Who Has the Right to Marry Whom?
Question: Libertarians are quick to defend the rights of people of different races and/or religions to marry, and quick to defend the right of people of the same sex to do so. How do they feel about the right of people being married to more than one person?
Short Answer: Marrying more than one person is fine as long as everyone in the marriage is aware of it and in agreement. However, from what I can see of the case you’ve cited, the second “wife” was deceived into believing she was marrying a single man. That’s fraudulent and actionable by most libertarians’ standards.
Editor’s Note: Relationships that are polygamous in nature should include knowledge and consent of all involved. As Dr. Ruwart notes, anything else would be committing fraud with one or more parties, as the link in the original question alluded to. It should be noted that the Overton window with regard to the discussion of marriage may not be open enough to include polygamy yet. After all, a majority of Americans came to support same-sex marriage within the last decade.
During the prolonged public debate regarding marriage equality, many who opposed same-sex unions argued about the “slippery slope” that such unions would lead to other legal forms of “marriage disaster.”
In 2013, Slate published a very positive article in support for the legalization of polygamy. From that piece:
For decades, the prevailing logic has been that polygamy hurts women and children. That makes sense, since in contemporary American practice that is often the case. In many Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints polygamous communities, for example,women and underage girls are forced into polygamous unions against their will. Some boys, who represent the surplus of males, are brutally thrown out of their homes and driven into homelessness and poverty at very young ages. All of these stories are tragic, and the criminals involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It’s also hard to argue with the constitutional freedom of religious expression that legalized polygamy would preserve. Most polygamous families are motivated by religious faith, such as fundamentalist Mormonism or Islam, and as long as all parties involved are adults, legally able to sign marriage contracts, there is no constitutional reason why they shouldn’t be able to express that faith in their marriages.