Humanist celebrants in the UK have been performing same sex affirmation ceremonies since 1987, but should humanist organisations offer affirmation ceremonies for relationships with multiple partners?
The Polyamory communities in the UK and the USA have been open and vocal for many years now. Polyamorists believe that it is possible to have healthy and loving relationships outside of the traditional view of monogamy. Polyamorists vary widely in the relationships they participate in and how they approach them. Some may be fairly flexible arrangements involving complex arrangements of a group of individuals whose lovers and interests overlap. Other polyamorous groups may consist of a stable arrangement of people all committed to each other. A group may even raise children together, with each partner equally committed to raising their child in a loving community. Polyamorous relationships grow and change with individuals, just like monogamous relationships.
Is there any reason why Humanists should oppose multiple partnerships? Under law in the UK, polygamy is illegal, but so was homosexual marriage! If we can accept that marriage law concerning homosexuality is outdated and inappropriate, maybe it’s worth taking a second look at the issue of monogamy. Here’s what american polyamorous activists Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt have to say about the subject:
*”We see marriage laws imposed by the government as a blatant violation of the Constitutional separation of church and state, […].”
So what are the arguments against multiple partners? Like the bar on homosexuality, this piece of legislation probably has roots in societal views heavily influenced by the bible. Is there any evidence which shows that being in a committed, consensual, shared relationship harms the individuals involved? Or anyone else for that matter? Arguing nowadays that raising a child outside of a traditional, monogamous relationship is inferior and harmful would be outrageous and highly insulting to single parents, guardians and all those who care for children outside of the nuclear family arrangement. Can anyone argue that polyamorous relationships are less stable when divorce is a common occurrence in today’s society and without reliable data on this topic? Finally, trying to look to nature for some ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ behaviour concerning relationships ‘in the wild’ is simply ridiculous. Observing the relationship behaviour of other primates is interesting, but irrelevant: humans should be compared with humans. There is no natural marital order to the world; as long as we’re not breaking the laws of physics nobody’s going to get hurt.
As far as I can see, there’s no reason not to award the same respect and consideration to relationships with multiple partners. If people are in love and want to share their commitment to each other with their community and have it recognised, I wish them good luck and many happy times.
*Easton, D. & Liszt, C. A. (1997). The Ethical Slut. Greenery Press, San Francisco. p.209.