O'Reilly: Ripple effect of polygamy court ruling

As a supporter of marriage equality, on the

As a supporter of marriage equality, on the equal-rights-under-the-law principle, I admit that I didn't see this polygamist case coming so soon. But here it is. (Credit: Tribune Content Agency / Paul Tong)

William F. B. O'Reilly

Portrait of Newsday/amNY columnist Bill O'Reilly (March 28, William F. B. O'Reilly

O’Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the

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Wanted: real man. Handsome and compassionate. Solid earner who will cook, fix things and cheerfully do yard work and household chores. Must be brilliant, patient and organized, great with kids. Candidate should be sensitive and cultured, yet not effete, an incomparable lover -- and funny. And confident and dreamy.

If it weren't for me, my wife would need at least six men to meet these criteria for a husband. As it is, she's only short a smart, handsome sugar daddy . . ., a confident lover, a handyman and someone who patiently does household chores. But for those less fortunate women -- and men -- out there who didn't hit the jackpot with their spouse, an answer may be coming: polygamy.

So says U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups, who ruled on Dec. 13 that Utah law against cohabitation is a violation of the First and 14th Amendments. The federal court ruling, which will be challenged, has gay marriage opponents and proponents in an uproar, and, ironically, on the same side in this case.For those against same-sex marriage, this is the slippery slope of which they warned.

When you tamper with traditional marriage laws, when you loosen its strings, you open up legal arguments that can tie logic in a knot, making virtually any mutually agreed-upon domestic arrangement between consenting adults permissible. For proponents of same-sex marriage, who cite the 14th Amendment right to equal treatment under the law in their legal efforts, the Utah ruling is an untimely and unwanted distraction. What's OK for gay couples is not OK for trios or quartets.

Waddoups' decision is fascinating to consider. I can't speak to it from a legal perspective -- I'm not a lawyer -- but from a logic point of view, and from a libertine one, it makes theoretical sense.

What right, after all, should government have to tell people whom and how many people they should love and with whom they should live?

Polygamy is still allowed only in some breakaway Mormon sects. Shouldn't their followers be able to practice their religion as they see fit if it harms no one? Catholics won a federal court decision in New York this week exempting its hospitals and health networks from the law requiring health insurers to provide coverage for contraception. Isn't that, at least in part, consistent with the Utah decision to uphold religious freedom under the First Amendment? And, if it is, how about Muslim-Americans who want to fully practice Shariah law in the home? Should we look into that, too?

These are all logical questions that inevitably arise from same-sex marriage laws, just as social conservatives predicted. As a supporter of those laws, on the equal-rights-under-the-law principle, I admit that I didn't see this polygamist case coming so soon. But here it is.

Fortunately, societies are not wholly reinvented each generation. The successful ones plod along, carefully making as few changes to legal and cultural traditions as possible until a new idea is exhaustively parsed and rejected or incorporated. Same-sex marriage has been a rare exception, catching on with unusual speed. Something tells me polygamy will not catch fire, nor should it, even if the X's and O's align neatly on the chalkboard. Homosexual relationships have existed in Western society for thousands of years, mostly in the shadows until recent years. Polygamy has no such roots.

I mean, how many people would truly want to take on another wife or husband? It's hard enough keeping a single spouse happy. I'd be glad to elaborate, but I need to check on dinner before shoveling the driveway.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a columnist and a Republican political consultant.