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Political: Government and Marriage (Polyamory)

In this video, Elizabeth Brake (Arizona State University) discusses polyamory, the practice of having more than one sex and love partners, and its moral and legal considerations. This is part 4 of a series on Government and Marriage.

Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Brake, Associate Professor, Arizona State University.

Video transcript

my name is Elizabeth break I teach philosophy at Arizona State University and today I want to talk to you about polyamory many conservative arguments against same-sex marriage warned that legally recognizing same-sex marriage would be a slippery slope to legally recognizing polygamy of course this hasn't happened in Canada where same-sex marriage was recognized in 2005 in Canada the British Columbia Supreme Court upheld Canada's criminal ban on polygamy because it found that polygamy unlike same-sex marriage tends to harm women and children but this lecture is on polyamory not polygamy what's the difference it's right there in the name polygamy means many marriages and polyamory means many loves polygamy which is largely practiced as Paula Guinea one husband many wives usually involves gendered spousal norms different roles for men and women polyamory could be same-sex or involve different sexes polygamy expects sexual exclusivity from the wives whereas polyamory involves a commitment to openness the polygamous groups the bc supreme court looked at were in small communities with problems like inadequate education and child sexual abuse while polyamorous tend to be highly educated urbanites as elizabeth chef reports in her book the polyamorous next door chef's longitudinal study of children in polyamorous families found no significant harms polyamory the practice of having multiple sex and love Partners is usually seen as an alternative to gender structured monogamous marriage polyamory could be people in an open marriage or open relationship or it could be a group of three people living together known as a triad or four people known as a quad in poly fidelity three or more people commit to an exclusive relationship within their group I've argued that a liberal state has no business discriminating between same-sex and different sex relationships on moral grounds and no business discriminating between friendships and romantic sexual relationships on moral grounds by the same reasoning it has no business preferring to two three or four of course there's an upper limit on how many close intimate stable mutually caring relationships a person can sustain for most of us that number isn't that high polyamorous report that their biggest problem is not jealousy but having enough time but a group relationship whether between friends or lovers can involve more than one stable caring relationship if the rationale of marriage law is to support stable caring relationships then they should be eligible for marriage like entitlements such as special eligibility for immigration where the state can draw the line as it did in Canada is with relationships that are coercive that involve people such as children unable to give competent consent or relationships that lack exit options of course small groups raise practical problems that couples don't could someone extend special immigration eligibility to five people or claim caretaking leaf or five partners what should we make of spousal immunity from testifying in a group the state might need to set limits to protect other interests such as efficiency but in principle caring relationships deserve equal treatment whether they involve two or three or four members in fact legal marriage isn't actually a goal for many polyamorous many explicitly reject what they see is the possessive norms of marriage in a survey polyamorous listed employment discrimination and health insurance is top priority legal issues polyamorous can be fired or refused housing because they love more than one person a child can even be taken away from its parents simply because they are poly while I've argued that Polly's should have equal access to marriage like entitlements protection against discrimination in employment and housing and child custody might be even more vital and we should stop to reflect here that such protections are still needed for lesbians gays bisexuals and transgendered people equal marriage rights are only part of what justice requires you