Thursday, 30 August 2012

Polyamory Is On The March Again In The Americas

Polyamory (or polygamy as the media prefers) is back in the news again. Three people have managed to get a civil union approved by a Brazilian notary. Rather puts paid to the slippery slope argument of anti-marriage equality folks, it is their (suddenly beloved) civil partnerships they need to be careful of!

Sadly, rather than prompting a discussion on legal protections for "unconventional" (as if any relationship is conventional) relationships, it has unleashed the fear and loathing of the Brazilian Christian community. I know it is to be expected but I am still always somewhat taken aback at the level of disapproval some busybodies express for the lives of others.

This comes as the Brown family, of "Sister Wives" fame, prepare to launch a law suit to have the rather regressive laws of Utah overturned. Full disclosure: I love "Sister Wives". It is a touching, interesting and amusing look at a way of life that is outside of my personal experience. Plus the four wives are hilarious, intelligent and strong. I love them all.

The case for polyamory in Utah is immensely complicated. As you, Dear Constant Reader, know I have a fascination with the history of the Latter-day Saint movement. It is compelling stuff. The baggage of that history, of their embracing of polygyny, of the persecution they suffered for it and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' eventual surrender of that practice hangs over the heads of those who continue to practice "The Principle" today. And, at the same time, the actions of a large number of groups and individuals who have (or had) polygynous relationships bring a nasty taste to the mere mention of polygamy. Domestic abuse, child abuse, benefit "fraud" (it's complicated....) and quite a number of other issues continue to occur in many of the Mormon fundamentalist groups. However I think it is clear polyamory doesn't make people bad and the issues that lead to the problems described above are not going to just suddenly occur because two women live with a man. There are deeper problems within those communities that need to be faced but they won't be until everyone moves beyond "POLYGAMY IS EVIL!!"

In Utah the argument is not about legal recognition. It is about simply being allowed to live AS a married couple with someone (not as a legal married couple) when one is already legally married. That is why instead of using marriage equality as an example, the Browns are focussing more on Lawrence v. Texas. Drawing parallels with (or even laying blame on) the marriage equality movement is a tad simplistic. In the USA gay people can now live together as a couple but in many places polyamorous people can't. In Utah the fight for polygyny really is a fight for freedom.

Polyamorous marriages and civil unions prompt dismay not just from spiteful religious people hellbent on forcing everyone to live how they want them to live, but also from more thoughtful and respectful commentators. They bring to light many of the issues some of us have with the way Government's deal with relationship rights and the control the Government has over our personal affairs. The way marriage is set up makes legal polyamorous marriage nigh impossible. And that is why I find polyamory so utterly fascinating. If same-sex marriage will open up marriage to everyone, polyamory might be the thing that finally forces the Government out of marriage completely. It is unlikely to be an issue here in the UK for quite some time (and the Coalition is working on closing down loopholes recognising foreign polyamorous marriages) but it is going to be interesting to watch where the battles in Utah and the coming one in Brazil (as the forces of conformity try desperately to claw back control) take us.

I set out my agenda two years ago. Personal freedom to make relationship contracts is the goal. If same-sex marriage will bring equality, polyamorous marriage might well bring us all liberty.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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