"The Legal Logic of Polyamory"
In an AlterNet "Best of the Blogs" selection (May 9, 2006), Lindsay Beyerstein points out something that ought to be obvious (IMO) to both us and to our critics: while conventional marriage can easily be extended to gay couples, it is never going to fit poly groups:
Some people hope (or fear) that same-sex marriage will pave the way for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages. Some advocates of legal polyamory argue that restricting marriage to duos is every bit as arbitrary and unfair restricting marriage to partners of the opposite sex.
I'm in favor of social acceptance and legal recognition for n-tuples (like couples, except n>2). However, there's no easy way fit the diverse and complex poly-relationships into a convenient package deal of rights and responsibilities comparable to civil marriage. If we want to create legal recognition for these relationships, we are going to have to self-consciously build alternative institutions. This won't just fall into place like gay marriage. . . .
The institution of marriage reflects [one] widespread preexisting cultural practice: romantic pairs setting up households. Polyamory isn't a single cultural practice or way of life, it's a general term that applies to a broad range of alternative lifestyles. . . .
It seems to me that real-life polyamory is too diverse to allow for any simple package deal like civil marriage. Part of the appeal of the lifestyle is that participants are free to explicitly negotiate their own rules instead of being bound by the strictures of preexisting institutions. I've read about poly folks who use a variety of legal strategies to formalize each party's legal relations to others.
Read the whole article.