Bob McCoskrie and other who oppose marriage equality always run out the “but, but, but….gay marriage will lead to polygamy” line. My smart arsed line is always the same…so what…if you support families then surely you support really BIG families…and any bloke who wants more than one mother in law is doing us all a favour.
However, jokes aside…let’s look at history…Craig Young has, at GayNZ:
Family First is once more ruminating hypocritically about the alleged “relationship” between same-sex monogamous marriage and polygamy. It’s time someone told Mr McCoskrie that some of us are aware of Christianity’s own polygamist past.
It goes all the way back to the sixteenth century and Martin Luther, the very founder of Protestant Christianity himself- and an advocate of polygamy. What?!! Yes, that is correct. Luther believed that polygamous marriages were preferable to extramarital sex (or ‘fornication’) or adultery. Indeed, Luther and Phillip Melancthon, another early Lutheran theologian and pivotal figure, advocated that Phillip, Landgrave of Hesse (a German principality within the Holy Roman Empire) covertly and bigamously marry two women- Christine of Saxony, an invalid and alcoholic, and one of her ladies-in-waiting, Margarethe van der Saale. However, it doesn’t end there. Instead of divorcing Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, Melanchthon also advised future serial monogamist Henry VIII to bigamously marry Anne Boleyn. Henry didn’t take his advice, divorced Catherine instead and monogamously remarried Anne, future mother of Elizabeth I of England.Â
(Meanwhile, Henry VIII also theoretically criminalised gay male sex within the Buggery Act 1540 at the same time, although there were few criminal prosecutions for it until the advent of the first “Christian Right,” the eighteenth century Societies for the Reformation of Manners).
However, Phillip of Hesse did take Melanchthon’s advice and covertly married Margarethe in 1539. Amusingly, Phillip’s sister Elizabeth couldn’t keep quiet about her brother’s multiple marriages, embarrassing Luther and Melanchthon seriously when she blabbed about it a year later. Altogether, both Margarethe and Christine provided Phillip of Hesse with nineteen children, so infertility wasn’t a problem in that dynastic context.
Nor were German Lutheran princes the only ones to undertake polygamy. Take Michael Kramer, a hapless Saxony Lutheran minister, and his multiple marriages. In 1525, the Lukas Town Council noted that the man had three living wives, although two of them had abandoned the poor fellow. He contacted Luther who counselled him to consider his two undivorced prior wives, Dorothea and Margaretha, ‘spiritually dead” to him and contract a third marriage. Shortly afterward, in 1533-34, the Lutheran hierarchy would officially condemn the polygamist commune of Munster, occupied by theocratic revolutionary Anabaptists (a radical Protestant sect). Lutheran marital theology was still in flux at the time and working out whether or not it condoned divorce, and under what circumstances.
This provided wives of Lutheran clerics with escape clauses if the marriages earlier contracted turned out to be unsuitable or distasteful to them, which unfortunately happened quite frequently.
Craig goes on with a fascinating history of polygamy in the church.