Why Two?

The question has been asked, and it’s time it was answered. A select few mainstream evangelicals are posing this question, and although responses have been attempted, none have yet proved sufficient. “Why Two? Why not three, or four, or ten?” This question, of course, is about marriage. Having won the battle for the rights of two people of the same sex to marry, we now face a question designed by evangelicals to trap us into a moral corner. The assumption is that we are insistent upon marriage being confined to only two partners, and because they see our victory as a redefinition, they want to hear our explanation as to why we insist upon two. “If you are redefining marriage anyway, why stop now? Why two? Why not more?”

Now, if you are in the pro marriage equality camp, and you do feel that marriage must be confined to two partners, I would love to hear it. But our movement was never about just two. It’s about equality, and the historic fight won in the U.S. Supreme Court was about people of the same sex being able to enter into a marriage contract with one another – two because that’s the marriage convention we have. If a group of polygamists/polygynists began demanding the right to marry tomorrow, I for one would not have a problem with it; and here’s why:

Relationships that have a sexual component, in this case marriage, hinge on consent. The reason we do not allow children to marry children, or adults to marry children or animals, is because children and animals do not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand the meaning of such relationships; and cannot appropriately give consent. In the case of adults, be it two or more than two, consent can freely be given. Polygamy may not be right for you, it certainly wouldn’t work for me, but where consent is present, I see no reason to impose restrictions on it based on my own distaste. I can’t answer the question “why two,” because I am not of the mindset that it must be only two.

I must admit, I find this question a bit curious, considering where it comes from. Those posing it are firmly in the “only two” camp, and every time a progressive says what I just said, they feel a small sense of victory. “Ha! See? They have no morals! They say they are good people, but they just contradicted themselves!” The problem is that nobody contradicted themselves at all. I am a good person, and believing that marriage between consenting adults is okay, be it between two or more people, doesn’t make me a bad person. Among the many assumptions these opponents make is the belief that we agree with their morality, at least to a certain point. “We believe marriage is between two people, they agree with us on that, so if they say polygamy is okay, they have made a moral contradiction.” The reasoning behind this question is ludicrous, and based on an unfounded premise. Many of us do not agree.

The first five books of the Bible talk positively about polygamy frequently, and it’s used in all sorts of contexts – economic necessity, social organization, even by divine command. Two-person marriage is not the only God-ordained form outlined in the scriptures, yet it is seen as a fundamental issue of morality today that only two people, one man and one woman, be granted the right to it. The question “why two” is a good one, but it is being asked of the wrong people. Those asking “why two” need to have the question turned back on them. To the evangelicals asking us “why two,” I ask the same of you. I never said “two,” and the funny thing is your Bible doesn’t insist upon it either. So why two? Why is it that you are so adamant that marriage be between two people? Let’s be honest, you have more scriptural support for your arguments against same-sex marriage than you do against polygamy; and that’s not much. So why two?

As a final thought, consider this. We on the progressive left are being challenged on moral grounds by people who believe a book that says a woman, subject to the will of her father, can be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Exodus 22:16-17). We are being asked “why two” by followers of a God, eternally unchanging, who allows polygamy under certain circumstances (Genesis 16:1-11), and is arguably generally accepting of it when you take all of scripture into account. We are being asked “why two” by people who assume we think “just two.” They don’t know if we feel this way, they just assume we do, and cry moral foul when it turns out we don’t. To our evangelical opponents, perhaps you would care to answer the question: Why two?