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January 13, 2006
Justice Dept Study Urges Canada To Legalize Polygamy

No sooner than Canada legalized gender-neutral marriage than a new study commissioned by their Justice Department has concluded that the government should repeal the criminalization of polygamy. In a report that the Canadian Press received confidentially, the Queen's University study not only recommends decriminalization but a regulatory system defining spousal support and inheritance rights based on marriage order and other considerations:

A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

“Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,” says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. “The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.” ...

Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.

This news hardly helps the outgoing Liberal cause in the upcoming election. With Paul Martin loudly proclaiming his pride in pushing through the gender-neutral marriage legislation during the entire election and attempting to scare voters away from the Tories on the issue, his own Justice Department has proven the slippery-slope argument Tories have made all along. When one attempts to redefine two milennia of Western thought on the meaning of marriage by the simple fiat of transitory plurality rule, it opens the door to all sorts of questions -- and the minimization of tradition required for the first step removes the impediments for more radical action in its aftermath.

Already, Canadian polygamist activists have taken up the same arguments as gay-marriage advocates did. “Why criminalize the behaviour?” [the study's lead author] said in an interview. “We don't criminalize adultery. In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society ... why are we singling out that particular form of behaviour for criminalization?”

Well, libertarians might argue, why indeed? They may have a point. Undeniably, though, the advocates for traditional marriage had it right when they argued that redefining marriage would open a Pandora's box for all sorts of other banned behaviors. The paleolibertarian argument will continue ad nauseam until the government will have to allow any combination of consenting adults, regardless of consanguinuity, to form whatever sexual relationships they desire -- and then come up with laws that govern the messy outcomes of the failure of those relationships.

It would seem that the most prudent option would be the use of domestic partnerships using contract law instead of redefining marriage for the whole of society just to satisfy a fringe element. At least the contracts then govern the outcomes of the failed partnerships, and we don't have to chuck out two millenia of Western culture as our touchstone for human progress.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 13, 2006 6:09 AM

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