White House Press Secretary Deflects Polygamy Question

White House press secretary Jay Carney is expected to answer an array of questions from taxes to Iraq to unemployment. With a critical motion depending in the Sister Wives case, one reporter decided to ask a simple question: “How does the president stand on polygamy?” Carney responded with stony silence and moved on.

The article below by Michael Brown noted the question and the response. Polygamy remains an uncomfortable subject for many liberals who support privacy rights generally. While many argue for the right of people to be left alone in their personal relationships, polygamy is treated as the Voldemort question — the subject which shall not be named. Last year, I wrote a column on this problem within the civil liberties community.

Ironically, the Sister Wives case offers the answer to such inquiries. We have not contested the right of the state to criminalize multiple marriage licenses. Rather, we are solely contesting the right of the state to criminalize private consensual relationships – “spiritual marriages.” Utah criminalizes “cohabitation” between consenting adults. Regardless of our religious beliefs or political orientation, we should agree to allow families to structure their relationships according to their own values and beliefs unless those practices harm others as with child abuse. The answer, as discussed in the earlier column, is that the President should stand with privacy.

Source: Townhall

32 thoughts on “White House Press Secretary Deflects Polygamy Question”

  1. I’ve been in a committed group situation for 17 years, as the add-on woman. It’s worked for us. I am not a victim, nor do I have any concerns about being dumped by the “married” couple. We have our various dynamics among the three of us, as well as with the various kids. But generally, we’re happy and successful. I am the primary wage earner, as the “patriarch” is retired and now disabled. This definition of family is not for everyone, and it’s often very hard work, but we each play to our strengths, and feel fortunate to have this family.

    Except for about six months when he was a toddler, my son never had to be in day care, because there was always a parent home for him. Recent legal issues related to a custody fight with our grown daughter has made me very careful about how I define our situation, but suffice to say that we’re committed to our family and have maintained this lifestyle longer than a great many conventional marriages.

  2. I think one part of the dynamic that is overlooked in the current polygamous models is the unequal distribution of power: that’s the only reason it works at all. In these models the male still has the final say so, he is the patriarch. In a normal culture where individuals had equal power I think polygamy or polyandry would simply be unworkable. The basis of the cultures practicing polygamy are not into equality but centralized power. Only a masochist (male or female) would want more than one spouse at a time that they had to deal with on the basis of equality in the relationship. It would be a nightmare.

  3. parink, multiple husbands? I didn’t do too well with one, why in the world would I want more than one!!!

  4. Oh yes @ nick spinelli: There is a separate Libertarian Party. There is also a Green Party. They both make the ballot in Wisconsin.

  5. There should be no laws or prohibitions on my inalienable right to choose who I want to live with or have sex with, with consenting adults.Do you suppose a day will come when the mommy and daddy government will leave the people alone.

  6. I personally think that having more than one spouse at a time is strange.

    But there are several married folks out there that have open marriages and it works well for them. So chances are, polygamy would work well for them as well.

    Would legalizing polygamy in the US change laws, health insurance, or social security?

  7. I have a different observation on this, in the spirit of the 3rd amendment if it was viewed as being so important to the framers of our constitution to the sanctity of a home that soldiers are restricted I wonder how the state can argue a compelling interest in the living arrangements of adults in a home.

    In the majority opinion of Griswold v. Connecticut reads in part:
    “The right of association contained in the penumbra of the First Amendment is one, as we have seen. The Third Amendment, in its prohibition against the quartering of soldiers “in any house” in time of peace without the consent of the owner, is another facet of that privacy. ” I believe that given our colonial history the core of the objection to the Quartering Acts of the time was essentially the objection of the citizens to agents of the state residing in their homes in a time of peace, that is having no compelling interest to be there.

    I believe in light of this and the association right of the First Amendment it seems quite compelling to me Utah should not prevail in this cohabitation case.

  8. Women in the consensual multi-spousal relationships need to understand that they have no legal protections should they be deserted or thrown out or whatever nasty he or the other women choose to dump on her..

  9. Allowing multiple spouses to be officially recognized means that there are a lot of laws that need to recognize the possibility. Every law that provides a benefit or responsibility where a spouse is named would need to be looked at to see if it works when there is more than one spouse.

    I have no problem with private consensual relationships of adults. The polygamists who get in trouble, rightly so, are those that include minors as concubines of the much older man.

  10. It was a stupid question that did not require a response. I agree that it might be appropriate to ask Romney. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this is a question that is more in Prof. Turley’s world. Most other people don’t even know there is such a case before the courts.

  11. Both candidates descended from polygamous backgrounds. It’s one version of a biblical marriage which seems to be a hot topic these days. Could be an interesting discussion between the candidates.

  12. When you’re a libertairian independent like myself we get so tired of the same screeds from the right and left. Fox News evil, MSNBC evil. Is there a second act? Or is this just the theatrical adaptation of the movie, Groundhog’s Day. The topic is interesting and gets boilerplate responses from some right off the bat.

    Allow me to let you in on a BIG secret. Politicians act political because they are by definition, political. Not just Republicans, not just Democrats, not just..oh wait, that’s about all we have. And, there lies the rub.

  13. Raff and Mike A.,

    You both make valid points….. Politics is exactly that….

  14. The problem, of course, is that were Pres. Obama to assert a belief in the privacy of human relationships, Fox News would spend a week quivering in fury over the President’s support of sexual promiscuity, anti-Christian values and the destruction of the American family. And immediately following the next earthquake, flood or mass shooting, Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson would tell their followers that it was God’s punishment for the President’s immoral views.

  15. Swarthmore,
    The obvious response is to ask Romney the same question. When he answers, the President will know what his answer should be politically.

  16. Probably a good move on Carney’s part….. But it did not stop right wing blogs from speculating on the silence, though. They are all over it.

  17. I would agree that the President should stand with privacy, but I would go a step further and argue that the States do not have the right to limit marriages in any way except for a minimum age.

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