The Instigator
Oromagi
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
MoralityProfessor
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Intermediate Debate Competition R2: State Legislatures should decriminalize Polygamy

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Oromagi
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/24/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,651 times Debate No: 44510
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)

 

Oromagi

Pro

RESOLVED: US states should legalize polygamy so long as rational limitations are provided to ensure fair tax, custodial, and property rights.


POLYGAMY is defined as the practice or condition of having more than one spouse at the same time, conventionally referring to a situation where all spouses know about each other, in contrast to bigamy, where two or more spouses are usually unaware of each other.

NOTES:

Polygamy is currently illegal in all 50 states. In most states, simple polygamy without fraudulent intent is considered a misdemeanor. Most polygamists in the US are represented by a small minority of fundamentalist Mormon groups and a small minority of Muslim-Americans.

Rational limitations include but are not restricted to:

*provisions that prevent an increased tax benefit for polygamous spouses,

*benefits allotted according to number of children would not be limited,

*natural parents would enjoy preferential legal consideration in questions of child custody or legal guardianship,

*each spouse is considered an equal partner in respect to questions of inheritance, division of property during divorce, etc.

****************
Per rules of the competition, first round is for acceptance.
Second round is for presentation of arguments.
Third round is for rebuttals, redirection.
Fourth round may offer rebuttals or conclusion as the author sees fit.

I have offered 4 rounds, 8,000 characters, voting period 3 days. These variables are negotiable and subject to approval by Con.

My thanks to Con in advance for the opportunity to discuss this issue and for a good debate.
MoralityProfessor

Con

I accept the conditions Pro has laid out and look forward to a stimulating debate.

As per the rules, I will present my arguments in the second round.

Many thanks.
Debate Round No. 1
Oromagi

Pro

THESIS: To the extent that a small minority of people wish to participate in polygamous marriage as a sincere religious and/or personal expression, state legislatures have little compelling interest to refuse such arrangements. This house believes that states should abandon current prohibitions and permit polygamous groups to define their own families according to their individual belief systems.

A1: ANTIQUATED and REDUNDANT

Federal and State legislatures enacted polygamy laws in the mid-19th century, principally in reaction to the Church of Latter Day Saints' public endorsement of polygyny in 1852. Legislatures observed that polygamist communities were less than stable. Patriarchs tended to use the new social order to procure sometimes less than willing, sometimes underage wives, contracting with other patriarchs in the community. Patriarchs tended to ostracize young men of marriageable age in order to monopolize the supply of available women. Families were large and insular. Women had few advantages within these families and were often treated as baby making commodities. At the time, empowering women with voting rights, divorce rights, property rights was inconceivable. Suffrage, in it nascence in London, was far from a popular notion in the States. Child abuse and child abandonment were commonplace features in American family life against which legislation would have been impracticable. Polygamy was wildly unpopular with the general populace, so acting against polygamy provided relief of some social ills with little political risk.

During the course of the 20th Century social progress has provided superior avenues of relief for those social ills that made polygamy a target for legislation. Women's suffrage and the rise of feminism have empowered women to make their own choices in marriage. Women today have the right to no-fault divorces, the right to an equitable division of property, mothers can now have a say in the destinies of their children. Birth control is commonplace and inexpensive when compared to the 19th century. Likewise, children today enjoy far more legal protection today than they did 150 years ago. Child abuse and child abandonment are generally treated as serious offenses with the real possibility of custody loss, fines, and jail.

In spite of legislation, some polygamist groups continue to persist, particularly in the American West. These pockets have enjoyed a renewal of public interest in recent years, due primarily to several TV shows presenting a favorable or at least more balanced perspective on these unusual families. Although anti-polygamy laws are still sometimes employed, most of these families are tolerated by local communities. Instead, law enforcement usually focuses on tax fraud or domestic abuse as a more specific relief of those social ills.

Since more specific relief is now available to address the harms that compelled legislatures to act in the 19th Century, polygamy laws are no longer needed to fight these social ills and unnecessarily criminalize citizens who are in all other respects law abiding. In fact...

A2: DECRIMINALIZATION WOULD MAKE IT EASIER to COMBAT ACTUAL CRIMES

Currently most polygamous families, even responsible and otherwise law-abiding families, are driven into hiding from law enforcement and social workers. In isolation, the abuses of the past may be allowed to persist unchecked. Polygamous communities learn to fear the state and are not likely to report abuses that might result in legal action against the whole community. One advantage of decriminalization is that responsible plural families could emerge from the shadows letting the spotlight fall on legitimate abuses that might require the state's attention.

Polygamy laws necessarily create a class of married people defined as single, who may access welfare programs without acknowledging other breadwinners in household. Decriminalization would offer these folks the opportunity to remedy this deception without risk and so improve the public coffers. Those who failed to declare their married status would become more legitimate targets for fraud investigations.






Bigamy laws throughout the United States
Misdemeanor
Felony
All forms of cohabitation outlawed [1]


A3: LEGITIMACY

Polygamy laws as they currently stand create a minority class of bastards before the bar. Of no fault of their own, children registering for school must choose to lie about their parental arrangements or risk the scrutiny of the state. Rights of inheritance or legal guardianship are muddled or denied for many children of plural wives.

Immigration, too, might benefit from legitimization. Academics estimate that there may be between 50,000-100,000 Muslim immigrants living the US without acknowledging their polygamous marriages. [2] Decriminalization would legitimize those religious commitments and improve the US as an attractive destination for families considering emigration from nations where polygamy is normalized.

A4: POLYGAMY LAWS VIOLATE FIRST AMMENDMENT GUARENTEES

The First Amendment of the United States assures its citizens:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." [3]

Our government must refrain from the business of defining which religious sacraments are genuinely sacred. Likewise, government must resist the temptation to limit social expressions simply because those practices don't conform with the majority. Good government only interferes in the private, domestic arrangements of its citizens to the extent that interference prevents harm to its citizens or encourages widespread social benefit. Within these bounds, lawmakers might justify the removal of children from households that fall beneath certain basic standards or encourage the stability that marriage brings to families via tax benefits. Within these bounds, some state legislatures have recently enacted legislation permitting gay marriage in the absence of any compelling social harm presented by the union of same sex couples, but also to preserve the social advantages of family stability and enfranchisement. A sizable portion of the electorate has begun to realize that the government's restriction of the marriage franchise to one man and one woman excludes minority expressions of that commitment unfairly.

Some pundits opposed to gay marriage have warned that this freedom would be a slippery slope to polygamy. However, I would argue that the question of LGBT marriage and the question of polygamy are the same. The concept of separation of church and state requires the government to refrain from defining marriage for its citizenry. Lord Acton wrote in his The History of Freedom in Antiquity, "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."
Minority expressions of marriage may very likely be one of this generation's most important tests of freedom.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.npr.org...
[3] http://www.archives.gov...

MoralityProfessor

Con

I would like to start off by thanking Pro for his involvement in this debate and appreciate the opportunity for respectful and rational discourse.

I will be arguing against the legalization of polygamy, even given limitations to ensure fair rights. I believe that the structure of polygamy (even when give fair limitations under the law) will not, in practice, uphold necessary boundaries of equality. I also will be arguing that polygamy is overall detrimental to society.

Let's get right to it:

A1: POLYGAMY, IN PRINCIPLE, IS A STRUCTURALLY UNEQUAL SYSTEM

Polygamy, even in cases where all partners involved receive equal benefits, is fundamentally a practice of disproportionate equalities. It endangers equality, not solely between men and women, but between polygamous partners as well. For example, take polygyny (the most common form of polygamy), where a man has multiple wives. Given the scenario of divorce, there is an asymmetrical position of power given to the man. While the husband may divorce any/all of his wives, they, in turn, would be permitted to divorce him, but not any other wife. Each wife's options are limited to accepting all current partners or divorcing her husband, thereby leaving all partners. Note that this situation is not unique to polygyny, but occupies all forms of polygamous marriage, where asymmetrical positions of power reside among the partners.

This inconsistency of rights can be found not just in legal aspects but in the fabric of the relationships as well. Problems can arise from tension in regards to areas concerning conjugal rights, burden of income, household responsibility, etc. because of the asymmetrical function in the relationship.

Additionally, note that polyandry, the form of polygamy involving a women marrying multiple husbands, is exceedingly rare in society. A survey taken of traditional societies in the world reveals that only .47% percent of marriages practice polyandry. Of those, the majority take part in what is known as fraternal polyandry, where a group of brothers marry one wife. This type has criminal basis in at least two ways: polygamy and incest. Non-fraternal polyandry is almost nonexistent in society. (http://www.psychologytoday.com...) Though, in theory, decriminalizing polygamy would provide equal opportunity for men to marry multiple women as well as for women to marry multiple men, in practice the circumstances would be quite different. Polygamy can essentially be categorized by polygynous affairs in the majority of cases.

A2: NEGATIVE EFFECTS ON THOSE INVOLVED IN POLYGAMOUS MARRIAGES

Numerous studies report negative effects on women in polygamous marriages, as well as children. Several studies done at Ben-Gurion University reveal higher levels of psychological distress, problems in marital relationships, low levels of self-esteem, and life satisfaction for women in such marriages. Negative effects on children include lower levels of academic achievement, reports of substandard relationships with their fathers as well as low perception of economic status. Other studies include reports of behavioral problems in children. (http://stoppolygamyincanada.wordpress.com...)

A3: NEGATIVE EFFECTS ON SOCIETY

Studies reveal that within the US, though there are slightly higher ratios of men to women at birth, from the ages of 16-64 the ratio is equal, meaning the population is made up of about 50% women and 50% men.
(http://en.wikipedia.org...) This gives everyone more or less an equal chance to mate. As I have already shown, the majority of polygamous marriages involve one man marrying several wives. This inevitably leaves other men with a decreased chance to find spouses, in some cases, altogether eliminating the possibility.

Additionally, there is significant data evidencing that single men are much more likely to commit crimes. (http://www.cato.org...) and (http://www.eurekalert.org...) This explains why polygamous societies in general have higher crime rates. As Joseph Henrich, in his article, The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage, writes, "By expanding the pool of unmarried men and elevating the degree of intrasexual competition, more polygynous marriages will increase men's discounting of the future and risk-taking, resulting in more socially undesirable behaviours." (http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org... - see '(i) Implication: normative monogamy reduces crime') Henrich goes on to explain how even small numbers of polygynous marriages result in increasing numbers of men without mates.

I will conclude here for now and would like to reiterate my thanks to Pro for establishing a compelling Round 2. Looking forward to his response.
Debate Round No. 2
Oromagi

Pro




Polygamy, even in cases where all partners involved receive equal benefits, is fundamentally a practice of disproportionate equalities. Problems can arise from tension in regards to areas concerning conjugal rights, burden of income, household responsibility, etc. because of the asymmetrical function in the relationship.

I won't dispute that polygamous arrangements may result in an asymmetrical balance of labor, benefits, sex, etc. This argument alone may well be sufficient to dissuade the average American from seeking a polyamorous marriage and I would not begrudge any person such a fundamental, personal right regarding their own happiness. Plural marriage has no appeal for me and I'm sure I share that sentiment with the majority.
However, we do not deny Americans the right to any practice based on popular appeal. We don't criminalize an act simply because it might lead to an unfair balance of power. Were that the case, we might have cause to strike down every corporation in America. The question to consider is whether such asymmetries are a sufficient threat to public good to compel states to forbid such practice. Isn't the answer obviously not?

In any case, what marriage is ever equal? Few couples are satisfied with the intrinsic balance of household income or labor or sex. Why hold a marriage to some higher standard of satisfaction simply based on the number of participants?

A survey taken of traditional societies in the world reveals that only .47% percent of marriages practice polyandry.

Arguments for the denial of rights based on the size of the minority are not compelling. When discussing non-traditional marriages, whether it be polygynous or polyandrous or gay, the numbers of the minority will always be small. The state's authority to deny a practice is not increased in reverse proportion to the size of the minority, however often legislatures behave as if this were true.

...the majority take part in what is known as fraternal polyandry, where a group of brothers marry one wife. This type has criminal basis in at least two ways: polygamy and incest.

And this a public threat? Polygynous marriages also often include sisters. In the family picture I included in round 2, two of the wives are sisters.

Many states offer genetic screening programs that advise newlyweds about potential genetic risks. We don't empower states to forbid any marriage based on those test results, and we certainly don't want to give the government such awesome power over our happiness.
To the extent that inbreeding between siblings increases the likelihood of congenital disorders in children, health professionals should strongly caution newlyweds against inbreeding. Beyond that, I can't see how such arrangements are the business of anybody outside of the family. Just as states need to stop caring about gay love or polyamorous love, states need to stop worrying even when two brothers wish to marry one woman.

In fact, if we're worried about incest, we need to legalize polygamy in order to reduce the potential of genetic disorders in current outlaw communities. Today, these hidden communities limit contact with non-polygamous communities with the result of small numbers of eligible, marriageable partners. The polygamist community in Colorado City, AZ, for example, has the world's highest incidence in the world of fumarase deficiency because half the town is descended from two founding families. [1] I expect many second cousin marriages could be prevented if these communities were allowed to come out of the closet and seek partners elsewhere.

Numerous studies report negative effects on women in polygamous marriages, as well as children.

None of which is improved by making these women and children outlaws and much of which may be prevented by the healthier life of living in the open. We know that isolated rural communities in general are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to healthcare, [2] and we know that criminalization of polygamy drives these families into the isolation of rural communities. Likewise, enfranchisement is the likeliest path to improving the academic achievement and economic status of polygamous children.

The most important factor impacting the health and well-being of existing polygamist groups in the US is their fear of prosecution. Isolation makes such groups vulnerable to exploitation by predatory fundamentalists like the Jeffs family in Colorado City. Under the Jeffs, women were afraid to come forward with complaints about abuse and non-consensual sex because they feared that they might lose their families in the course of any investigation. Children were pulled from school and put to work, but those children risked losing their entire family if they complained. If polygamy itself were not a crime, Colorado City women and children would be empowered to seek civil remedies, file for divorce, demand property and custody rights confident that the core family would remain intact.

After all, there's nothing intrinsic to polygamy that demands academic weakness or low self-esteem. These are symptoms common to the poverty of isolation and exploitation, not the necessary result of plural marriage.

Studies reveal that... the population is made up of about 50% women and 50% men. This gives everyone more or less an equal chance to mate.

Does the state have some civic obligation in this regard? I don't think so. The numbers of families likely to voluntarily participate in polygamist marriages is going to be a very small minority. Small enough, I expect, to prevent widespread shifts in the number of available partners. The legalization of gay marriages has a far more significant impact on the availability of mating partners, but nobody still makes the argument that gay people must be required to make themselves available for heterosexual procreation.

Consider that the American West attracts a more substantial portion of single males while the South has a larger proportion of available women. Does the state have some obligation to redistribute population so that every woman gets her fair shot at a man or vice versa? Clearly not.





Further, let's agree that substantial population increase is no longer an important social or fiscal benefit to digital age economies, so governments should feel less concern regarding citizen mating habits and baby-making.

Additionally, there is significant data evidencing that single men are much more likely to commit crimes.

Again, I hardly think the decriminalization is going to create a rush to the polygamist altar leaving populations of single men behind. In a society where men and women have equal rights to family planning, division of property, child custody, polygamy is never going to be a popular configuration. Fewer people are getting married today and they are marrying at a much later age than even a generation ago. By comparison with these major social trends, the impact of polygamy will be undetectable.

Pro has concentrated her arguments on the negative impacts of current polygynist marriages in the US. While I don't contradict her concerns, I also don't find those concerns a compelling argument for prohibition. We might cite similar statistics regarding the problems of marrying an alcoholic, but we don't want to live in a country where the government prevents us from marrying a drunkard should we choose so unwisely. Further, we can't genuinely know the social impact of decriminalization since polygamy has almost never been practiced in a society where women have significant civil rights. I see no reason to assume that decriminalization will cause the disempowerment of women, and every reason to believe that an extension of the marriage franchise may actually empower women already living polygamist lives in the underground.



[1] http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com...
[2] http://ruralhealth.stanford.edu...
MoralityProfessor

Con

Thanks to my opponent for his argument - let's jump right in:

"Polygamous communities... are not likely to report abuses that might result in legal action against the whole community."
This argument essentially reasons that an act should be decriminalized in order so that the participants can report other crimes without fear of being punished for their own. This argument only holds legitimacy once we have established that the act in question doesn't deserve punishment. Illegal immigrants face a similar problem, where exposure could lead to deportation, but that isn't reason in itself to give them citizenship. Alone, this argument has no impact, unless Pro can prove that polygamy shouldn't be illegal in the first place. This can be applied to Pro's legitimacy argument as well. Before assisting children and immigrants in defining a legal status, we must first establish that polygamy ought to be legal. The sex-offender registry probably does little to benefit sex-offenders, but we all can agree that their actions are deserving of the consequences. This argument too, carries no weight until we can ascertain what the status of polygamists ought to be.

It's also important to keep in mind that though these people may be law-abiding in other respects, they are still doing something that is illegal. Anyone that is currently married to more than one spouse has done so knowing they are committing a crime. No matter how law-abiding they may be in other areas, their actions imply clear criminal intent. Which brings us to Pro's next argument:

"Polygamy laws violate first amendment guarantees."
With a closer look, I think we'll find that they don't. The first amendment doesn't protect all religious expression. In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson made a distinction between religious belief and actions that were a product of religious belief. He wrote that, '...the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions..." (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu...) This statement was used in the case Reynolds v. United States, to support that though the court could not legislate over opinion, its ruling could reach to 'actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.' (http://law2.umkc.edu...) The reasoning behind this is clear. The claim of religious freedom shouldn't give a person license to commit crimes, for example, using it to justify human sacrifice.

"[W]e do not deny Americans the right to any practice based on popular appeal. We don't criminalize an act simply because it might lead to an unfair balance of power."
It seems Pro has turned my argument concerning the intrinsic inequality of polygamous marriages into an argument based on popular appeal. It was not my intention to say that polygamous marriage is unappealing to the majority, but to show that it is an essentially an institution of inequality. I provided examples in the previous round demonstrating the many aspects of inequality that exist fundamentally within such a structure. And while not being unreasonable, we do provide limitations to prevent an unfair balance of power. Such is the case for placing term limits on presidents.

"...what marriage is ever equal? Few couples are satisfied with the intrinsic balance of household income or labor or sex."
On the contrary, I believe this adds support to my own argument. For those that actually choose to get married (as opposed to cohabitation), we know that the likelihood of divorce can be from 40%-50%. (http://en.wikipedia.org...) With numbers that high, trying to jam more people into an already unstable structure can only hinder it.

"Arguments for the denial of rights based on the size of the minority are not compelling."
I was not suggesting the denial of rights based on small numbers, rather, once again, demonstrating the inequality inherent within polygamy. The fact that women with multiple husbands make up only .47% of marriages, while men with multiple wives make up approximately 83%, shows an inconsistency within polygamy. It is an inconsistency that favors a male-dominant society, where women will be placed in a position of inequality due to the structure such an institute naturally holds. When the right to equality begins to encompass the right to inequality, we know there's a problem.

In Mormonism, a religion that is known to enshrine polygamy in its belief system, polygamy is limited to a man marrying multiple wives. This shows once again that even if, in theory, the legalization of polygamy would provide 'equal' benefits, in practice, it would not. Those same Mormon women would not have the opportunity to marry multiple men (should they want to), because it is forbidden by their religion. (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

"Just as states need to stop caring about gay love or polyamorous love, states need to stop worrying even when two brothers wish to marry one woman."
Though there are certainly similarities between the case for gay marriage, polyamorous marriage, and inter-related marriages (I wasn't sure if Pro was referring to incest here or not), I feel that each one has to also be discussed on a separate level. As this is a debate concerning the legalization of polygamy, (and character spaces are already limited) I will not get into the incest argument here. It should suffice to say, however, that those concerned about incest (which is illegal) because they are illegally practicing polygamy, don't have cause for complaint.

"The most important factor impacting the health and well-being of existing polygamist groups in the US is their fear of prosecution... there's nothing intrinsic to polygamy that demands academic weakness or low self-esteem. These are symptoms common to the poverty of isolation and exploitation, not the necessary result of plural marriage."
Pro states all of the above, suggesting the study results are because polygamy is illegal, but brings no sources to back it up. The link I provided in the previous round also cites studies involving people in polygamous relationships who live in countries where polygamy is legal, indicating that fear of prosecution isn't the only impacting factor.

"The numbers of families... in polygamist marriages is going to be a very small minority. Small enough... to prevent widespread shifts in the number of available partners. The legalization of gay marriages has... impact on the availability of mating partners, but nobody still makes the argument that gay people must be required to make themselves available for heterosexual procreation. "
Firstly, pointing out that because the same issue hasn't been brought up in regards to another system doesn't negate the issue. Secondly, let's bring the scale down somewhat to see what type of impact polygamy might have on the availability of partners. Let's say we have 10 men and 10 women. Now, one of those men marries four women. That leaves six women and nine men, leaving three men, 30% of that group partner-less.

"Does the state have some obligation to redistribute population so that every woman gets her fair shot at a man or vice versa?"
I think the major difference here is that though it is legal for citizens to travel to other states, marrying another person's spouse is not. This wasn't so much an argument involving the obligations of the government, just showing a broader picture of what polygamy could mean.

"...substantial population increase is no longer an important... benefit... so governments should feel less concern regarding citizen mating habits and baby-making."
It's interesting to note that among the reasons for practicing polygamy are 'it allows men to have more children'. (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

Looking forward to Pro's response!
Debate Round No. 3
Oromagi

Pro

RE: this argument has no impact, unless Pro can prove that polygamy shouldn't be illegal in the first place. This can be applied to Pro's legitimacy argument as well.

That's not the way democracy works, is it? Citizens are not obligated to show why any activity shouldn't be illegal, rather the burden of law is always on the state. I think we've already seen that current polygamy law is archaic and redundant. We should note that Con made no rebuttal to my argument that mid-19th century polygamy laws are antiquated and outdated, so I take she does not disagree. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy wrote in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialea:

When the State enacts legislation that intentionally or unintentionally places a burden upon religiously motivated practice, it must justify that burden by showing that it is the least restrictive means of achieving some compelling state interest.’”

My opponent has argued that polygamy should be illegal because women share less marital power and may be less happy. Of course, women today have the option of never entering a polygamous marriage and they also have the power to abandon a polygamous marriage at will. Polygamy laws are redundant because women are now empowered to avoid any dissatisfaction with a polygamous arrangement at any time. If any and every woman is dissatisfied with plural marriage, they can opt without ever relying on the current polygamy laws. Women belonging to polygamist religions therefore have at least one less right than their counterparts belonging to monogamist religions: they are not free to marry in accordance to their faith and are therefore less equal under current law. Since polygamy laws are redundant and more restrictive in the achievement of women's equality than more recent law, the polygamy laws must be set aside.

RE:
It's also important to keep in mind that though these people may be law-abiding in other respects, they are still doing something that is illegal.

When polygamy laws were first enacted, adultery and indeed any sex outside of marriage was generally viewed as criminal behavior. Although some adultery laws remain on the books in some states, prosecutions are rare and convictions considered virtually impossible since Lawrence v. Texas. That 2003 Supreme Court decision found that

intimate, adult consensual conduct was part of the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections and that "the Texas [anti-sodomy] statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual."

Justly, we Americans no longer prosecute citizens for sex outside of marriage. We do not convict people for maintaining an affair outside of marriage or co-habiting with multiple partners. That would be considered an unwarranted intrusion into our personal lives. How then, is polygamy considered an unacceptable practice when the only substantive difference between illegal polygamy and legal adulterous co-habitation is a religious ceremony or a piece of official paper? In truth, American law no longer sanctions the act of polygamy, we only sanction those religions who wish to define such conduct as sacred.

I don't need to establish that polygamy ought to be legal because co-habitation and adultery are already considered lawful, private, protected conduct. The question is what gives the state the right to call such conduct illegal just because the practitioners seek religious recognition? In this respect, Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association and Reynolds vs. US are firmly on my side of the argument: the action of adultery now being lawful, the state legislates only against the private, religious opinion.

RE: First Amendment does not protect human sacrifice

Irrelevant. We are discussing consensual relationships between adults. Can't we agree that comparing such conduct to the abduction and murder of humans is absurd?

I provided examples in the previous round demonstrating the many aspects of inequality that exist fundamentally within such a structure. And while not being unreasonable, we do provide limitations to prevent an unfair balance of power. Such is the case for placing term limits on presidents.

Con confuses civil equality with the balance of power within a relationship. A woman in a plural marriage possesses rights equal to those of her husband before the law. The state is not empowered to fix the balance of love and power within a marriage any more than a state is empowered to make sure that parents treat all their children with equal love.

RE: we know that the likelihood of divorce can be from 40%-50%. With numbers that high, trying to jam more people into an already unstable structure can only hinder it.

Like marriage, divorce is a private matter between consensual adults. The state has no business getting involved in the divorce practices of its citizens.

It is an inconsistency that favors a male-dominant society, where women will be placed in a position of inequality due to the structure such an institute naturally holds.

So long as women are free to abstain from plural marriage and remove themselves from plural marriage (laws that are already in place), women should be as free to enter in an unequal relationship as they desire. Prohibition against this option, limits women's right to practice their religion.

In Mormonism, a religion that is known to enshrine polygamy in its belief system, polygamy is limited to a man marrying multiple wives.

The Church of LDS explicitly forbids polygamy. [3] Nevertheless, the private beliefs of some fundamentalist Mormons is really none of our business and irrelevant besides. I do not argue for making Mormon marriage practices a civil template for marriage. My argument is polygyny and polyandry are equally of no interest to the state. Likewise, a marriage of three men or a marriage of four women is none of the state's business. I say let the Mormons do what the Mormons like so long as they don't interfere with my choices. Anybody who doesn't want to be a Mormon can easily ignore that belief system.

RE:
the case for gay marriage, polyamorous marriage, and inter-related marriages each one has to also be discussed on a separate level.

Referring back to Lawrence v. Texas, to the extent that all are private, intimate conduct between consenting adults, the Supreme Court has already determined that states have no compelling interest. Instead of discussing each separately, we citizens have a responsibility to stop interfering with conduct that does not concern us.

RE: Let's say we have 10 men and 10 women. Now, one of those men marries four women. That leaves six women and nine men, leaving three men, 30% of that group partner-less.

It's none of our business and it is conduct that takes place lawfully outside of marriage all the time. We need to stop caring.

RE: It's interesting to note that among the reasons for practicing polygamy are 'it allows men to have more children'.

Again, none of our business.

I only have a few words left, so I will simply re-iterate my central argument.

CONCLUSION: US states should legalize polygamy so long as rational limitations are provided to ensure fair tax, custodial, and property rights.I have demonstrated that polygamy laws are antiquated and made redundant by modern civil rights. I have demonstrated that prohibition causes harm to some outlaw religious groups and interferes in the private lives of citizens where no interference is warranted or desired. Therefore, the resolution is upheld: we should decriminalize polygamy.

Thanks to Con for a fine discussion. VOTE PRO!


[1] http://www.law.cornell.edu...
[2] http://supreme.justia.com...
[3] http://www.boap.org...
MoralityProfessor

Con

Thanks to Pro for his responses.

"Citizens are not obligated to show why any activity shouldn't be illegal, rather the burden of law is always on the state."
Though democracy may work like that, debates don't. Polygamy is currently illegal and my opponent has made the assertion that it should be legalized. Thus, he is required to bring evidence supporting the legalization of polygamy in order to fulfill his burden of proof. I continue to maintain that decriminalization in order for participants to report other crimes is not a sufficient argument unless we can first establish that the act in question shouldn't be illegal.

"I think we've already seen that current polygamy law is archaic and redundant."
This is an appeal to novelty, as neither archaic-ness nor redundancy is sufficient reason to make something legal. Though the rise of feminism has certainly empowered women to make choices in their marriages, I still maintain that the inherent structure of polygamy places an unequal burden on involved parties, specifically the women.

"Women belonging to polygamist religions therefore have at least one less right than their counterparts..."
Though Pro brushes it off as 'none of our business' and 'irrelevant', it is important to note that even given its legalization, any religious woman in a polygamous marriage will still have one less right than their counterparts; namely, they will not have the freedom to marry multiple men as is expressly forbidden by their religion. Within the fundamentalist Mormon groups, it is believed that a man should have three or more wives and that 'wives are required to be subordinate to their husbands.' (http://en.wikipedia.org...) To legalize polygamy for reasons concerning equality of religious freedom when the religion that practices it contains a patriarchal doctrine is counterintuitive. Though the state has no power in outlawing a patriarchal doctrine (as that falls under the category of religious opinion) they do have the power to stop it by legislating against the action of a polygamous marriage.

"How then, is polygamy considered an unacceptable practice when the only substantive difference between illegal polygamy and legal adulterous co-habitation is a religious ceremony or a piece of official paper?"
Firstly, Pro compares adulterous co-habitation with polygamy, and I think upon closer inspection, we will find the two are mutually exclusive. Extramarital affairs are seen as acts of betrayal and wives don't recognize mistresses as having equal status. This is where the importance of that 'piece of official paper' comes in, because we contrast that with polygamy, where participants recognize other spouses in the marriage.

Secondly, such a comparison limits marriage to only a sexual relationship. Even legally speaking, marriage goes very much beyond that, being 'a contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.' (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

As such, we find that the action of adultery being legal in some states is not a warrant to legalize polygamy.

"The state is not empowered to fix the balance of love and power within a marriage any more than a state is empowered to make sure that parents treat all their children with equal love."
Though, indeed, the state has no control over the balance of love and power, it does have control over equality provided through the laws it passes. As I have already demonstrated in Round 2, even legally speaking, there is an asymmetrical balance of equality in any polygamous marriage amongst the spouses.

"Can't we agree that comparing such conduct to the abduction and murder of humans is absurd?"
Comparing the conduct of polygamy to the murder of humans might fall under the category of absurd, however, it wasn't conduct I was concerned about. Just reiterating that the claim of religious freedom doesn't give license to commit crimes.

Pro's remaining arguments seem to have a general theme to them, mainly, 'not caring about conduct that does not concern us.' Instead of addressing them one by one, I'll attempt to give a broader answer to that general concern.

Many don't realize the profound impact changes in society can have, even small changes. Without attempting to condemn nor condone any of the following actions, they all affect society. The acceptance of divorce, gay marriage, birth out of wedlock, abortion, increase in single parenting and so many other shifts within culture all effect society, whether we see it or not.

Take divorce for example. In theory, divorce is a private matter that shouldn't affect us in regards to other people. However, in practice, it ultimately will affect us. Children of divorced parents have higher incarceration rates then children raised in a 2-parent home.



There are also behavioral problems associated in children of single parents.



Both behavioral problems and increased crime rates are variables that can and do affect society. Ultimately, the success of family in society often signifies the success of civilization. When making laws in regards to marriage and family structure, it is integral to make sure such changes will be positive long-term. Brushing aside issues that concern the 'nucleus of civilization' (family) as irrelevant because they don't concern us ultimately fails to protect society long-term. (http://www.nytimes.com...)

Therefore, looking at the consequences of polygamous marriage on society is by no means an illegitimate argument.

Conclusion:
Even given rational limitations in law, the structure of polygamous marriage will not provide necessary boundaries of equality. I have shown the inherent inequality of polygamous marriage in principle and shown why polygamy being illegal does not violate the first amendment. I have provided sources for the negative impacts of polygamy on society and those involved in polygamous marriages. Pro has not disputed the claims of negative impacts nor asymmetrical balances inherent within polygamous relationships.

I would like to thank Pro for a stimulating debate and the opportunity to go up against someone with evident debating skill.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by MoralityProfessor 3 years ago
MoralityProfessor
I certainly appreciate the compliments, but I am overall satisfied with the outcome. Oromagi is a fine debater and I wish him luck in the final round.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
whiteflame
Both of you have a lot to be proud of from this kind of debate, it was a very worthwhile read.
Posted by Oromagi 3 years ago
Oromagi
Thanks for the compliments, MP. Although I think I was lucky that there was only one voter and I have to admit I deliberately withheld from asking for more votes because I was afraid additional votes would go your way. Thanks again for a good debate.
Posted by MoralityProfessor 3 years ago
MoralityProfessor
Congratulations to Oromagi! I must admit, I am receptive to his winning. He's a very skilled debater and I appreciate the opportunity to go up against him! Thanks for a wonderful debate!
Posted by Bullish 3 years ago
Bullish
I don't believe in government sanctioned marriage at all, so I have no platform to vote on this.
Posted by whiteflame 3 years ago
whiteflame
A very interesting debate, good job to both sides. The decision comes down to a basic idea of necessity. Essentially, Pro paints the round as the legalization of polygamy being a question of whether or not the law actually improves the current state of affairs, and what should be considered when determining whether a law is just and effective. Con attempts to argue that legalization requires that we establish a benefit, or at least a lack of harms, and that the collateral damage of legalization to society at large, women in religious communities, and children of polygamous parents, is enough to justify keeping it illegal.

The issue is that I don't get analysis as to why other current is insufficient to prevent transgressions against women. I remain uncertain as to the harms caused to society as a result of this particular action, rather than a bunch of concerns that exist with any marriage, divorce, or incestuous relationship. It appears to be a nonunique problem, and not one I'm certain is exacerbated by allowing a different kind of marriage.

So I'm left with the child issue, and I wish Con had spent more time on this in the final round, because I feel it's her most promising argument. Still, it gets support, and is defended well.

What am I weighing that against? A lack of abuses being reported by women in these relationships and limited choice and religious freedoms.

No one really hits the impact level hard here, nor do I see a side-by-side comparison of outcomes at the end of this debate. So this part is left up to me. From what I can tell, the harms to children persist in status quo, and as neither Pro nor Con has argued that polygamy will increase in incidence, it's difficult to determine if this impact will occur and how much of an effect there will be. Pro's impacts don't require an increase, they function based on changing the situation for current polygamists. As these are more likely to occur, I vote Pro.
Posted by MoralityProfessor 3 years ago
MoralityProfessor
Much appreciated. I may have mentioned this before, but your level of debating skill is very professional. I was very impressed.

Here are the links to the charts:

Incarceration rates of children with divorced parents:
http://waysandmeans.house.gov...

Behavioral problems in children with divorced parents:
http://www.heritage.org...

Thank you Oromagi for agreeing to let me post the links.
Posted by Oromagi 3 years ago
Oromagi
If you want to post links in comments to those charts, I won't object. Thanks for a good debate!
Posted by MoralityProfessor 3 years ago
MoralityProfessor
We're now in the voting period. I tried to put 2 charts into the last round, but they didn't go through. It seems the pictures came up when I hit review, but not when I submitted the argument. :/

I'm not sure what the conduct is in such a situation. Can I post the links to the charts here?

Either way, thanks for a great debate, Oromagi! I really admire your skill as a debater!
Posted by MoralityProfessor 3 years ago
MoralityProfessor
My apologies for the constricted writing style. I literally had 2 characters left when I finished up, and that was after removing every word I felt wasn't important. :/
Anyway, looking forward to your response
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
whiteflame
OromagiMoralityProfessorTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.