Article Title:Polygamy Hysteria 201
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:15th June 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1298
Text:Once more, the US Christian Right is waxing hysterical about the alleged risks of polygamist rights advocates under the same-sex marriage bed. This time, though, we're not the only targets. Stanley Kurtz is probably not the Mister Kurtz of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, whatever fears one might hold for his rationality. In his latest diatribe, "Polygamy Versus Democracy," we're not the main target, for a change. However, that doesn't make his remarks any less objectionable. Kurtz begins his polemic by pondering an Egyptian soap opera depicting a Muslim male, his polygamous wives and their several offspring, leading him to note that often, Middle Eastern media is a lifeline for European Muslim immigrants, to back home. It insulates them from factors that would assimilate them into western society. So how is this bad? It means that polygamous marriage survives, and Kurtz turns to France as a terrible lesson about the iniquities of French African Muslim immigration. It has apparently led to overcrowded banlieu tenement blocks and alienated and neglected children who were allegedly the "chief culprits" behind recent Parisian riots. I see. And I suppose Monsieur Jean Marie Le Pen and the French National Front, or any Chirac centre-right social service cutbacks would have had no effect on any of this? Don't ask Mistah Kurtz. He's trying to propagandise, playing on current US anxieties about 'illegal' immigration within their own national context. You see, heterosexual monogamy is a precondition of western democracy, and to prove he's really not an anti-immigrant bigot, Kurtz appeals to US history, specifically the theocratic Mormon Territory of Utah before its statehood, on the condition that it relinquish polygamy. For a long time, Utah fought it, until democratic institutional life broke the back of the Mormon hierarchy, and they became good, reliable social conservative allies to the US Christian Right ninety years or so later. And monogamous. Wait a minute. Surely evidence-based anthropological and sociological research can throw some light on all this? Canada's chief law commissioners investigated the available research and concluded that whether or not heterosexual polygamy was effective depended on the presence of particular egalitarian constructions of gender and family relationships that provided greater social solidarity amongst polygamous wives, and more social freedom than arranged marriages within more hierarchical societies. Unfortunately, immigration may lead to disconnection from the institutions that promote egalitarian heterosexual polygamy. Ah, so it's a question of social authoritarianism, rather than family structure? So in other words, social authoritarian heterosexual polygamy is a lot like social authoritarian heterosexual marriages, like Southern US fundamentalist Protestant ones, which have a higher breakup rate than normal ones? No,he won't go into that, either...but we will. Check out the links on the bottom of this page. From anti-immigrant diatribes, Kurtz turns to polyamory, which is more egalitarian, but more unstable as a result. What about children within polyamorous relationships, asks Kurtz? What about children within authoritarian and hierarchical fundamentalist Christian families, though, Stan? Surely they shouldn't be allowed to form or maintain families, given the higher than normal likelihood of their disintegration? However, there still isn't a polyamorist rights movement, despite the best efforts of paranoid zealots like Mistah Kurtz. So let's disregard that, because there are an increasing number of US liberal legal and media opinion leaders that do favour decriminalisation and regulation of polygamous relationships, on the basis that underground status and criminality makes anti-abuse measures harder to enforce. What would happen if US Mormon schismatic traditionalists use the 'civil rights' rationale for same-sex marriage, and attack anti-polygamy legislation? Thus far, this has only happened in Canada and the United States, and nowhere else. In New Zealand, our civil union legislation is parallel and equivalent to heterosexual marriage, apart from the right to adopt children, and has led to no such demands for equal recognition from a polygamist rights movement, which does not exist. Again, I am still sceptical about the abolition of anti-polygamy laws. I still favour an exemption for polygamous refugee families in the best interests of the child and family preservation, but I would still have difficulties beyond that. We still need to look at research about heterosexual polygamy and family formation, and it is ambivalent. Recommended: Stanley Kurtz: "Polygamy Versus Democracy" Weekly Standard: 05.06.06: Stanley Kurtz: "Beyond Gay Marriage" Weekly Standard: 04.09.03: 2:Fundamentalist Christians and Divorce: [Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance cited the Barna Research Group's data, as well as Americans for Divorce Reform stats and US Census Bureau and the National Centerfor Health] "Christians More Likely to Experience Divorce than Non-Christians" Americans for Divorce Reform: Religion and Divorce (US) Craig Young - 15th June 2006    
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