Anyone that has spent any time around me knows that I get my knickers in a knot about religious fundamentalists. I don't discriminate - they all drive me nuts. Hell if I had supreme power the moment one became a fundamentalist you would be instantly transported to a special island full of other fundamentalists, from all religions. And there would be just enough resources to survive if you cooperate. Oh the humanity.
So, it is with some discomfort that I find my self sympathetic to Winston Blackmore the self-described "fundamentalist" who was arrested for polygamy Tuesday. As the CBC reports "Blackmore and James Oler were charged with one count each on Tuesday of breaching Section 293 of the Criminal Code - which bans polygamy - by entering into a conjugal relationship with more than one individual at a time."
Blackmore doesn't think the law can withstand a Charter challenge; and I hope he is right. The B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal says polygamy hurts women; personally I'm more concerned about the profound sexism and misogyny in fundamentalist religion itself over who has a "conjugal" relationship. Shall we ban fundamentalist religious teaching? (Tempting I know).
Yes polgamy can hurt women, but monogamy (especially in heterosexual relationships) doesn't exactly have a great track record of being some profound liberator of women either. You want to help women? Support pay equity, a child care program, fight violence against women, open up immigration, support multi-culturalism, teach about anti-racism, raise the minimum wage, the list goes on. Jailing people for their romantic partners isn't going to do it.
And if we can go after one group for their family forms,the obvious question is who's next? I don't think I'm going on a limb to guess it would involve some queer folks. I shouldn't have to say this, but of course we are talking only about consenting adults. But that is the point - these are consenting adults and how we, they, us, them, you, me form what we call families is their (or yours or my) own business.
The good news is that freeing up the legal framework of "family" and recognizing multiple family forms, albeit through religious expression, is an important step in promoting diversity and equality in Canada and some fundamentalist just might make it happen. Thanks guys.
UPDATE: I've had a few thoughtful comments on how Blackmore may have been involved with or "married" minors and one person said to me they thought the charge might just be the best they can do - like racketeering against Al Capone. It just might be. Blackmore does creep me out and if he has sexually assaulted minors (or anyone) I hope they get him for it (and tack on unlawful confinement and whatever else they can). But the tool they are using is a dangerous one (if this is in fact what the DA is doing)- and I think could be dangerously used against all kinds of poly relationships. What I hope, on that law alone, is that we end up enshrining the right for adults to form consenting family forms of different kinds.
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