Several weeks ago, I was watching the nightly news on ABC hosted by Diane Sawyer and there was update on the court case between the state of Utah and the Kody Brown family over polygamy. Kody Brown, his four wives, and 17 children are the center of the TLC reality show “Sister Wives,” which follows their polygamous lifestyle. The Brown family is fighting in the courts against laws prohibiting polygamy. As I watched this news clip, especially the part when a respectable expert who opposes polygamy was interviewed, I began to think…based on the program I am watching and the way it is being presented along with how the rest of the media and public treat polygamy, it is clear that there is a bias against polygamy. Not only do most people in the US, including myself, oppose polygamy but also agree that it should be outlawed. The more I thought about this, the more it troubled me. Why is it acceptable in America to oppose polygamy but not gay marriage? If you oppose polygamy, you are a normal, reasonable, moral, and clear-thinking person. If you oppose gay marriage though, you are a discriminating bigot full of hatred and prejudice.
Let me get this straight. In America we believe it’s wrong to live in polygamous relationships, although many of the heroes of the Old Testament–Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon–were polygamists. The man who is revered by three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) was a polygamist. The twelve tribes of Israel, that is the Jewish nation, are in fact the children of a polygamous family (Jacob and his wives). Some Jewish sects still support polygamy and it is regularly practiced in the Islam faith. In fact, polygamy is widely accepted and practiced in a large portion of the world (see map). So let me go through this again. Even though polygamy has been accepted and practiced in the history of three dominant world religions, found throughout the Bible by those considered prophets, and still widely accepted and practiced in nearly a third of the world, it’s acceptable in America to oppose polygamy on moral grounds.
On the contrary, there is no such major religious or societal history of the acceptance of gay marriage. The previously mentioned religions have, in fact, opposed gay marriage throughout history. Until the last few decades, gay marriage was not considered acceptable or in most cases legal in the majority of the world. Nonetheless, it is unacceptable in America to oppose gay marriage on moral grounds.
Let’s look at a few of the secular arguments for and against polygamy. Those opposing polygamy say it’s unnatural and bad for the children. Those practicing it say: it is our right, it doesn’t hurt anyone else, we do it willingly, it isn’t bad for the children, nor are there any scientific studies proving it’s bad for the children, in fact we love our children and care for them better than most.
Now for gay marriage. Those opposing gay marriage say it’s unnatural and bad for the children. Those practicing it say: it is our right, it doesn’t hurt anyone else, we do it willingly, it isn’t bad for the children, nor are there any scientific studies proving it’s bad for the children, in fact we love our children and care for them better than most.
The two arguments on both sides sound distinctly familiar.
Doesn’t it appear a little hypocritical of American popular society? It’s acceptable to oppose polygamy but unacceptable to oppose gay marriage all on the same grounds. If the founder of Chick-fil-A had said he opposed polygamy, 99% of Americans would have cheered for him. But instead, he said he opposed gay marriage, and a big chunk of America along with the media wanted to boycott his business. There seems to be a bit of a double standard in play here, don’t you think? So I ask again, why is it acceptable in America to oppose polygamy, but not gay marriage?