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Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage--Allies or Adversaries Within the Same-Sex Marriage Movement
ExpressO (2008)
  • Jaime M Gher

This article addresses the charged slippery slope accusation that permitting same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to legalization of polygamy. While same-sex marriage advocates generally distance their cause from polygamy and its disparaging history, when responding to such accusations, this article determines whether that response is appropriate, or alternatively, whether the same-sex marriage movement could benefit from linkages between polygamy and same-sex marriage.

In conducting this analysis, my article examines the United States' historical regulation of polygamy, interrogates analogies between polygamy and same-sex marriage, compares cross-cultural practices and regulation of polygamy, and reviews the international human rights stance on polygamy and its implications for gender inequality. The article ultimately concludes that while polygamy and same-sex marriage share some common linkages, advocates should continue to distance same-sex marriage from plural marriage to avoid relinquishing the movement's hard-earned cultural capitol and societal support. In doing so, however, advocates should avoid maligning polygamy and playing into the cultural narrative that plural marriage is resoundingly barbaric and misogynistic. Instead, advocates should direct their time and energy toward respecting diversity while fighting for equality.

This article is unique in that it addresses a modern-day civil rights debate from a distinctive angle. While most same-sex marriage debates are limited to dichotomous rights-based discussions, this article conducts a more nuanced analysis of marriage and its varying forms, as an institution. The article also integrates cross-cultural and human rights analyses into the discussion, in-line with an emerging trend to implement the human rights framework into domestic initiatives. In the end, the article presents a captivating disussion of two taboo subjects by questioning the conflation and/or polarization of same-sex marriage and polygamy.

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  • polygamy,
  • same-sex marriage,
  • sexuality,
  • human rights,
  • civil rights,
  • women
Publication Date
Spring April, 2008
Citation Information
Jaime M. Gher, Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage--Allies or Adversaries Within the Same-Sex Marriage Movement, 14 William and Mary Journal on Women and the Law 559 (2008)