Since we seem to have reached watershed status and state after state is now allowing same-sex marriage, many of us have come very accustomed to hearing slippery slope arguments about how gay marriage will ultimately lead to similar laws allowing people to marry multiple spouses, children, or even animals and household appliances.
Usually, these arguments are rightfully ignored, but let's consider the question honestly for a moment.
Marrying your Mr. Coffee or pet poodle is simply ridiculous. Neither is capable of expressing consent. Similarly, children are considered to not be capable of rendering consent. Although, the laws establishing the age of consent and the ability to marry with parental permission vary widely across the states.
But when we reach the question of polygamy, I think the doomsdayers may have a point. It is, in my opinion, entirely plausible that the next fight after gay marriage will be for multiple marriages. After all, we allow unlimited serial marriages, as evidenced by this Indiana woman who is considering her 24th husband. Totally legal.
So is we are ok, legally, with somebody marrying 24 men one right after the other, why are we so frightened by the idea of someone marrying two men at the same time, with everyone involved consenting?
Unfortunately, polygamy carries with it the stigma of some very famous cult-like communes in which young girls were forced into plural marriages with much older men. But that is a separate issue of age of consent and should not be lumped in with the debate over polygamy.
Meanwhile, tv shows like Big Love and Sister Wives are raising awareness and priming the country for a discussion about the limits of marriage. And in fact, the family featured in Sister Wives was the subject of a recent court case which resulted in the weakening of Utah's bigamy prohibitions, essentially allowing people to choose polygamy as a lifestyle without fear of prosecution, while upholding the state's right to decline recognizing the marriages.
Colorado currently has a similar law, making it a class 6 and class 2 felony respectively for "Any married person who, while still married, marries or cohabits in this state with another."
This decision could easily be compared to the Supreme Court case in 2003 which struck down sodomy laws. Once gay couples could be "out" without fear of government persecution, the public was able to see how common it was and how many "normal" people were gay. We may see a similar effect as state cohabitation laws begin to fall all over the US and plural marriage families begin to live openly.
So perhaps some on the right are correct when they say that the next step in the liberalization of marriage is polygamy. But they are wrong in thinking that the gay rights movement is the first step, this progression began long before gay rights. And they are wrong to draw that line farther by concluding that children, animals, and objects will follow, because those prohibitions are not based in religious preference, but rather in the question of consent.
As for me, I maintain the position that marriage is not the business of the government. I would rather see governments at every level end recognition and regulation of marriage altogether and replace those laws with a system that allows any number of adults to unify their finances and property if they wish, regardless of their romantic relationship with one another.
But since that is unlikely in the near future, I will continue to support the movement towards recognition, or at least decriminalization, of consenting adults who choose to be in uncommon relationships, whether they are interracial, same-sex, or polygamous.