The Instigator
Pro (for)
15 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
10 Points

Polygamy ought to be legal in the United States.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/8/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,727 times Debate No: 13956
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (7)




I'm going to take the position "Polygamy ought to be legal in the US." I don't believe any definitions are needed to clarify this, but if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.

Please don't accept this debate if you aren't going to finish it or if you want to quote bible passages at me.

I would like round one to simply be an acceptance to debate with me, we will use the remaining three rounds for the actual debate.

Good luck!



Bring it, fool.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting, Woodpecker, good luck!

*Burden Analysis*

Normally, the affirmative bears the burden of proof because he advocates a change in policy from the status quo. In this circumstance, however, the burden of proof lies on Woodpecker. Why? Because in the United States and in all countries with a semblance of code law, an action is assumed to be legal unless there is a compelling justification for the creation of a law to make that action illegal. For example, if there were equal evidence on both sides on a debate about whether a given action should be illegal or legal, we defer to allowing the action, that is, we defer to that action being legal. Therefore, if you find both of our claims equally persuasive (or useless, as the case may be), we should allow polygamy.


1. As long as a relationship occurs between consenting adults, the government has no legitimate authority to ban it.

In Western, liberal democracies, has a legitimate authority to restrict liberty ONLY when it is protecting the rights of others. Even then, if the harm is minimal or vague, we defer to keeping an action legal and regulating it. Opponents of gay marriage and polygamy often say that it will "degrade the value of marriage", whatever that happens to be. I contest that a marriage between loving individuals can degrade anything. Furthermore, even if you buy that polygamy "degrades" marriage's inherent value, that is an amorphous harm which can't be resolved through a legislative ban. Consider smoking cigarettes, which has a harm even more substantial than a degraded value of marriage. We should still allow people to smoke because their right to autonomy is much more important than amorphous harms. In circumstances where the harms become significant, like when someone smoking in a confined public building (or when someone in a marriage is abusing a spouse) we can regulate the activity. But a blanket ban is a gross rights violation with no persuasive justification. A ban on polygamy violates all of the following rights.

a. Religious Freedom - Some religious groups [such as fundamentalist Mormons] hold polygamy as a fundamental tenet. A governmental ban on polygamy prevents them from expressing their religion as they see fit. Consider a ban on Communion. It would be totally arbitrary and a horrendous violation of the rights of Catholics.
b. Self-actualization - In modern society, we accept that individuals have a right to actualize in any manner they see fit (as long as it doesn't violate the rights of others). If a couple (or group) believes that they would be better off if they married, society ought not intervene.
c. Privacy - The government has no place in the bedrooms of consenting individuals. Marriage is fundamentally a private affair.
d. Equality - Marriage gives a number of rights and privileges to married individuals. It is a violation of equal opportunity if people of some religious faiths, creeds, or lifestyles are prevented from exercising those rights.

2. Legalization and regulation will prevent abuse.

One of the only arguments against polygamy which isn't totally flawed is that polygamy is sometimes a proxy for abuse. However, legalization and regulation of polygamy results in a variety of positive effects for parties who could be potentially abused:

a. Fewer underage marriages - Even if we accept that coercive marriages of young women to older men are bad, we can still solve that problem with the legalization of polygamy. When the government has to confer marriage licenses on every couple desiring to marry, the state has an official record of these marriages and existing laws regulating underage marriages come into play. This will prevent underage marriage from becoming as much of a part of polygamy.

b. Abuse will be easier to discover and treat - Abuse exists in any form of marriage, and there are existing institutions to discover and solve it. When the state has an official record of a married couple (or group), a spouse has legal recourse in order to obtain damages from another abusive spouse. In addition, social workers and government officials will have more access to these homes because spouses won't be afraid of getting arrested for polygamy if they go to the police to report abuse.

3. Being married gives individuals certain important rights. By denying marriage to polygamists the government is unconstitutionally discriminating against them.

Polygamists and monogamists ought to be legally and morally equivalent, but the fact of the matter is that the government denies certain benefits and rights to polygamists by not recognizing polygamist unions as marriage. Spouses get all kinds of benefits under modern law, and there is no reason that these benefits should be excluded from polygamists. These benefits include

a. Employment benefits
b. Health Insurance benefits
c. Tax-free transfer of property
d. Spousal privilege in court cases

and the list quite literally goes on and on. For every example I can list, Woodpecker needs to show a reason why this discrimination is not unconstitutional as per the 'compelling government interest' standard established by he Supreme Court. What compelling state interest is hindered when a polygamous husband is able to purchase health insurance that covers more than one wife? What compelling state interest is hindered when polygamous marriage itself occurs?


On a purely theoretical level, Woodpecker could argue that we shouldn't allow gay marriage, interracial marriage, or marriage between adults of a large age differential. I doubt he will stoop that low, however. If he thinks that any of those should be allowed, he needs to draw a bright line between those activities and polygamous marriage.

Thanks, Woodpecker! I'm looking forward to a fun and interesting debate.



Good luck, Zeb.

Burden Analysis

I don't accept the assertion that there is some sort of unusual burden on me in this debate. If neither of us makes persuasive arguments, we ought defer to the status quo. If Pro gives you no compelling reason to change the law, the hassle of changing alone combined with the popular opposition to polygamy ought be enough to win me the debate. All that being said, Pro's advocacy is very clearly in the wrong.

Constructive argumentation

Con philosophy - Though in general the western liberal state ought not discriminate between deferring conceptions of the good life, there are several circumstances under which such discrimination is totally acceptable, and probably obligatory. Two such circumstances are relevant to this debate.
1. When a religious belief or practice fundamentally contradicts or interferes with a foundational principle of liberal society, the government has a right to interfere. For example, I would argue that France was completely justified in its recent decision to ban the Muslim burqa, and I would reason thus. Gender equality is a necessary prerequisite for any truly liberal society, and insofar as the burqa functions as a symbol for the dominion of man over woman, even though it is of religious significance, banning it is justified because the basic equality of man and woman is more important to the preservation of a liberal society than allowing a secondary religious practice. I admit to oversimplifying the symbolism of the burqa to some extent, but even if you don't buy the example, the argument is sound.
2. When a religious belief or practice causes significant third-party harms, especially to minors, the government has an obligation to intercede. This, I think, is evident. An example relevant to this debate is female genital mutilation. Though it is a widespread cultural and religious practice with longstanding traditional justifications, FGM both contradicts the aforementioned liberal principle of gender equality and causes significant physical harms.

Under this philosophy, I will advance two arguments.

1. Polygamy ought not be legalized in the United States because both in terms of symbolism and practice it contradicts the principle of gender equality, a principle fundamental to liberal society. Polygamy as practiced in the US is actually almost exclusively polygyny--the marriage of one man to multiple women. This is the practice advocated, for example, by fringe groups of the Mormon church.
First, polygyny is by nature oppressive towards women. Any group of women married to a single man, even if they have entered the relationship willingly, are less empowered than they would be without the other women. Because the wives must compete with each other, they will never be on equal footing with their husband. The man will be able to play the women against each other and use jealousy to get his way.
For example, wives sometimes punish their husbands by withholding sex. This strategy is much less effective in a polygynous relationship because every wife is presented with a clear case of Prisoner's Dilemma. Any one of the wives has much to gain (special treatment by her husband, favoritism towards her children) by being the one who breaks the standoff first, so presenting a united front will probably be impossible. The same will be true for most other conflicts between the husband and his wives. In a society that recognizes the fundamental importance of gender equality, this is incredibly problematic. However, even if you don't buy that polygyny is always oppressive in theory...
Second, polygyny as practiced in the US is unquestionably a form of oppression. The only major religious group I am aware of that practices polygyny in the US is the FDLS (Pro can certainly correct me if I'm wrong about this). The problems with polygyny as practiced by the FDLS are numerous.
1. Women are assigned to a husband by a church leader, and have no choice in the matter themselves.
2. Sexual abuse is overlooked, as a wife is regarded as her husband's property.
3. Traditional family roles are propagated to an extreme extent, as the husband is the only one expected to pursue a career.
Unless Pro can effectively demonstrate that polygyny does not serve as a proxy for these forms of oppression, it is clear that polygamy should remain illegal in the US.

2. Polygamy ought be illegal because as practiced it causes clear third-party harms to minors.
First, any of the women forced into polygynous marriages by their family and the FDLS are minors, and therefore ought be protected from such sexual coercion. A polygynous society by nature encourages early marriage, because the high demand for women means that those women who are perceived as being sexually mature enough for marriage are quickly snapped up, as it were. Thus there is an incentive as a man to marry women at as young an age as possible, while they are still available.
Second, many young men are actually forced out of polygamous societies, because fierce competition for a limited number of women means that the older, more powerful men of the society have a huge incentive to limit competition whenever possible.
Third, polygamy often leads to abuse, neglect, and incest. Having many wives and children means that a man spends much less time with each, leading to numerous problems in terms of parental care and responsibility.

For all these reasons, polygamy ought be illegal.


1. "As long as a relationship occurs between consenting adults, the government has no legitimate authority to ban it."

The problem with this argument is that consent is not meaningful under coercion. Most women married by the FDLS do consent, but do so under pressure from their families and out of fear of divine retribution. Most women also consent to FGM, because they believe they will not be marriageable before God while in possession of a clitoris, but that does not make FGM okay.
Next, Pro talks about the idiocy of the idea of "degradation of marriage" which is a terrible argument, and one that I have not made.
Then Pro claims that banning polygamy would be like banning communion. This is absurd. Communion neither symbolically nor physically oppresses women, and is not a cause of major third-party harms to minors. In the same vein, self-actualization tends to be difficult when one's husband is alternatively beating and raping one. Privacy can be infringed on when a blatant rights violation is taking place, and moreover is not being violated here, because polyamory is not banned at present. Though sex is not, marriage is unquestionably a public affair. And finally, if Pro recognizes that equality is important, surely he must agree that gender equality is more fundamental than second-level religious equality.

2. Legalization and regulation will prevent abuse.

a. Fewer underage marriages - The unavailability of marriage licenses for under-aged couples hasn't stopped the FDLS so far. There is no reason to believe that legalization would change that.
b. Increased reporting of abuse - The frequency of abuse among the polygamous is a huge concession by Pro. Given that polygamy is largely responsible for much of the abuse in question, we should address the root cause rather than simply increase reporting. Moreover, given the closed, unegalitarian nature of groups which practice polygamy, increased reporting by women of abuse by husbands and fathers is highly unlikely.

3. Loss of marriage rights
I largely concede this point, insofar as I recognize that in the case of happy, non-coercive, polyamourous relationships society is unfairly discriminating. However, such relationships are, as I've shown, very rare. As such, the many harms of legalizing, and thus legitimizing, polygamy should outweigh the very few harms that result from the status quo. I will talk more about this point in the next round, space permitting.

Debate Round No. 2


*Burden Analysis*

In the US, we defer to allowing actions. In addition, when Congress tries to make an action illegal, the burden of proof always lies on those trying to do so. Consider a ban punishing cyborgs who pogo-stick. Even if there are no reasons not to have such a law, we still should not have it. Why? Because there is no reason to have had it in the first place. In order for Woodpecker to win, he not only needs to rebut me, but he also needs to show a clear and compelling reason for this ban.

*Woodpecker's Argumentation*

Woodpecker says that sometimes, a democracy should discriminate against some conception of the good life. I reject this at face. State neutrality is a core principle of democratic theory. Fundamentally, we must let citizens make lifestyle decisions for themselves. Woodpecker then claims the US ought to discriminate...
1. When a religious belief contradicts a foundational principle of society - My response to this is that individual choice and freedom from government intervention are also "foundational principles of society". We shouldn't choose gender equality over both of those principles in our legal system. If women want to marry in this fashion, should the government restrict their freedom in the name of gender equality? About 90% of stay at home parents in our country are women. These women are facilitating a stereotype and leading a lifestyle which is certainly not conducive to gender equality". Should the government prevent some of these women from doing so? Gender equality is an important part of our society, but liberty, privacy, general equality, and religious freedom are all more important, if not individually, then certainly collectively.

2. When a religious belief or practice causes significant third-party harms - Woodpecker has missed the mark just as badly here, because he misses two important points in the 'third-party harm' framework.
A. In order for the government to be just in banning an activity, such a ban must cause a net decrease in harm. In this circumstance, the ban on polygamy causes more harm than it prevents. There are five reasons this is the case:
i. Polygamy is not a perfect proxy for harm. Some of the people who are polygamists in the status quo do abuse their children and wives, but not many of them do. This ban is over-broad because it punishes the innocent along with the guilty.
ii. More mainstream polygamists who don't practice it now (but would if the ban was removed) are not likely to be abusers, insofar as they are obeying the ban on polygamy itself. The ban causes harm because it prevents well-meaning people from exercising their autonomy.
iii. A ban on polygamy doesn't effectively deter abusers. Obviously, if they are already willing to break multiple laws in order to abuse minors/spouses, the marginal deterrent of this ban is incredibly minimal.
iv. Abuse of minors/spouses and marrying underage women are already both crimes. Even if polygamy was legal, the government could, and would, still prosecute and punish people who did those things.
v. As I will discuss on my side of the case, there will actually be less total abuse in a world where polygamy was legal.
B. Polygamy actually isn't directly causal of any third-party harms. Consider the problem of drunk driving. It might be the case that alcohol indirectly leads to the harms of drunk driving, but clearly the solution to this problem is not to ban alcohol. We ban drunk driving instead. Similarly, polygamy itself is not inherently harmful. Therefore, there are better means to eliminate any harms. An important concept behind the principle of harm minimization is the least-restrictive-means test. If there is a less restrictive means to prevent the potential harms of polygamy, a ban on polygamy is unjust. Not only are there less restrictive means to prevent the harms he mentions, but those means are already codified into law. We have laws banning child abuse, spousal abuse, underage marriage, incest etc. and those are a much more direct and appropriate way to deal with those issues.

* My Argumentation *

1. We ought not interfere with a relationship between consenting adults.
Woodpecker says, "Consent is not meaningful under coercion". This is certainly the case, but only if coercion is properly defined. Coercion occurs when there is no way in which an individual could act otherwise, that is, when there is no choice other than the one forced upon such an individual. Woodpecker claims they are coerced in two manners:
A. Family pressure- This is absurd. Family pressure is not a meaningful form of duress. Woodpecker appears to be claiming that it is impossible for an individual under "family pressure" to have free choice. There are more problems with this than I can list here, so let me just point out the major issues.
i. Plenty of the time people get married is when they are "under pressure from their families". Are all of these marriages invalid?
ii. If there were no way to disobey "family pressure", I can imagine there would be far fewer issues of teenage pregnancy, drug use, crime etc.
iii. It is empirically the case that there are women in polygamist families who go on to monogamous relationships.
B. Fear of Divine Retribution- Even more absurd... First of all, as above, it is empirically not the case that this is actually coercive (otherwise, no Christian would ever commit a serious sin). In addition, she is making a choice to believe in divine retribution in the first place, so if this is coercion she is responsible for it.
This argument still stands. Marriage, even in polygamous societies, is a free choice which the government should not interfere with. In addition, the government violates all kinds of important rights when it does so. Religious freedom, self-actualization, privacy, and general equality are all abrogated by this ban. While my opponent makes fun of the example of communion, it still holds true (especially since communion symbolizes cannibalism). Furthermore, some people do self-actualize through polygamy, and it is an pure hyperbole to say that they are all beaten and raped. He says, "Privacy can be infringed when a blatant rights violation is taking place." As I have demonstrated above, there is no inherent rights violation in polygamy. Finally, it seems odd that Woodpecker wants to through general equality out the door in favor of gender equality.

2. Legalization and regulation will reduce abuse.
Woodpecker stakes his case on this issue of harms that exist in the status quo. This is a grave error given that this is a comparative debate. Obviously a ban on polygamy hasn't made the problem of abuse disappear. Given that, the question is whether the legalization of polygamy will reduce existing abuse. He believes it won't, and he claims, "Given that polygamy is largely responsible for much of the abuse in question, we should address the root cause..." I reject the notion that polygamy is actually the root cause or responsible for abuse. If this is true, then there would be no abuse in monogamous households. That said, allowing polygamy will improve relations with groups that practice it, giving the government official records and a better ability to investigate abuse, as well as increasing reporting. There is less abuse on my side, so this argument still stands.

3. Loss of marriage rights.
Woodpecker conceded this point. He says that for some polygamous relationships society is unfairly discriminating. I think this says enough. Even if these are rare (and he has shown no empiric evidence proving this), he has admitted that the government is discriminating. The question that then must be asked is whether there is a less harmful way to deal with any of the issues he has raised. As I have shown, existing bans on abuse and marrying underage women already deal with these issues as best as is feasible, and this further ban is discriminatory, ineffective and unjust.



Look, if neither of us gives any persuasive arguments as to why polygamy should or should not be banned, the fact that the US is a democratic society and there is massive popular opposition here to polygamy means that I win the round. Popular opinion is obviously meaningless when it favors a major rights violation, but if the competing rights claims come out a wash, this wins me the round. Nevertheless, I am also very clearly winning the rights debate.

Con Case

1. Individual choice is a foundational principle of society, but polygamy should not be perceived as an individual choice. Pro has conceded that we're actually talking about polygyny in this round. Now, we all recognize that no woman would ever intrinsically want to share a man with other women. Unlike homosexuality, there is no genetic predisposition to polygamy. Therefore, it is clear that the motivation for engaging in polygamous behavior is external, and specifically religious. Thus polygamy ought be viewed as a component of religious behavior, not as a basic individual choice. I realize this is nit-picky, but it's an important distinction. Basic individual choice is probably what is most fundamental to Western liberal society. However, religion, though important, is a collective behavior, based on a number of external factors. As such, it ought be viewed as less vital than gender equality. Being a man or woman is a more fundamental state than being a Mormon or Jew. Moreover, Mormonism as a whole is still totally possible without polygamy. It is just one specific practice that is illegal. Notice that Zab does not contest whether polygyny is inherently oppressive, only whether this is more important than a specific religious ritual.
Zab also argues that stay-at-home mothering is oppressive, so I should also favor banning it. Though traditional gender roles are slightly oppressive they are not oppressive on a level that warrants interfering with lifestyle choices. Polygamy clearly is. The difference? There is a very sound biological reason for stay-at-home mothering: fathers do not bear milk, and are in general less biologically geared towards child-rearing. There is absolutely no biological motivation for polygamy.
Notice that Zab dropped all of my analysis under this point both about the inherent oppressiveness of polygyny, and about the specific oppressiveness of it as practiced by the FDLS. This alone should lose him the debate. The government is totally justified in banning a single, obscure religious practice that is harmful to and oppressive of women. Liberal society cannot function without gender equality, it's a necessary prerequisite. Polygamy very clearly is not. In terms of competing rights claims, you must vote for Con.

2. Third-party harms
All of Zeb's response hinges on the idea that polygamy is not directly responsible for the harms I've outlined. However, he ignored most of my analysis as to why it is. Three points.
a. Polygyny necessarily leads to the marriage of under-aged women because it dramatically increases the demand for marriageable women, to the point where young men are often forced entirely out of these societies so as to limit competition. We got no response to this whatsoever.
b. Polygyny leads to the abuse and neglect of children because fathers who are rarely in contact with their children are much less emotionally attached to them. Moreover, feeding fifty mouths is much more difficult than feeding five.
c. Yes, the government could try to carefully regulate against all these harms. However, this is absurdly ineffective. Polygamous societies tend to be quite isolationist, due to their exceptional religiosity. Internal reporting of under-aged marriage or child abuse requires an individual to go against this closed society. Targeting the entire society is a much more effective form of regulation. It allows the government to prosecute those who practice polygamy, a society-wide, collective behavior that is much easier to identify than individual cases of statutory rape or child abuse.
Insofar as we recognize that young girls have a right not to be raped and that children have a right to education, food, and a safe home, it is clear that we preserve more rights by banning polygamy than we violate. In terms of harm minimization, you must vote for Con.

Pro Case

1. Consent
Zab argues that, "coercion occurs when there is no way in which an individual could act otherwise." This is absurd. Coercion is the use of force or intimidation to try to influence a choice. There is still a choice, just not a meaningful one, since it's between polygamy and social and religious ostracization.
a. Family pressure: Zab argues that simply because people go against family pressure on a regular basis, it's not a meaningful form of coercion. What he fails to recognize is that due to the closed nature of the FDLS (the only polygamous group that's actually been mentioned in this debate), family pressure is extraordinarily powerful, to the point where it does actually render his argument that polygamy is a freely-made choice absurd. When one is raised in a family that isolates its children almost entirely from the outside world, going against that family and thus risking expulsion is basically impossible.
b. Religious pressure: The same basic arguments apply. Yes, people go against divine authority on a regular basis, but rarely do so when they've been raised in a society that places huge emphasis on religion, especially when religion is very clear on a specific issue. Cheating once on one's wife is one thing, marrying outside the bounds of religion is entirely another.
The perfect analogy here, and one that went unresponded to, is FGM. Yes, it's theoretically possible for a young woman to choose not to have her clitoris cut off. However, both her family and the larger society will ostracize her if she goes against their religious and cultural traditions. As such, he choice to participate in the procedure can hardly be called free. This is especially true since FGM, like polygamous marriage, usually takes place before the woman would be considered a full adult by American standards. Unless Pro also wants to advocate for the legalization of FGM, he should lose this round.

2. Reduction of abuse
Zab rejects the idea that polygamy is a cause of abuse. However, I've already shown that it is above, so legalizing and legitimizing it will increase abuse. Zab's argument then hinges on the idea that legalization will improve relations with polygamous groups and thus increase reporting, allowing for regulation of this increased abuse. Given that, as already discussed, polygamous group like the FDLS tend to be incredibly paranoid in their dealings with the outside world, and given that they severely ostracize or otherwise punish anyone who makes the group look bad, this seems incredibly unlikely. Pro has very clearly lost the abuse argument. Yes, some abuse still happens under the status quo, because some underground polygamy still goes on, but the solution is clearly not to legalize polygamy. That will only increase abuse, neglect, and statutory rape.

3. Marriage rights
I recognize that there are a few people who do practice polyamoury outside the bounds of extreme groups like the FDLS. The key word is "few." Since I've shown that within the bounds of the FDLS and similar groups, banning polygamy is necessary to prevent fairly extensive gender-based oppression, rights violations, and third-party harms, the unfortunate oppression of this small group of people who practice polyamoury without these harms is a harm I'm willing to eat. Zab must show that there are literally thousands of people outside the FDLS who want to engage in polygamy to win the debate on this point. Since he will not be able to, this argument does not win him the round, because in terms of harm minimization, banning polygamy is clearly the best option.
Debate Round No. 3


*Burden Analysis *
I've provided analysis of the political and legal philosophy of legal permissibility. Woodpecker responded with "the hassle of changing combined with the popular opposition to polygamy ought be enough to win me the debate". The hassle of changing an unjust law is never so great that it shouldn't be changed, and bandwagon fallacies have no place in this debate. Woodpecker doesn't engage with the philosophy I've provided, namely, that we should always defer to allowing an action unless there are compelling reasons not to.

*Woodpecker's Case*
1. Woodpecker claims polygamy isn't an individual choice, so it doesn't matter.
In the status quo, when a couple wants to marry because of religious convictions, we let them get married. Woodpecker himself has no particular insight into the driving forces behind the actions of these individuals, and this is revealed when he makes statements like, "no woman would ever intrinsically want to share a man with other women". Maybe Woodpecker wouldn't want to, or maybe Woodpecker can't understand why others would want to, but that doesn't mean women simply can't want to do so. In addition to all the problems with trying to determine why polygamists wish to marry, Woodpecker makes another fundamental mistake when he tries to paint religion as collective behavior, which, for some reason, Woodpecker cares less about. What is collective behavior but the sum of individual choices? Even if you buy that religion is indeed collective behavior, why does that make it less important than gender equality? When we look at other things that would be collective behaviors (at least according to Woodpecker's reasoning) we run into all kinds of issues. The example of stay-at-home parenting is particularly telling. He says that we should allow it because there is a "sound biological reason for stay-at-home mothering". The fact that such a staunch defender of gender equality would say things like "women are better at raising kids than men are" probably indicates that he doesn't really understand the issue of gender equality at all. But, even by his own standard, we should allow polygamy because there are "sound biological reasons" for it. From a purely biological standpoint, it is beneficial for men to mate with many females. In addition, it is beneficial for females to mate with the fittest and most fertile men, regardless of whether or not such a man is married. By Woodpecker's own reasoning, we ought to allow polygamy. Nevertheless, the "sound biological reason" standard is absurd; it doesn't recognize the importance of individual choice.
Finally, all of the arguments relating to the "inherent oppressiveness" of polygamy were nonsense. Woodpecker tried to pick out three problems with polygamy, but none of them are inherent to polygamy itself. Woodpecker said that 1. sometimes women don't pick there husbands, 2. sometimes there is sexual abuse, and finally that 3. sometimes women are in traditional family roles. My response? 1 isn't wrong as long as women consent to the marriage, if they're not consenting it's illegal anyway, so the ban on polygamy is superfluous. 2. Is illegal, and already banned by law. In addition, it's not inherent in polygamy, as there is sexual abuse in regular relationships. 3. Is just fine, as long as women consent. In addition to all the above, a woman who didn't want to be in a relationship can always get a divorce, so any argumentation about the inherent oppressiveness of polygamy is a waste of time unless Woodpecker can identify some harm to the women that they 1. Didn't consent to, 2. Can't escape through divorce, and 3. Isn't already illegal as a result of other laws.

2. Third-party harms.
Woodpecker completely dropped my "least-restrictive means" argument. Even if he wins that any of these harms actually exist, he has failed to show why existing (and non-discriminatory) laws can't solve. My opponent tries to sidestep this issue by saying that it is "ineffective" to try to deal with child abuse or other issues in these communities. Why does he believe this? Because polygamist societies are isolationist. I wonder why that is the case... maybe it's because we have outlawed their ENTIRE LIFESTYLE. Maybe if we, I don't know, stopped doing that, they'd have a better relationship with the government. Maybe then it would be easier to target the real issues within these communities, those of underage marriage and child abuse by using the specific laws relating to those crimes. Of course, Woodpecker believes that polygamy is solely responsible for these, and he seems to stake a lot of his offense on that idea. How then, does he explain the existence of these crimes in monogamous society? It is empirically the case that polygamy is NOT the root cause of these evils, and by that reasoning, as I have shown above, there must be a less-restrictive means to deal with these issues. I've even identified such a means. That alone makes any law banning polygamy unjust.

*My case*
1. Consent
I've already dealt with this issue a great deal above. The important issue at hand is not why they've consented, but that they have. If any choice made as a result of family pressure or religious conviction is a coerced decision that an individual is not responsible for, most monogamous marriages would also be invalid. FGM is a terrible analogy because babies can't consent to have their clitoris chopped off. What's really odd is Woodpecker's analogy of homosexual marriage. If homosexuality is the result of genetics, as Woodpecker claims, why shouldn't homosexual marriage be banned? It seems pretty clear that the biological composition of one's body is probably equally (if not more) coercive than either family or religious convictions.

2. Reduced Abuse
Woodpecker admits that if legalization of polygamy improves relations with polygamist communities it would actually reduce abuse. He claims that improved relations are unlikely because "group like the FDLS tend to be incredibly paranoid in their dealings with the outside world". Again, the reason for this is because the outside world has made their lifestyle illegal. For example, if we banned communion, Catholics would probably not have the best relations with the US government.
On top of that analysis, as I have already demonstrated, polygamy itself is not inherently abusive. There is perhaps a correlation between polygamy and abuse in the status quo, but that only because polygamist communities are entirely separated from the law or child services. If polygamists didn't fear social services because of the oppressive laws banning polygamy, it seems obvious that there would be an increase in reporting of all crimes, not just abuse, within polygamist communities.

3. Marriage Rights
Woodpecker loses the round when he says "the unfortunate oppression of this small group of people who practice polyamoury without these harms is a harm I'm willing to eat". Why should we as a society have to eat this harm, when we can solve abuse with existing laws? Woodpecker's ultimate philosophy is that it is ok to abuse the rights of the few, to achieve a preferable end, EVEN IF the same end could be achieved without those rights violations. This is not only a claim that the ends justify he means, this is a claim that the ends justify morally inferior means when there are superior means available. That is totally absurd.
Here is a harm I'm willing to bite: Inefficiency. Maybe it is the case that using existing laws to go after abusers is a bit harder than jailing every polygamist (including the women that Woodpecker wants to protect). Even if that is the case, we ought to still protect individual rights over government efficiency. It might be more efficient to jail every Muslim in our country than to try to identify terrorists. Keep that in mind while you vote.


Thanks, Woodpecker, for a good debate. Good luck on the H&P final tomorrow as well.


So I only have 12 minutes to do this, and I'm on a plane, but I'll give it my best shot. First of all, thank you to Zab for a very interesting, spirited round. There are just a few things I want to focus on to sum up the debate.

1. Do women give meaningful consent to polygamy as practiced in the US?
I've argued that they do not, both because intuitively there is no intrinsic motivation for engaging in polygamy as a woman and because in practice the only group that engages in polygamy in the US is the FDLS, a Patriarchal group characterized by numerous other coercive behaviors towards women. We heard little response to these arguments, my opponent merely argued that allowing a single religious practice is somehow more important than protecting the rights of women. In particular, his failure to respond to the FGM analogy should win me the round. He argued above that the analogy doesn't hold because young women aren't old enough to give consent. The question I would ask is, if they were, would we then be okay with FGM in our society? I doubt it.

2. What do we achieve by banning polygamy?
We have a broad-based initiative to target the many abuses that happen under its guise within the FDLS. Given that no other groups practice polygamy or want to, this seems like a reasonable infringement of rights. We also protect minors from the numerous harms of being raised in a polygamous society -- both analytical and empirical.

I am afraid I am out of time, but I think my arguments above will hold up well enough. Please vote for Con! Thank you for reading, and thanks again to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by RougeFox 6 years ago
I vote based Pro's argument about the fact that polygamous societies would not be secrecy, thus, solving abuse. That was the most effective argument in my opinion although this was an extremely good debate (I would expect that from college debaters though).
Posted by Zabcheckmate 6 years ago
Woodpecker, want to debate incest next?
Posted by BlackVoid 6 years ago
My mistake. Jumping to conclusions again.
Posted by Woodpecker 6 years ago
Pro and I are close friends. We're on the same college debate team. Don't write me off just yet.
Posted by BlackVoid 6 years ago
New user + Opening statement by con + long, well thought our argument by pro = 90% chance Con drops round 2.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
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