Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

December 1, 2012

A Cruel Arithmetic, poly, and Canada's polygamy ruling

Xtra West

Craig Jones was the lead attorney defending Canada's ban on polygamy in last year's test case in British Columbia. The case had an important polyamory sidelight. The judge upheld the ban on polygamy while narrowing it — thanks to intervention by polyamory activists and their attorney — so that virtually all secular polyfamilies became legal.

The crucial line that the judge drew was in what constitutes a multiple marriage. Poly triads and quads can exchange rings, vows, and wedding cake in front of a crowd all they like, but unless a sanctioning authority (even just a cult leader) creates a marriage that is binding within the relevant community and requires a separate act to be dissolved, it's not a marriage, it's a friendship. And legal in Canada.

Now Jones has published a book about the case and the originalist Mormon community at the center of it. The title, A Cruel Arithmetic, refers to a few men in polygamist communities claiming all the women, leaving other men partnerless and leading to excess men and boys being expelled from the community into an outer world for which they are not prepared.

A review of the book has just appeared in the Vancouver edition of Xtra, "Canada's Gay & Lesbian News." This is the paper that helped alert Canada's polyamory community to the case from the outset.

A Cruel Arithmetic

Review by Jeremy Hainsworth

Craig Jones
...However, [B.C. Chief Justice Robert] Bauman defended polyamorous relationships, calling them consensual and not harmful, and said polyamorists should be allowed to have multiple relationships as long as they don't get married.

Now, Jones has written A Cruel Arithmetic: Inside the Case Against Polygamy, a memoir of the case that produced one of the world's most thorough investigations of polygamy.

“This book is about polygamy and a fundamental clash of rights; the right of a society to declare it to be criminal behaviour versus the rights of individuals to be free to arrange their most intimate personal affairs according to their conscience,” Jones writes.

Now that the dust has settled for a year, we read an interesting claim by Jones that seems to back off from previous governmental interests:

“With respect to subsisting or historical polygamous marriage, prosecution would only occur if it appeared that there were elements of exploitation, abuse, or a gross imbalance of power,” [Jones] continues. “This would permit the majority of existing polygamous marriages, and the families they supported, to continue, and run their course without government interference.

“I see little to be gained in tearing apart existing and functioning households,” he adds, “most of which include children of the wives involved, except where they are founded on exploitation or abuse.”


...Jones also praises the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association's (CPAA) lawyer John Ince, calling him "adept" at presenting his clients' viewpoint in the reference case.

Jones summarizes the CPAA position as supporting "the idea that there could be some law to prohibit polygamy, but that it could not include the secular, egalitarian multipartner relationships that their membership idealized."

Ince argued before Bauman that the ban on the formalization of polyamorous relationships violated freedom of expression in as much as "the public celebration of a polyamorous relationship affirms the value and legitimacy of the union. It is also an expression of love and commitment."

Bauman disagreed. But he still differentiated between polygamy and polyamory in his ruling.

"For fundamentalist Mormons, polygamy is a fundamental spiritual principle through which they fulfill God’s plan,” Bauman said. "For polyamorists, the ability to live in a family with the people they love is essential."

Bauman said the consensual and sex-positive nature of relationships are important tenets of polyamory. He also found that many polyamorists live mainstream lives fully integrated with their communities.

Ince welcomed Bauman's decision as a relief to polyamorists whose lives and relationships were validated and found not to be illegal.

In the end, Bauman would hear and consider what he called "the most comprehensive judicial record on the subject ever produced," Jones says....

Jones' book, when read in tandem with [Daphne] Bramham's history of the FLDS in Canada, The Secret Lives of Saints, and Bauman's comprehensive ruling, provides an excellent overview of the context and law on polygamy in Canada.

Read the whole review (Nov. 30, 2012). (Ads may be NSFW.)

Much more on the book.


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Blogger Johnnomads said...

I believe that the Judge's decision was fundamentally flawed! Sadly those who base their poly relationships on religion, will go back underground, without civil sanction, abuses like Warren Jeffs will continue.

December 30, 2012 8:20 AM  

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