San Diego Law Review

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Attention to polygamy can strengthen the case for same-sex marriage. Both the historical debate on polygamy and the current debate on same-sex marriage concentrate on finding the best social response for the failure of conventional marriage to serve its purpose. The argument for traditional marriage conflicts with the Judeo-Christian tradition and a liberal democracy. Contrary to traditionalist arguments, polygamy and pluralistic relationships are a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Additionally, a liberal democracy is designed to protect an individual?s right to pursue a pluralistic way of life. Under a liberal theory, the state should remain neutral and allow individuals to devise whatever marriage contract they wish. Instead, the state accepts or rejects different forms of marriage based on which relationships contribute to the social good. This article contends that the state should move toward a pluralistic conception of personal relationships and marriage that encompasses a definition of marriage that suits a liberal political society. Instead of supporting only one form of marriage, the state and advocates for polygamy and same-sex marriage should support pluralizing marital and family forms. Because the fear of polygamy, based in the idea of gender inequality, is unnecessary, the author concludes that polygamy offers same-sex marriage advocates a reason to reject the claim that there is a long tradition of defining marriage between one man and one woman.

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