“You don’t have to be a bigamist to have one wife too many.” -Oscar Wilde
(SNN) You knew it would happen in the US, as it’s occurred here in Canada already. When their Supreme Court recently made gay marriage legal in all 50 states; a Billings, Montana man immediately applied for a license to marry his second wife, despite already being happily married to another woman. His current wife, of course, is in full agreement. Number One and Number Two are great friends.
“She put up with a lot of crap over the years. She deserves some legitimacy,” he told Associated Press. Now the County Clerk’s office is going to be putting up with a lot of it, too. They didn’t process the request immediately; the Clerk’s office wisely deferred responding, seeking rulings from higher powers.
Polygamy cases are no stranger to Canada, although the Bountiful, BC litigations still haven’t yielded decisive outcomes. At one point, it appeared the legal apparatus in that province, as well as their federal cousins’, was content to turn a blind eye to the situation. Unsure whether banning polygamy could withstand a Supreme Court challenge was what stayed their hand.
However, in 2004, when it was alleged two minors were sent across the US border to marry, the authorities decided to take action. After many legal convolutions, we are now in 2015 where a lawyer is arguing Bountiful sect leader, Winston Blackmore, didn’t get enough notice that polygamy was illegal here (!) and wants to limit how far back authorities should be allowed to go with charges.
One way to approach marriage laws is to strip them down to their essential constituents. Before allowing the government to decide how many wives one should get and what gender they should be, we might ask what business it is of the government how we arrange our personal affairs.
Laws against abusive or forced relationships already exist. What’s the rationale for governments licensing marriages; which is essentially just a private contract between two people and, possibly, their God. What skin does the state have in the marriage game? This is particularly true since, in most Canadian provinces, if you share a bedroom with someone for a year, PRESTO, you’re virtually, married. I’m surprised gay folks want that designation for themselves given the tenuous nature of it.
This leads to another question. What does “marriage” really mean? When I was a kid, it meant that some guy asked some girl to marry him and they lived more-or-less happily ever after, often together. After all, divorcing was almost as big a shaming reason as having a child out of wedlock. Homosexuality wasn’t something people talked about. I didn’t even know it was “a thing” until I was in high school. Mind you, wall-to-wall reminders of sexuality in our media wasn’t “a thing” either, nor were “La Senza Girl” stores with sultry duds for preteen princesses.
Knowing the Canadian divorce rate is 48% with first timers constituting 33% of the total, we can see that even for the vastly heterosexual, non-polygamous, so called “average” cohort, marriage is pretty much of a crap shoot anyway. Why not open it up to whatever tickles your fancy? As Rosanne Barr so wisely joked, “Homosexual marriage? Why not? Why should only straight people suffer?”
By the way, Canada is hardly alone in their divorce rate. We are actually middle of the pack with Mexicans only divorcing 15% of the time compared to Belgium dwellers’ whopping doesn't manage-commitment-well indicator of 71%.
Is the entire concept of marriage outdated due to our modern mores, longevity and access to reasonably effective contraception methods? If marriage is an anachronism and obsolete, what should take its place? There are oodles of studies showing the healthiest environment for our children is in a loving, stable home. What family unit model best provides that environment? One Mom, one Dad? No Dad, two Moms? One Dad, two Moms? A village? A government-controlled daycare? Does anyone really know?
Perhaps what is required is a completely different relationship model run entirely by contracts which spell out each person’s responsibility for bills and the welfare of any children that result from the union. Leaving it to lawyers to sort out after the fact has been a spectacular failure with the only group reaping any benefit from the associated misery are divorce lawyers.
Wouldn’t going into a committed relationship, with clear understandings of the consequences of parting spelled out in advance, be a boon to all involved? Why do we resist such concepts knowing the quaint, idealized version of marriage I held when I was a youth was as patently false as my understanding that girls were just boys with bumps in funny places and longer hair?
Unaltered Photo: Some Rights Reserved by Brian Gautreau Flickr photostream, The Sage nor this article endorsed. The original image can also be found here.
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