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Rohit Singh
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Tue, 21 Mar 2006

Strange Bedfellows

Newsweek writes, about a nascent movement to decriminalize polygamy:

"if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy."

Quick, where are the polyandrists ? Heather better be able to also have two dads and one mom. Of course, she might prefer having just two dads. With so many choices, I wonder if Heather would even be interested in having just one dad and one mom. Too boring, no?

Polygamists are pushing an argument based on their right to privacy, along the lines that gay-marriage advocates are pushing. (I presume it's a non-issue that most polygamists think gays are sinners and gay rights advocates don't like the polygamist movement either). Now, supporting gay marriage should be an easy call-- not that anybody has asked me. After all, it's none of my business if two gay dudes want a piece of paper that legally sanctions their fight over who'll do the dishes. If anything, gay divorce rates might well be lower: they won't fight over the toilet seat's position.

By the same token then, the polygamist's argument also has some merit, however. Thus, we have an interesting philosophical dillemma: if I am allowed a say in outlawing others' lifestyle choices-- and most democratic societies have mechanisms that enable this-- how should I decide? Requiring only public safety would end up setting a very low bar. Requiring others to be just like me would set a very high one. An argument based on claims to a right to privacy would set the bar somewhere in-between. But will that bar still be too low ?

Also, this reminds me of the another recent pairing of strange bedfellows, this time in India: commies and some extremist Muslims. Clearly, Marx couldn't have been thinking about Islam when he said religion is the opium of the masses.

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