For many people, Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court decision that finally made same-sex marriage legal in every state, was the end of a long journey – the victory that marriage equality activists had sought for decades. However, as marriage equality takes effect in a growing number of nations, a Los Angeles family law attorney might tell you that same-sex marriage isn’t the “end” of anything. Instead, it’s only the beginning of the many pressing challenges that the institution of “traditional” marriage will be facing in the 21st century.
A woman in France, for example, has told the Daily Mail that she is in love with a robot and wants to marry it. “I’m a proud robosexual, we don’t hurt anybody, we are just happy,” the woman, identified only as Lilly, says on her Twitter page. Lilly is not alone. Dr. David Levy, the author of Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution Of Human-Robot Relationships, predicts that human beings will routinely marry robot spouses by 2050. “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans,” Dr. Levy writes.
Dr. Levy was also one of the speakers at the “Second International Conference on Love and Sex With Robots,” which was held in December 2016 at the University of London. The Conference’s website tells visitors, “Within the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Robot Interaction, the past few years have witnessed a strong upsurge of interest in the more personal aspects of human relationships with these artificial partners.”
The website further explains: “This upsurge has not only been apparent amongst the general public, as evidenced by an increase in coverage in the print media, TV documentaries and feature films, but also within the academic community. The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots provides an excellent opportunity for academics and industry professionals to present and discuss their innovative work and ideas in an academic symposium.”
WHAT ARE THE OTHER CHALLENGES TO TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE?
If marrying a robot does not appeal to you, perhaps you’d care instead to marry a bridge. That’s right. In 2013 a woman married a bridge in France at a ceremony that included fourteen guests and a blessing from the mayor of the small village where the bridge is located. Jodi Rose married Le Pont du Diable Bridge in Céret, southern France after visiting dozens of bridges all over the world. She told the Daily Mail, “He gives me a safe haven.”
Most of us, however, would probably prefer to marry other human beings, but even when you restrict your potential marriage partners to the human species, traditional marriage is still under assault – everywhere. Last year, a judge in Argentina allowed a 33-year-old Argentine woman to marry her 32-year-old stepdaughter. Although Argentina’s Civil Code outlaws any incestuous or parent-child marriage, the Argentine judge ruled that all of that nation’s citizens have “the right to be treated with dignity by the laws in all dimensions of life, including marriage.”
Here in the United States, polygamous or “plural” marriage – the marriage of more than two persons – is the next likely legal challenge to traditional marriage. Noah Feldman, who is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, wrote an article titled “Polygamy Is Constitutional” for Bloomberg View in 2016. Feldman believes that the U.S. Constitution implicitly allows for plural marriage, and he says it’s strange that plural marriage is not currently allowed.
WHY ISN’T PLURAL MARRIAGE ALREADY LEGAL?
Already, you may legally have multiple sexual partners, and you may conduct private religious ceremonies legally. On that basis, Feldman contends, it seems that there is nothing in the Constitution that would make plural or polygamous marriages unconstitutional. But should a state be obligated to recognize a plural marriage as the equivalent of a two-person marriage? Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has already written, in Obergefell, that there is a “fundamental” right to marry “the person” of your choice, and that everyone should have the opportunity to exercise that right.
If cases concerning plural marriage – or even robot marriage – eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the judges will decide if the “fundamental right” to marry the person of your choice is outweighed by a “compelling state interest” in preventing such a marriage. In criminal law, for instance, your right to privacy is “fundamental,” but the government’s compelling interest in stopping impaired drivers allows the police to detain drivers at DUI checkpoints without warrants or even reasonable cause. We know why drunk drivers must be stopped, but Feldman asks: What would be the “compelling” state interest in forbidding plural marriage?
WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIONS TO PLURAL MARRIAGE?
Opponents of plural marriage argue that these marriages often involve exploitation and even abuse. In 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declared that polygamy is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and cited concerns that the lack of “equality of treatment with regard to the right to marry” meant that polygamy violates the dignity of women and should be outlawed.
However, Feldman contends that plural marriage is not “necessarily” abusive, and he says that the preferable constitutional solution is to criminalize exploitation rather than plural marriage. And some judges, it seems, are prepared to affirm plural marriage. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said, “there is no reason to think that three or four adults, whether gay, bisexual, or straight, lack the capacity to share love, affection, and commitment, or for that matter lack the capacity to be capable (and more plentiful) parents to boot.”
Located in Hawaii, the World Polyamory Association is actively promoting what the group calls “triad” marriage. And “Loving More,” a Colorado-based nonprofit, claims that over 10,000 “polyamorists” already live in “semi-married” arrangements in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Clearly, plural marriages would open up plenty of complications regarding divorce and child custody. If you are currently divorcing, anticipating a divorce, or involved in a child custody dispute in Southern California, discuss your concerns with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney.
Polygamous marriage, of course, is nothing new historically and it is not unusual, either. It’s already accepted in most Muslim nations, and even in the Old Testament, kings like David and Solomon had scores of marital partners. Harvard law professor Noah Feldman concludes his argument by insisting that plural marriages should be legalized by the states and honored by the courts.