Jennifer Roback Morse
Last week, a small storm erupted in Canada when the media discovered a government study recommending that Canada legalize polygamy. The study was authored by three law professors at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The government commissioned the $150,000 study into the legal and social ramifications of polygamy just weeks before it introduced divisive same-sex marriage legislation. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada last June.

Events in Canada have proven that the advocates of marriage are not being hysterical when they warn of the cultural and legal slide into polygamy. Defenders of marriage have been saying all along that legalizing same sex marriage would open the door to legalizing polygamy. Advocates of same sex marriage scoffed at that so much and so often that the term, “slippery slope,” denotes irony and derision, rather than a serious argument deserving serious consideration.

But no matter where they stand on the issue of same sex marriage, Canadians can see the connection between creating legal institutions to accommodate same sex couples and creating legal institutions to accommodate multiple spouses. For instance, Sayd Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims said last year that he opposes same sex marriage, but if it is legalized in Canada, polygamists would be within their rights to bring legal challenges to legalize their choice of family life.

And this Canadian government study implicitly makes the same connection. A Status of Women Canada document recommended further study of the connection between legalizing same sex marriage and legalizing polygamy, saying “In order to prepare for possible debate surrounding Canada’s polygamy policy, critical research is needed.... It is vital that researchers explore the impacts of polygamy on women and children and gender equality, as well as the challenges that polygamy presents to society.”

Now you tell us. It would have been nice to conduct this research BEFORE legalizing same sex marriage, rather than studying the potential effects of legislation that has already been passed. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is already out.

But even without a $150,000 study, I could tell you pretty simply the impact of polygamy on women, children and gender equality. Polygamy harms all three.

Women have to compete for their husbands’ attention, not just with the football game on TV, but with other women in their own homes. The competition for husbands’ attention does not increase the status of women. It makes them more subservient, more willing to do whatever their husbands want. Their husbands have a ready alternative immediately at hand.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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