What is the Future of "Marriage" in America?

Multiple states now recognize same-gender marriage. A federal judge has ruled the longtime ban on polygamy is unconstitutional. So, what's next? What is marriage anyway?

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor


First legalized same-gender marriage, now polygamy. What’s next? The right to lawfully wed your 1956 Chevrolet BelAir?

“Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing,” says Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life.” 


Husband, wife and Chevy?

“As gay marriage has gained acceptance across the country, its opponents have often claimed that the inevitable next steps would be recognition of bigamy, polygamy, bestiality and incest,” reads an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. “So when a judge struck down part of Utah’s anti-polygamy law last week, those critics were quick to say they told us so.”

“Many gay marriage advocates,” writes Harry Cheadle for Vice.com, “don’t want the public to draw comparisons between gay relationships and ‘weird’ potentially abusive multiwife setups. Back in 2006, Andrew Sullivan wrote, ‘Legalizing polygamy is a bad idea for a society in general for all the usual reasons (abuse of women, the dangers of leaving a pool of unmarried straight men in the population at large, etc.),’ an odd mirroring of all those conservatives who’ve talked about how ‘bad for society’ gay marriage would be.”

sister wives

The "Sister Wives" TV show family

However, now a federal court has struck down a key section of Utah’s anti-polygamy law, passed more than a century ago when one of the key political objections to granting the Mormon-developed territory statehood was the acceptance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of multi-wife marriages. The practice was instituted in the 1830s by founder Joseph Smith and endorsed in 1852 by Elder Orson Pratt of the Council of the Twelve Apostles at the request of church president Brigham Young. Then it was banned by Congress and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the law. However, seeking statehood, in 1890 church president Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that officially terminated the practice, in 1896 the Utah territorial legislature banned it and shortly thereafter, Utah was admitted into the Union.

Church members role-playing

Church members role-playing

“Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children,” says Moore. In primitive, constantly warring tribal societies, it is often practiced because of a shortage of men. It is speculated the early Mormons began the practice out of necessity since so many Mormon men had been killed in armed confrontations in Missouri and Illinois – driving the Mormons out and inspiring their retreating to largely uninhabited Utah to found their own territory.

However, in modern-day cults, particularly Mormon offshoots in Texas and Utah, it has been observed to result in the community’s

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