Tag Archives: human-rights

Marriage Rights: Separate but equal?

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Marriage Rights: Separate but equal?

When prompted about the idea of legalizing poly marriage some people simply shrug it off as not being a big deal.  In my experience these people fit into one of two categories.  They are monogamous OR they are not politically motivated.

If they fit into the latter group, then there’s nothing more to say.  They don’t vote, don’t concern themselves with the idea of justice (social or otherwise).    All that they know is their day to day life.  These are the people that believe discussions of grandeur – involving topics such as politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, etc. are a waste of time.  So, am I offended when they shrug and change the topic of conversation to the latest episode of their favorite comic book series or what a co-worker said that pissed them off? Nope.  Irritated but not offended.

Now, onto the former group – the monogamous types.  I give them credit that not all of them are vehemently opposed to a different-looking marriage. Some of them are.  Standing on their soap boxes reciting verses from the bible or their own personal moral code, saying that marriage is between one man and one woman.  Your god tells you this is wrong … alright, then you probably should do it.  That doesn’t mean you have the right to stop me from doing it or to force me to believe what you believe.  The arrogance of these people offends me.  I will firmly defend anyone’s right to believe in whatever they choose, to say whatever they want to say because I don’t believe that everyone should live their lives as I would live mine – even if that means their choices offend me.  So, it offends me when I’m not given the same consideration in return.

I’m also reminded of a certain quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Inequality should never be allowed to stand regardless of who it affects and who it doesn’t or if some people think it doesn’t matter.  I’m reminded of the Holocaust.  And the adage about the individual that watched as they came for her neighbors, friends, co-workers, family members, and did nothing.  She simply watched.  And then when they came for her, she realized there was no one left to stand up for her.

Some people may ask, what harm does inequality in this fashion do? So what, some people can’t express their love through marriage.  Most marriages end in divorce anyway today.

If you’ve heard of something called human rights, then you will be familiar with the argument I’m about to make. Everyone, regardless of citizenship, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, race, or any other label has certain rights just for being human.  We can argue exactly about what those rights are but they do exist.  I’m not sure if the right to marry is a human right, but the right to love certainly is and by outlawing some forms of relationship you’re are effectively putting limits on how people can love each other.  We should be able to love as we please.  Love as our hearts or minds dictate.

Only today, you better make sure your heart leads you to someone of the opposite sex.  One person of the opposite sex.  If your heart has other inclinations then you’re just going to have to tell it to be still.  To do as it’s told.  To do as the law tells it to.  To hide in dark corners and lie and hold its breath in fear that someone might find out exactly where your heart lies.

In fact, it would be much easier if your heart could change its mind.  Marry appropriately.  If you are a man, then marry a woman.  You can still have sex with other men if you want … that’s not problematic at all!  You can still have sex with other women, fall in love with other women and have children with them, sure go ahead.  No one is harmed in that situation! You just can’t live with your other family.  Can’t provide for them as we all believe you should.  Can’t acknowledge them in certain social circles or pragmatic ways, but that’s not really harmful is it?

Let’s break it down even further.  Children in preschool are playing with toys and each other.  They’re having a ball.  The teacher walks over and points to three kids out of the group and tells them to stop.  They are not allowed to play with each other.  They can play with the other kids but not each other.  Why? Could there ever be a reasonable explanation for this or does every child have the right to decide who they will play with? And is it fair that those three kids are singled out? To have separate rules for some people?

All over the world equality is challenged.  But YOU probably have the right to believe whatever you want and do as you please, just as the majority does.  Well, as long as you are not gay.  Or lesbian.  Or Muslim.  Or a woman.  Or black or Latino.

Or poly.

The Criminalization of Poly Households in America

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Bigamy laws throughout the United States Misde...

Bigamy is a misdemeanor (yellow); felony (red). All cohabitation is outlawed (dark red).

Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states as indicated by the map to the right. The law does not distinguish between polygamy and bigamy.  By law, you are guilty of both if you marry OR cohabit with more than one person that you claim as a spouse.  A ceremony is NOT required to prove either the 1st marriage or those that follow.  A marriage license is also NOT required.  Law enforcement simply has to prove marital intent.  They may use common law marriage standards, cohabitation, or any other activities to prove their case for polygamy.

In some cases poly people/families are at risk for related infractions as well.  For example, they can be charged with adultery, fornication, and cohabitation.

BIGAMY (A misdemeanor)

These states have minimal criminalization (akin to driving without a license).  They characterize bigamy as a misdemeanor and require all those convicted to pay a fine.

  • Hawaii ***30 days in jail***
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island *** $1,000 fine***
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

ADULTERY ONLY

If you are poly in the following states and the relationship falls apart you may be at risk for violating laws against adultery.  The ramifications of these violations vary from one state to another.  For some states adultery is grounds for divorce only.  In other states, the “cheating” spouse forfeits all rights to the marital property.  And still in other states the spouse that was “cheated on” can file criminal charges against their ex.  This is obviously only a problem if the poly relationship falls apart.

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland ***Results in a $10 fine and is grounds for divorce***
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont

ADULTERY & FORNICATION

In the following states, poly people can be charged with adultery and fornication.  Both are treated as misdemeanors.

  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Illinois ***must be “open and notorious”***
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota

COHABITATION

These states have laws against cohabitation.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

ADULTERY (A felony) & COMMON LAW MARRIAGE

In these states, common law marriage is recognized and adultery is not only illegal but a felony.

  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire ***Recognizes common-law marriages, but only for inheritance purposes after death***
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas ***Recognizes common law marriage if registered by County Clerk***
  • Utah
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin

THE AS-GOOD-AS-IT-GETS STATES

These states have NO laws against adultery, cohabitation, or fornication.  And they do not recognize common law marriages, although 4 of the 5 treat polygamy as a felony.

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

To summarize, if you are active in the poly lifestyle you are at risk for legal action either by the state or your partners.  Aside from the obvious consequences – spending time in jail, fines, and criminal records, there are other things to consider.  A conviction that mandates jail time can also result in a loss of employment and/or benefits.  It can also result in the loss of child custody.  In some states felony convictions are automatic grounds for losing a number of rights and privileges, including voting rights, student loans, etc.  The criminalization of this lifestyle attempts to push adults, children, and families into the shadows, making them fearful, ashamed, and ultimately vulnerable to discrimination, persecution, and generally unfair treatment.  And for what? Where’s the harm?