Child Brides, Inegalitarianism, and the Fundamentalist Polygamous Family in the United States
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: December 2005
Despite the ongoing shift in contemporary notions of what or who constitutes a family, the idea of the polygamous family remains on the margins of what is deemed a legitimate marital and familial structure in liberal democratic societies such as the US. Nevertheless, despite the illegality of polygamy and the social stigma attacted to it, thousands of Mormon Fundamentalist polygamists live and practice in the US. This article assesses the arguments in favor of and against the legalization and, consequently, the legitimatization of polygamous marriage. It explores three grounds polygamists have employed or could employ to advocate legalization of the practice of plural marriage: freedom of religion, sexual privacy (as defined by the recent case of Lawrence v. Texas), and contractualism. However, the author concludes that the impact of the Fundamentalist polygamous lifestyle on the autonomy, integrity, and equality of adult women and children is sufficiently troubling that lifting the sanction on plural marriage may run counter to basic considerations of justice.
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