SACRAMENTO – The idea of ‘tying the knot’ became looser today, thanks to a new law that gives Californians the right to choose how many people they marry.
Tuesday’s overwhelming passage (30-10) of California Senate Bill 69 grants the right for individuals residing in the Golden State to marry ‘any’ consenting adults they choose, paving the path for people to initiate, maintain and cease polygamous marital statuses with full legal protections and responsibilities, which will function similarly to current monogamous agreements under the law.
California State Sen. Bobby Yee (R-San Jose), and Sen. Alexandria Jay (D-Los Angeles) who co-authored the bill, said the law is intended to address increasing public concern that monogamy is not always desirable nor capable of allowing people to succeed in fulfilling romantic relationships and raising families.
Proponents of the law point to the staggering 60 percent national divorce rate, prominent recent court cases, and the popularity of such TV shows as All of My Loves as major factors that inspired and organized drafting of the bill.
“Clearly many people are unsatisfied with their marriages and dream of a better life for themselves and their families, perhaps involving multiple spouses to help them achieve their goals, and we see this law as providing further flexibility households need to pursue the happiness they deserve,” Sen. Yee said during discussion prior to the vote. “It is only fair, honest and fitting for a society as pluralistic as our own to make room for those people whose views on love and life does — or does not — coincide with our own.”
Under the law, people opting for polygamous marriages will have most of the legal trappings of monogamous marriages, with the exception that polygamous spouses will not be able to divorce each other for reasons of infidelity.
This caveat of the law was deemed necessary by the legislators in order to encourage polygamous individuals to have the opportunity to spawn new polyamorous relationships outside their polygamous marriage, which in time might lead to additional spouses being invited to participate in and expand the marriage.
This particular provision of SB 69 — the recognition that infidelity plays an important role in expanding polygamous marriages — is also a major source of contention among those who voted against the bill.
“This is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too piece of legislation,” said Sen. Oscar Cruz (D-Pacoima), believing the law will erode faithful relationships. “SB 69 undermines the institution of marriage as a whole by negating the commitment, hard work and sacrifice long associated with successful monogamy, as well as the virtues and rewards inherently gained from this practice. Polygamy placates to the most base, selfish and superficial tendencies of our nature and era. This law will not save marriages; it will ruin them. I expect in coming years there will be more divorces than ever.”
Despite the criticism, many rallying outside the Capitol heralded the passing of SB 69, comparing it to the civil rights issue of the day. Arthur Lemont, 45, who says he supports polygamy for religious reasons, believes the discrimination he has endured growing up with his marital preferences is not unlike the struggle homosexuals faced when they pushed for same-sex marriages to become legal in California at the beginning of the century.
“Finally, the hypocrisy of our society is catching up with the times, and marriage is becoming more open as God-granted love between all people should be,” Lemont said.
Meanwhile, others balked at the comparison that the right of gays to be viewed equally as heterosexuals under the eyes of the law is the same as the lifestyle choice the new polygamy bill condones.
“Gay, straight, whatever — people ought to be able to marry any one person they wish,” said Audrey Cussie, 39, who participated in a separate rally outside the Capitol. “Marrying more than one person, however, defeats the purpose of marriage, in my opinion. I’m against his law and what it means to good, honest, hard-working people who are trying to save their relationships, not throw them out the window.”
Whether polygamous marriages improve the national success rate of marriages in general remains to be seen, but proponents argue that in the very least people will learn to cope with the new law and any positive or negative cultural ramifications it might have.
“This law is a reflection of changing views about marriage already underway in our society,” Sen. Yee said. “This is a free country, and we’re making it freer in California. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Tony Corrales, Sept. 19, 2018