The Case Against Polygamy

A judge in British Columbia has ruled that the laws criminalizing polygamy in Canada are not unconstitutional.  He makes one exception–minors who enter polygamous unions cannot be prosecuted.

In the process of this trial, and impressive assembly of arguments, old and new, were raised against polygamy.

The judge was particularly impressed with a literature review and statistical analysis conducted by Prof. Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University:

Among McDermott’s conclusions:

Based on the best data available to date in the world, including the majority of countries across the globe, I find that in polygynous societies, women sustain more physical and sexual abuse. They have more children, are more likely to die in childbirth, and live shorter lives than their counterparts in more monogamous societies. In polygynous societies, women are more subject to sex trafficking and female genital mutilation while receiving less equal treatment than men, and encountering more discrimination under the law. In addition, girls are less likely to be educated, restricting a key component allowing for upward mobility and economic independence. In societies with high rates of polygyny, up to half of the boys are ejected from their primary communities, with incalculable effects on them. Moreover, the average individual in a polygynous society has fewer liberties than the average individual in a state which prohibits polygyny. A polygynous state spends more on average on defense, leaving fewer resources available for building domestic infrastructure, including projects devoted to health and education. This is quite a diverse set of effects, confirming the wide-ranging consequences of polygyny in societies in which women live as enforced second class citizens, and the states of which they are a part. . . .

More generally, while some individuals certainly claim to benefit from being in a polygynous union, there has been no statistical demonstration that polygyny benefits most men or women, boys or girls or society considered as a whole. Nor are any such effects manifest in the vast majority of the peer-reviewed literature examining a smaller number of cases than would be permitted by statistical analysis. Perhaps such a defence of polygyny, unlikely though it may be, could be made and supported with data meeting the standards which we advocate – verifiable, comprehensive, valid, and reliable. But for now it is fair to state that while polygyny’s negative effects are wide-ranging, statistically demonstrated, and independently verified using alternative analytical tools, its beneficial consequences are circumscribed and at odds with the welfare of most.

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Act Now to Fight the Repeal of DOMA!

Just 15 years ago, President Clinton signed into law the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  It was passed by huge bipartisan majorities. It is the only federal law to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman and clarifies that no state can be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.

Now, Democrats in the Senate are acting to repeal DOMA–the measure has already passed out of the Judiciary Committee as part of a strategy to weaken traditional marriage.  By passing a repeal of DOMA in the Senate (even if it couldn’t pass the Republican House), these proponents of same-sex marriage are hoping to persuade the Supreme Court to invalidate DOMA.  They believe that this would help the Court believe that Americans no longer care about marriage and that it’s safe to impose same-sex marriage on all 50 states.

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Values Voters Must Demand Clear Commitment

Will social conservatives let the GOP nominate a candidate for the White House who has flip-flopped on life and marriage? No, I’m not talking about Mitt Romney; I mean Herman Cain.

In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Herman Cain leads the field of Republican candidates, even as The New York Times tried to work the so-far nonexistent Politico “scandal” that consists of little more than a disgruntled employee who was let go claiming some gestures that were not sexual in nature made her feel uncomfortable. She got $35,000 in some kind of severance package, which is a whole lot cheaper than paying lawyers.

Cain is not going to be hurt by attacks like these, which, far from hurting Cain with his base, may result in a kind of Palinization of Cain — the more he’s perceived to be unfairly attacked by the mainstream media, the more the base loves him.

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A Modest Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce

Former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Sears (on the short list for Obama appointments to the Supreme Court) and family relations professor William Doherty have teamed up to produce what they call, without irony, a modest proposal to reduce “unnecessary divorce”: the Second Chances Act (

The Second Chances Act is a brilliant piece of work by two of the nation’s leading pro-marriage liberals. (Full disclosure: The authors kindly give me far more credit than I am due by including me in a list of people to be thanked for “contributions,” which in my case consisted of attending one meeting in which an early draft of the report and the legislation were presented.)

The Second Chances Act proposes new model legislation that includes a one-year waiting period for divorce, along with a requirement that parents of minor children considering divorce take a short online divorced parenting education course, which would include information on reconciliation. Spouses could trigger the one-year waiting period without actually filing for divorce by sending their mates a formal letter of notice. These requirements would be waived in cases of domestic violence.

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When Faith and Values Collide

At the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., last weekend, a respected Baptist pastor from Texas, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, introduced Gov. Rick Perry.

“Do we want … a candidate who is a good moral person or one who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?” Then he upped the ante, responding to the press:

“In my estimation Mormonism is a cult, and it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate,” Jeffress said. “Every true born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

A kerfuffle ensued, egged on by the media. But it is a kerfuffle that raises important questions about how and why people of differing faiths — but shared values — should treat each other in the public square.

Bill Bennett, a Catholic with a radio show that attracts a large evangelical following, took on the challenge at the Values Voter Summit.

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(How) Will Gay Marriage Weaken Marriage as a Social Institution?: A Reply to Andrew Koppelman

The following article is from the Fall 2004 University of St. Thomas Law Journal Symposium on the Federal Marriage Amendment:

In his provocative essay, Andrew Koppelman reiterates the new conventional wisdom: arguments against gay marriage are failing, and the future of gay marriage is practically assured.  Opponents of same-sex marriage are, he says, “tongue-tied”:

Life in a  democratic and pluralistic society tends to promote more egalitarian attitudes toward differences of gender and sexual orientation.  That’s reflected in the generational divide over same-sex marriage: while most Americans oppose it, most 18-to-29-year-olds are in favor.

. . .

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