Family Research Council

Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Pave the Way to Polygamy

By Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies


Peter Sprigg is Senior Fellow for Family Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Religion News Service on June 20, 2016.


“What harm would it do?”

This was the question frequently asked by those who supported same-sex marriage.

I sought to answer that question with a pamphlet that I wrote and the Family Research Council published, titled, “The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex ‘Marriage.’

Now, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of redefining marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), we do not yet have the data needed regarding various changes in family structure. Some of my predictions, though, have already come to fruition.

The most obvious involves the rapidly growing attacks on freedom of conscience and religion. Before Obergefell, we were assured that redefining marriage would have no impact on anyone except same-sex couples. Yet today, LGBT activists increasingly wage attacks against even the mildest measures to protect religious liberty.

Another prediction has also received considerable validation — although without as much public attention. In the wake of Obergefell, we are much closer to a further redefinition of marriage — to include polygamous and polyamorous marriages.

Some commentators leaped at the opportunity to make the case for polygamy, one literally within hours after Obergefell. Freelance writer Fredrik deBoer wrote an op-ed for Politico, titled “It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy,” the same day the ruling was announced.

“Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone,” asked deBoer, “why should it be limited to just two individuals?” It would hard for any supporter of court-imposed same-sex marriage — especially homosexual activists — to reject deBoer’s assertion that the “progressive and enlightened” now agree that “consent is the measure of all things in sexual and romantic practice.”

However, Jonathan Rauch, a gay activist who works at the Brookings Institution, tried to make a distinction in a Politico rebuttal to deBoer. Rauch notes a number of (quite valid) concerns about the impact of polygamy. In polygamous societies, he said, there tends to be “competition among high-status men to hoard marriage opportunities (that is, wives), which leaves lower-status men out in the cold.” Such a system is socially destabilizing, resulting in (according to one study), “higher levels of rape, kidnapping, murder, assault, robbery, and fraud.”

Yet for all his protests to the contrary, the arguments against polygamy are very closely parallel to the arguments against redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. For example, Rauch cited the study’s finding that monogamous marriage “results in significant improvements in child welfare.” The same could be said about children being raised by their married, biological mother and father—something unavoidably denied to children raised by same-sex couples.

Rauch claims that homosexuals were being denied the ability to participate in the institution of marriage at all prior to Obergefell, whereas the same is not true of would-be polygamists. Since many people who now self-identify as gay or lesbian — including a surprising number of plaintiffs in same-sex “marriage” lawsuits — previously have been married (to an opposite-sex spouse), this argument is weak. The real demand in the marriage debate was to eliminate a restriction (based on sex) on freedom of choice regarding marital partners. The same demand (with respect to number) is made by polygamists.

Media reports sympathetic to polygamy have also been appearing, such as one published by ABC News less than a month after the Obergefell decision. It told the story of a lesbian couple in California that decided to expand to a threesome by inviting a man to join them. One of the women apparently took seriously the theory that as a bisexual, she could only fulfill her sexual orientation by having both a female and a male partner.

The growing acceptance of polygamy is not just anecdotal. The online dating website OkCupid now allows users to search for polyamorous relationships. The website claims their surveys show that only a minority of users say they are committed to monogamy, with the number falling from 56 percent in 2010 to 44 percent today.

All this doesn’t mean there will be legal recognition of polygamous relationships — yet. But one of the first steps toward same-sex “marriage” was when the Supreme Court struck down laws imposing criminal sanctions for homosexual conduct, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The polygamy movement already has its version of Lawrence — a case in which a federal judge struck down Utah’s law making it a crime to live in a polygamous relationship.

The shock troops of the sexual revolution did not stop trying to redefine “marriage” after opening it to same-sex couples. Meanwhile, they are trying to redefine “sex” itself, compelling everyone to affirm and celebrate males who claim to be females and vice versa. Americans are left wondering—from a cultural progressive movement that doesn’t ever appear to be satisfied, “What’s next?”

Meet The Author
Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies

Peter S. Sprigg is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Mr. Sprigg joined FRC in 2001, and his research and writing have addressed (Full Bio)

Other Recent Articles

(More by this author)