Emory Law Journal

Volume 64Issue 6

L’Amour for Four: Polygyny, Polyamory, and the State’s Compelling Economic Interest in Normative Monogamy

Jonathan A. Porter | 64 Emory L.J. 2093 (2015)

Some Americans are changing the way they pair up, but others aren’t satisfied with pairs. In the last few years, while voters, legislatures, and judiciaries have expanded marriage in favor of same-sex couples, some are hoping for expansion in a different dimension. These Americans, instead of concerning themselves with gender restrictions, want to remove numerical restrictions on marriage currently imposed by states. These people call themselves polyamorists, and they are seeking rights for their multiple-partner relationships. Of course, polygamy is nothing new for the human species. Some scientists believe that polygamy is actually the most natural human relationship, and history is littered with a variety of approaches to polygamous relations. Only in recent centuries has society’s preference for monogamy developed, yet that preference has proven robust, as most Western governments vehemently support monogamy as the only marital option. This Comment explores polygyny and polyamory in the United States and walks through the traditional legal, political, and sociological arguments for and against polygamy. While some claim the absence of coercion leaves the state without a compelling reason to ban polygamous marriage, this Comment disagrees and finds several compelling reasons for states to favor monogamy.

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