Clickbait titles are rampant on the Internet, but I was still surprised to see William Baude’s article “Is Polygamy Next?” in the morning print edition of the New York Times.
The thrust of his argument is that marriage and child rearing is an experiment which has been suppressed throughout history:
We should not assume that our judges have all the answers. And we should not assume we have them either. Instead we should recognize that once we abandon the rigid constraints of history, we cannot be sure that we know where the future will take us.
Yawn. Redefinitions of “marriage” have already lost their shock value. Ross Douthat, for the same New York Times, has covered this topic: “Polygamists don’t have to win explicit marriage rights to become more legally secure, more imitated, less frowned-upon and judged. Indeed, greater acceptance is almost guaranteed.”
Once marriage is fundamentally freed from “the rigid constraints of history” as Baude says, and from biological reality, there is absolutely nothing beyond an assertion that “the number two is magical,” to restrict it from any other combination. However, it’s hard to see what exactly the “marriage” aspect of all this is.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to debate with people about marriage because there is nothing to discuss. Since the word “marriage” now has an entirely fluid definition, marriage is in the eye of the beholder, subject to whatever seems politically expedient for the time. It would be easier to dismiss, though, if children didn’t become victims of all this fluidity.
The only interesting thing from this latest “edgy” article is the admission that the philosophy of the marriage equality movement was inherently dishonest:
The issue was hard to discuss candidly while same-sex marriage was still pending, because both sides knew that association with plural marriage, a more unpopular cause, could have stymied progress for gay rights. . . . With same-sex marriage on the books, we can now ask whether polyamorous relationships should be next.
Wake me up when the conversation comes back down to reality.
Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.
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