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Marriage types


Plural marriage, Christian polygamy, polyamory
polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, bigamy ....

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The following menu and linked essays are for general information only. Do not use it to make any personal decisions without first consulting a lawyer knowledgeable about family law in your area.

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The term "polygamy" is a marital practice in which a person has more than one spouse simultaneously. 1 It is rare in North America, where only two forms of marriage are most commonly found:

bulletMonogamy in which two people are married to each other, hopefully "till death do us part," and

bulletSerial monogamy in which a person has more than one spouse during their lifetime, although they are married to only one at a given time.

Polygamous marriages are not legal in North America in the sense that none can be formally registered with the government. However, thousands of polygamous families exist and are largely ignored by their state and provincial governments, mainly in the states of Utah, Colorado and Texas in the U.S., and the province of British Columbia, in Canada.

Most polygamous families in North America fall into one of two types:

bullet Some involve coupling a plural marriage structure with a religion -- generally Christianity -- that is structured as an patriarchal dictatorship -- a male dominated family structure. A single husband typically has a married wife in a marriage registered with the government. Additional women are married in religious ceremonies and not registered. The latter "wives" are often expected to apply for government welfare as single mothers. Sexual and physical abuse of children and youths is common. Teen males are often driven from their towns in order to artificially generate a surplus of women. These families are often affiliated with relatively small religious groups that are part of the Mormon movement, although such groups have all been excommunicated from the main Mormon denomination: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

bullet Others are single polygamous families scattered across the U.S. and Canada whose members freely decide to come together to form egalitarian family structures -- families based on the equality of all adult members. They exist follow a wide range of Christian denominations, other religions, or no organized religion. Their structure takes many forms: one man and multiple women; one woman and multiple men; multiple women and multiple men. They often prefer the terms polyamorous and polyfidelity to differentiate themselves from patriarchal family structures.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletIntroduction to polygamy< We strongly recommend reading this essay first
bulletDefinition of terms used in polygamy and similar arrangements.
bulletThe practice of and reasons for Polygamy.
bulletLaws concerning polygamy:
bulletIn the U.S.

bulletIn Canada and other countries.
bulletChristian Polygamy -- an Evangelical Christian movement promoting polygyny.
bullet Polyamory & polyfidelity - an egalitarian form of polygamy, from a ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Part 1 Part 2
bullet Polygyny within the U.S. Mormon movement:

bulletThe Law of Abraham and the Law of Sarah.

bulletDuring the early 19th century.

bulletDuring the later 19th century.

bulletPolygyny in present-day Fundamentalist Mormon sects.

bulletThe Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
bullet Polygyny within the Canadian Mormon movement:

A Fundamentalist Mormon sect in British Columbia, Canada.

bulletWill same-sex marriage lead inevitably to polygamy?

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Reference used:

  1. "Polygamy," WordIQ, at:

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Books about polygamy:

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Site navigation:

Home page > "Hot" topics > Marriage > here

or Home > Religious info > Basic religious info > Religious practices > Marriage > here

Home > Religious freedom > hate/abuse > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > hate/abuse > here

Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > hate/abuse > here

Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > hate/abuse > here

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Copyright 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-SEP-04
Latest update: 2010-NOV-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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Go to the previous page, or to the Marriage menu, or to the "Religious freedom to abuse" menu, or choose:

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