think polygamy certainly should be decriminalized, to be fair to all.

    Whether legalized or not is another matter, there have been homosexuals living together, for far longer than the day it was recognized. It used to be a crime called sodomy a number of decades ago.

    My point is, it first had to be decriminalized, and then it could be recognized. There are two steps to this legal process.

    Today, however, polygamy is still a CRIME. So the first thing to consider is whether it should be decriminalized. Maybe then we can talk about it being recognized.

  25. 25 Jimmy
    March 26, 2009 at 11:21

    I am 17 years old, and am studying this topic with an open mind for an upcoming school debate this week.

    I will say straight away, that I personally would never get involved in a polygamous marriage. However, I see no reason that people who have decided sensibly that polygamy is for them cannot engage in such a marriage.

    The same applies in same sex marriages, it is not for many of us, but if a minority of people want it, why can’t they have it?

    If people are willing to accept any consequences it might bring, then I see no reason why they can not enter into a polygamous marriage.

    Good luck to all who do!

  26. 26 Ashe
    November 25, 2009 at 17:43

    How about supporting polyandry (1 female: many males) for a change? 😛

  27. 27 Kevin
    February 13, 2010 at 06:52

    I think that consenting adults should be able to marry as many other consenting adults as they like. Leave the children alone!

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