Resolved: The time has come for US State and Fed Govts to decriminalize polygamy
Debate Rounds (3)
Before I begin, I would like to thank my opponent for extending this challenge to me, although I did not me their criteria.
I accept the debate under the following pretexts:
I will be arguing that the time has NOT come for the US State and Federal Governments to decriminalize polygamy.
The language of this debate, to include the challenge title and first post of round 1, indicate that:
1) This debate is specifcally concerning the standing state and federal governments of the United States of America.
Examples of this present tense include:
"The time has come"
"Historically" followed in the next sentence, as a contrast, by "Today"
Any sense of time or duration, then, will be presented in the frame of a representative's term duration. Because some term durations are shorter or longer than others, I believe it is agreeable to stick with the 4 year cycle to avoid semantics.
2) This debate is specifically concerning the decriminalization of polygamy as per the Model Penal Code, section 230.1, which the states base their laws on(as their laws vary from state to state).
I have interpreted the challenge and presented reasonable terms to the best of my ability. In good faith, I allow my opponent to contend these terms, within the debate or in the comments section only. I reserve the right to withdraw myself from the debate upon a lack of agreement over any changes to the terms, to result in a tie between myself and my opponent.
The following is not a pretext, but a proposal:
The second round will be used to present stand alone arguments.
The third and final round will be used to provide refuttation and any other closing statements.
I have purposely not argued my case in this round, as it would give me both the first and the last word on the resolution, an unfair advantage for establishing my position.
I agree- round2 for arguments, round3 for counterarguments and summation.
Conditions 1 and 2, however, may prove too confining for my argument, which is more about changing prevailing opinion than addressing any specific legislature. I'll make my argument and if you find it too expansive, I'll agree to disengage.
Polygamy has never been the social norm in the United States and I don't expect it ever will be. I believe the traditional partnership of one man and one woman has proven successful and sufficient for the majority of Americans and will continue to be.
However, one principal of good government is that lawmakers only interfere 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 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.
With this in mind, 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 and its subsequent adoption by certain communities in the South after the massive loss of men in the Civil War. Legislatures observed that polygamist communities were less than stable. Patriarchs tended to use the new social order to procure underage, or less than willing 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 tended to be 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.
Pro's argument is that since the 19th 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 a division of property, the right to have a say in the destinies of their children. Birth control is commonplace and inexpensive compared to the 19th century.
In parallel, 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 cults and cells 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. Even those families that tend towards the old, unstable, patriarchal are seldom prosecuted under polygamy statutes. Instead, law enforcement usually concentrates on tax fraud or domestic abuse as a more specific relief of those social ills.
So, Pro asks whether now is not a good time to revisit the question of polygamy, given that:
a)The state has a responsibility to minimize its influence on the private and domestic affairs of citizens, except to ensure domestic tranquility and, to a lesser degree, encourage those activities that promote social benefits.
b)The current laws are little used since social progress has provided more specific redress for the social ills that sometimes accompany polygamy.
c)There is a small minority of citizens who would realize the benefits of enfranchisement and increased community participation if these laws were struck down.
Seen in this light, Pro does not discern any cause that compels the state to continue with proscription against polygamy, within certain rational limits. Those limits include:
a)No additional tax benefit for multiple partners. A plural family may file taxes jointly as any married couple might, but deductions or other benefits for married partners would be the same as for couples, to be divided
by the beneficiaries.
b)Child custody would remain the primary responsibility and right of the biological parents, particularly in the case of divorce. Guardianship rights could and should be extended to non-biological domestic partners.
c)Property rights, divorce proceedings would consider all marriage members as equal partners with an equal share of assets, benefits, and liabilities.
Pro's argument is not to compel any specific legislative body to act. In truth, I doubt if any legislature is motivated to undertake a social change of this proportion in the absence of the kind of social shift that gay marriage has enjoyed in the last decade. Nevertheless, the argument for polygamy shares its base with the argument for gay marriage: the state is not the arbiter of what makes a marriage sacred or sanctioned. The state may promote the institution of marriage to the extend that it improves the social welfare, but it may not discriminate in favor of those marriages the state considers moral or normal or holy.
To the extent that Model Penal Code 230.1 covers polygamy, Pro argues these laws should be abandoned. However,
bigamy laws are sometimes used to address domestic fraud (one partner neglecting to disclose prior entanglements).
To the extent that 230.1 addresses the condition of bigamy as a result of fraud, Pro would permit those laws to stand.
Per Round 1 conditions and reservations, I am withdrawing from the debate after the scope and restrictions of the debate changed(see comments, first post of Round 2). The debate will end in a tie.
This concludes the debate. I wish my opponent luck when/if he decides to debate this topic/position with someone else another time.
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