Law Prof On Polygamy in NY Times: ‘Is There Any Magic Power in the Number Two’?

July 21st, 2015 11:25 AM

William Baude, an assistant law professor at the University of Chicago, is a logical liberal. He understands, as scads of conservatives have before him, that redefining marriage might just open up the institution to more than same-sex unions.

In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, Baude suggested that, following the Obergefell ruling discovering a right to gay ‘marriage,’ “there is a very good argument” that “polyamorous relationships should be next.” 

SCOTUS’s majority opinion “did not focus primarily on the issue of sexual orientation,” he wrote. “Instead, its main focus was on a ‘fundamental right to marry.’” Thus, the professor questioned: “is there any magic power in the number two?” 

After all, marriage used to be between one man and one woman, “but now we understand that the presumption was wrong.” (At least, that’s the understanding around U-Chicago and the Times.) “It is not hard to imagine,” Baude wrote, “another justice in 20 or 40 years saying that the assumption [of two people] is similarly unenlightened.” Umm, yeah. Santorum said that in 2003, and the media ripped him to shreds.

“The deeper point is that we should remember that today’s showstopping objections sometimes come to seem trivial decades later.” Baude's certainly got that right! In 2004, Obama declared “I am not a supporter of gay marriage,” yet, just over a decade later, the White House was illuminated by rainbow lights. His would-be successor has also changed her views on the issue. 

“We should recognize that once we abandon the rigid constraints of history, we cannot be sure that we know where the future will take us.” Baude’s words echo the essence of the slippery slope argument that has been propounded by conservatives for years and ridiculed by SalonHuff Post and others. It's just more plausible when it comes from a liberal, huh? 

Unless those who would seek to redefine marriage can produce a clear reasoning for the definition they choose, the institution will become meaningless. Without moral standards, true liberal equality entails recognition of any kind of union. Therefore, as Baude wrote, “The real force of the polygamy question is a lesson in humility.” 

If we have to rely on the humility of liberals, society is in deep, deep trouble.