Guest column

Karl Hand is the Pastor of Crave Metropolitan Community Church (www.cravemcc.com) and co-convenor of Community Action Against Homophobia (www.caah.org.au). He blogs at http://critical-discipleship.blogspot.com.au.

karl handLiberal Senator Cory Bernardi recently reawakened the fear campaign which claims marriage equality will lead to polygamy and bestiality, based on a petition from Sydney’s Polyamory Action Lobby which called for state recognition of poly families.

I’m a Christian and a monogamist but I don’t share Bernardi’s paranoid fear of our polyamorist friends.

Last year, Alex Greenwich and the Australian Greens distanced themselves from any support for poly relationships. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young similarly opposed recognition of poly relationships and alienated many members of the Greens, including those who responded by the founding of the Polyamory Action Lobby. Well that backfired, didn’t it?

I think we’re going about this all wrong. Those of us involved in the the marriage equality campaign have no need to comment on polyamory. It’s not our business. We are campaigning for the rights of LGBTI people, and we’re committed to that demand.

But since the topic has been raised, I want to take the opportunity to say that formalised poly unions are not a threat to civilisation or public morality. Polyamorous people can define what forms that legal recognition ought to take, and for the most part, their radical rejection of traditional relationships makes it doubtful “marriage” will be the outcome.

Legislation against plural marriage is a problematic approach to this whole issue. The western criminalisation of bigamy and other plural marriages has not stamped out the practice. While polyamorist relationships are consensual and non-hierarchical, more abusive kinds of plural marriage have thrived under cover of criminality. This has led to the imprisonment of women (through religious brainwashing and manufactured co-dependency more than lock and key) in Fundamentalist Mormon compounds where they are collectively married off at a young age to old men who treat them as chattel.

Even if you oppose this kind of polygamy (which I do), we should decriminalise it so we can put some brakes on it. Let the polygamous families register their marriages so that these women could be liberated without abandoning their children and fleeing in poverty and social disgrace. They could have recourse to divorce courts and retain custody: the family patriarch’s worst nightmare. Empowered wives are just the thing to break their creepy business model. Polyamorous people are no threat to anyone. Let’s understand what Bernardi is doing: dividing us by demonising certain people to torpedo the marriage equality movement. We should be smart enough to see right through him.

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