Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stay out of my bedroom, please

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King Solomon had, according to reliable reports such as the Bible, about 700 wives and 300 concubines as well as assorted paramours, including the Queen of Sheba.

He was also notoriously wise. We all know the story of the disputed baby and his decision that the child should be cut in half and each half given to one of the disputant mothers, a wise but otherwise ugly decision that had a fortunate outcome -- the true mother offered to forfeit her claim to her child rather than see it killed and Solomon awarded sole custody of the kid to her.

The wisdom of Solomon has endured as a cliché for good government for more than 3,000 years, and for good reason -- anyone who can run a household of 700 wives and a bevy of other beauties is clearly equipped to keep a little thing like the kingdom of Israel in order.

Fortunately for Solomon, he did not live in 21st-century Canada, where his grey cells of wisdom would only be of use in the grey cells of the Canadian prison system, into which, according -- dare we say it -- to a somewhat dubious decision by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge would put him.

The 700 wives just by themselves would be enough to do him in under the Canadian Constitution, says Judge Robert Bauman in an unwise and ethically ugly ruling released this week that effectively said the state has any and every right to interfere in the bedrooms of the nations, contradicting what former prime minister Pierre Trudeau said when his government legalized homosexual activity between consenting adults in the 1970s.

Since then, all sorts of sexual activities have become legal where once they were forbidden. Homosexuals, for example, can now legally marry; not only can they legally marry, but it has become illegal for a marriage commissioner to refuse to marry them because he conscientiously objects to same-sex marriage.

And so the world turns, but it turns in a way that would set old Solomon on his ear if he were still around to witness it.

One would think we would have learned the lesson by now that the state really does not have a place in the bedrooms of the nation. Gay marriage? Go for it. Living in what used to be called sin, cohabiting without the blessing of clergy? Enjoy it while you can, because the state, as Judge Bauman's ruling makes clear, will intrude into your bedroom as often as it can and still remain politically popular.

Homosexual marriage is a dead issue now. Most of us don't care how other people live their lives as long as they are happy with and decent to each other. You might get the occasional argument -- and it is a legitimate one -- that marriage should be left to churches, which can marry whom they please, and other unions should be the responsibility of civic governments, which, after all, are the only authority that practically matters in such occasions. Follow the money is the bottom line in any sexual relationship.

So why, then, are the courts suddenly interested in polygamy? Why does the government care if a man wants two willing wives or a woman seeks three eager husbands?

Monogamy is not a new issue, of course. Even in Solomon's era, his own Bible forbade him from marrying more than one girl at a time -- let alone 700, not counting the extras -- and marriage as a solitary sin has been advocated by almost every Christian society and even the pagan Greeks and Romans, going back as far as the 7th century B.C.

But, you say in your 21st-century non-sectarian secularism, so what? So what if ancient Jews didn't always do what their Bible told them, so what if ancient heathens couldn't handle more than one spouse at a time? What about all those other cultures that quite happily practise polygamy and are now living in Canada. Don't they get a say in a Canadian court?

Well, they do get a say and that say is answered by "nay" in Judge Bauman's court at least. This is a decision that needs to be taken to the Supreme Court of Canada, and if Canada's Constitution means anything, the high court will overturn this bit of wrong-headedness and rule that Canadians have every right to marry multiple spouses, and polygamy is as equally acceptable as homosexual or common-law unions.

It will recognize that Canada is not governed by biblical law, that it is a truly multicultural country where Judeo-Christian prejudices do not take precedence over other cultures' prejudices. It is a country where anyone who is dumb enough to seek and unlucky enough to persuade several spouses to marry him or her is free to do so. I can't imagine why anyone would want to do that, but in my Canada, as long as there are laws to protect minors and other innocents from abuse, as there are, it is not my government's business to tell me how I should live this particularly personal part of my life.

You don't need to be Solomon to understand the sense of that. Get out of my bedroom.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2011 A18

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