Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Polygamy Isn't the Problem

Tories addressing wrong issue in polygamy ban

As controversy surrounding the Winston Blackmore case continues it heat up, it seems that the governing Conservative party may envoke the notwithstanding clause in order to maintain polygamy as a criminal offense in Canada.

Blackmore's lawyer has publicly announced that he'll cite the religious freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- and through it the constitution -- in order to defend Blackmore and his co-accused, Jim Oler.

Memos obtained through the Access to Information Act suggest that the Tories will not allow this to happen.

"Canadians of all backgrounds share some basic values, like a belief in human dignity, equality between men and women and the rule of law. It is these values that unite us as Canadians," states one of the memos prepared for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. "The practice of polygamy represents a clear challenge to those unifying values."

Ironically, many were fearful that the Conservative party would envoke the notwithstanding clause to outlaw same-sex marriage. They didn't. But Blackwell's lawyer, Blair Suffredine, actually envoked same-sex marriage as a reason for polygamy's acceptability.

"It's pretty hard to justify why gay marriage is OK and polygamy's not," Suffredine mused.

And while many social conservatives will point to Suffredine's rationale as evidence that same-sex marriage does indeed undermine traditional marriage in Canada, the hysteria is at lest partially just that: hysteria.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with polygamy when it's practiced between consenting adults. Polygamy itself isn't the problem.

The problems with polygamy surface in cases where underage girls or non consensual.

The state really doesn't have much business intervening in polygamist marriages unless either of these two conditions is present.

In focusing on polygamy itself, the Conservatives have missed the real problem. Unless a polygamist man's wives are underage or not consensually married to him, cracking down on polygamists very much is religious intolerance.


  1. There's another possible problem I see with polygamy: Custody rights in the event of a divorce.

    That aside, I never understood why conservatives are so intent on equating polygamy with same-sex marriage. I've always considered this to be an apples and oranges comparison, or at the very worst, a poor slippery slope argument.

  2. A child still has only one biological mother and one biological father. I'm certain they'd retain primacy in a custody case.

    But, that is still a fantastic point.


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