England Approves Benefits for Polygamists

In a surprising development with significance to the on-going debate over polygamy in the United States, the British government has decided that polygamist citizens are entitled public welfare despite the fact the polygamy is illegal in Britain.

The Department for Work and Pensions ruled that men (and presumably women) who marry multiple spouses legally in other countries are entitled not only to live as polygamists in Britain but to receive benefits for each of their spouses. Click here

One claimant with one spouse in Britain is paid around $183 a week, while each additional spouse receives a payment of approximately $67.

It is an interesting variation of the current debate over the full faith and credit clause with regard to same-sex marriages. Various states and Congress have moved to pass legislation to block any requirement that they must recognize such unions or marriages in states like Vermont. For a prior column, click here.

I have been a long critic of the criminalization of polygamist relationships due to constitutional concerns. Click here and here and here.

The problem remains that there are consenting adults who enter into such marriages without abuse of minors or criminal conduct other than the status of the plural marriage. The problem is magnified by the fact that this remains an ancient and bona fide religious practice for many. While many of us may find it objectionable, the criminalization of polygamy appears a case of majoritarian abuse.