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Bi-sexual Marriages and Polygamy

  • IAIN T. BENSON

Why don't "sexual orientation" activists argue in favour of bi-sexual marriage?

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Why the current concern about polygamy now that we have, as the phrase goes, de-constructed the "sanctity" of traditional male/female marriage? Why do so many people who favour same-sex marriage continue to believe that numbers matter? Given the nature of a claim to marriage based upon the right to live out ones' sexual orientation, an argument based on numbers hides a discrimination against those whose sexual orientation bids them to have multiple sexual relationships with both sexes or perhaps just with one. Why should they be denied? It seems completely random to insist that mere numbers matter more than sexual orientation when it comes to bi-sexuals or others who want or might want group marriages.

Why, we should ask, should bi-sexual marriages, be treated in a discriminatory manner and why aren't gay and lesbian organizations arguing in favour of them? After all, EGALE, the major activist group behind the almost entirely successful legal strategy for gays and lesbians in Canada, advertises itself as existing "for the sake of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people and their families across Canada."

Too little attention is being paid to the logic of "sexual orientation" extensions to marriage that exclude the desires of others that also march under the rainbow flag. Virtually everywhere that radical sexual politics are active we see bi-sexuals linked with gays and lesbians.

The argument that allowing same-sex marriage would lead to widening the number of people in a marriage was made before the courts in various cases over the years but the judges weren't interested in it and lawyers for the same-sex groups ignored it. Now that the debate about same-sex marriage is before Parliament, the argument should not be ignored, it should be dealt with.

One suspects that we do not hear about "bi-sexual marriage" because those pushing for same-sex marriage do not find it politic to make the claim on behalf of bi-sexuals- - for now. It might upset the apple cart at a time when the gay and lesbian claims for marriage are being very, very carefully pushed through in Ottawa and elsewhere. People may just be able to accept two men or two women marrying but they are not yet ready to accept group marriage even if that is where the logic of marital claims based on "sexual orientation" are headed.

As with gays and lesbian marriages, bi-sexuals would base their claim on the fact that they are people with a minority sexual orientation who wish to "live out their love(s)" and gain the social recognition of their relationships that they have been denied historically. Like gay and lesbian liaisons, the argument could be that failure to recognized bi-sexual relationships is due to stereotypical treatment causing historical disadvantaged. If it is good for gays and lesbians to be able to marry in accordance with their sexual orientation and procreation no longer provides an adequate argument for restricting marriage to heterosexuals, as courts in Canada have recently ruled, then this must also be so for bi-sexuals. A move to accept bi-sexual marriage, however, means that marriage cannot be limited to merely two people for what is bi-sexuality but the sexual love for both sexes? .

And while we are on the subject of the more to marry her, what is wrong with polygamy or polyandry anyway? Now that we have got beyond the religious concepts that insisted marriage was for men and women (and one of each) why should we cavil at other additions? The fact that such group marriages, polygamy or anything amounting to bigamy are currently illegal under the Criminal Code is no argument. Homosexual conduct was also illegal until relatively recently. Laws can be changed.

The logic of same-sex arguments in other areas means that we should not force bi-sexuals to fit within the sexual stereotyping of heterosexual unions limited (for reasons of their sexual preferences) to just two people. To deny at least a three person marriage to a bi-sexual is to deny them the social recognition of their "love" and relationships, just as with gays and lesbians.

Let's not forget the growing movement towards polyamory either. A look on the web shows hundreds of chapters around the globe dedicated to those groups or people interested in entering into "committed" relationships with each other. It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to see that where two or more are gathered there will, sooner or later, be the new extended legal claim in their midst. Failing that, perhaps we shall sooner or later have remedial legislation drafted to deal with the infant products of such group relationships in the same way we as our society in the 1970's had to create a statutory "marriage" to deal with those who didn't want to marry but lived together for more than two years "as if" they were married.

Take marriage away from its historically recognized essence (one man and one woman) and it seems a bit haphazard and curmudgeonly to get stuck on mere numbers. From those who want to destroy traditional marriage and who see same-sex marriage as a step towards such destruction, one does not expect any arguments in response.

For those who reject as nonsensical a marriage of more than two people, however, it is necessary to re-think the logic of "same-sex marriage" claims themselves.

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Acknowledgement

Benson, Iain T. Bi-sexual Marriages and Polygamy. Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Reprinted with permission of The Centre for Cultural Renewal and Iain T. Benson.

The Centre for Cultural Renewal is an independent, not-for-profit, charitable organization that helps Canadians and their leaders shape a vision of civil society. To this end, we focus on the important and often complex connections between public policy, culture, moral discourse and religious belief, and produce discussion papers, forums and lectures on key issues affecting Canadian society, public policy and culture. Iain Benson, a constitutional lawyer, is the Centres Executive Director. The Centre's blog is here.

The Author

Iain Benson is the Centre for Cultural Renewal's Executive Director and manages the research and publication priorities of the Centre. Iain is a Barrister and Solicitor.  He practiced privately then became, for some years, the Senior Solicitor for the B.C. Labour Relations Board. Iain studied at various universities in Canada, Scotland and England, and has degrees from Queens University, the University of Cambridge, and University of Windsor.

In 2007 he was invited to become a Research Fellow, Faculty of Law, Department of Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

His interests and studies cross a variety of areas including philosophy, law, theology and medical ethics. He practices constitutional and administrative law and, has appeared before all levels of Court in Canada and as a witness before a wide variety of Commissions, House and Senate committees.  He has consulted to the governments of Ireland and Canada and advised on matters in the U.K. and South Africa on a variety of constitutional matters.   His writings and publications cover a broad range of issues and he has lectured across North America and Europe, Africa and Saudi Arabia on issues related to health care, constitutional law and human rights. At the invitation of the Canadian Bar Association he gave a paper to the 2006 National Conference on "Religion and the State." 

In addition to the Centre's ongoing analysis of important legal decisions touching on conscience, religion and culture, (LexView) his writing has appeared in the Law Times, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post the Calgary Herald and a host of regional papers.  He has published on "secularism" and the history of our understanding of the "secular" and some of his writing has been cited as authority by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa.  He was the editor of Volume VII of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius, 2003). Iain Benson is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2005 Centre for Cultural Renewal
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