How is Amber Heard doing as a philanthropist?

I’m wondering if the Depp v. Heard trial has shed any light on one of America’s more unusual philanthropists. It is not uncommon for an American to have sex with a rich person (oftentimes his/her/zir/their boss!), sue that person for divorce, alimony, child support, and property division, and then be celebrated in our media as a great philanthropist using the money obtained via having sex and going to family court.

Amber Heard was unusual in that she stated that her only motivation for seeking cash in family court was philanthropic. She promised to donate all of her profits from the one-year marriage to hard-working Johnny Depp. From Amber Heard: brave and financially independent (2016):

“Amber Heard ‘suffered through years of physical and psychological abuse’ by Johnny Depp, lawyers say” is a Washington Post article in which Ms. Heard is characterized as “a brave and financially independent woman” who is besieged because the defendant whom she sued has a “relentless army of lawyers.”

Although the only thing sought by her original lawsuit (previous posting includes a link to the Petition) is money (property division, alimony, and attorney’s fees), “none of [the plaintiff’s] actions are motivated by money.” (Amber Heard is also seeking to be divorced, of course, but California is a no-fault state (offering what scholars call “unilateral divorce”) so she is 100-percent guaranteed to win that part of her lawsuit.)

(A plaintiff suffered “years of abuse” during a one-year marriage says the newspaper that assures us inflation is being ably handled by the technocrats.)

“Amber Heard admits to withholding millions from Children’s Hospital” (PopTopic 2021):

Amber Heard admits to “failing” to donate to charity. After Johnny Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman subpoenaed two organisations that Amber Heard claimed she donated the entirety of her USD$7 million divorce settlement, it came to light that Amber Heard had lied under oath about making any donations. She reportedly pocketed the entire amount.

Amber Heard promised that she would donate the whole amount to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to prove that she was not after Johnny Depp’s money.

Presumably it isn’t relevant to the core of the issues at the current trial, but I wonder if it is now clear to what extent Ms. Heard acted on her expressed charitable intent.

(As previously noted here, the most obvious way for Amber Heard to have donated $7 million of money earned by Johnny Depp was to write checks from a joint checking account with Mr. Depp shortly before she filed her divorce lawsuit, then ask only to be divorced in the suit (an automatic win since California is a no-fault state). This has worked for plaintiffs in Maskachusetts. One gal transferred more than $1 million in joint account money via cash and checks to her boyfriend, then sued her husband for property division, alimony, and child support. The judge ruled that she was authorized to spend the jointly held money however she wanted during the marriage. So he split the remaining assets 50/50 and also awarded 20 years of child support and alimony to the victorious plaintiff. She ended up with perhaps 80 percent of the spending power. This was 20 years ago, so $1 million was real money at the time.)


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Career Planning Inspiration

This is the time when young people begin looking for their first jobs out of college and/or high school. Where are these jobs likely to lead 40 years down the road? A friend sent me this article from MarketWatch:

My 59-year-old retired girlfriend is well-off. Her lakefront home with an extra buildable lot, her Florida condo, and her residential and commercial rental properties are all paid off, and she has over $3 million in cash and investments. She is also collecting alimony from her ex for a few more years.

I am 62 and employed, and have just under $1 million in cash and investments. I have no debt other than a car lease, I manage my finances prudently, and I’m a man of simple pleasures.

Looks like some career paths pay better than others….


  • Real World Divorce (the girlfriend’s career as a family court entrepreneur might have yielded a very different profit level in another state)
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Lecture regarding portfolio diversification from a mother of 6

What are folks doing for end-of-year portfolio clean-up in light of the radically changed economic landscape, notably the dramatic inflation as measured by the CPI and the even more dramatic inflation as experienced by actual consumers? A friend who is a connoisseur of hip hop sent me this brief lecture on portfolio diversification (the percentages are accurate for a lot of states, but the dollar figures could have been a lot higher if higher-income targets had been identified). Note that the lecturer’s strategy is inflation-proof since the wages on which her income is based should rise along with any inflation rate.

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A woman’s love letter to herself and the no-fault divorce system

How did the U.S. end up with double the percentage of children living without two parents compared to a lot of European countries? (link to some data) “Divorce Can Be an Act of Radical Self-Love” (New York Times, 9/30/2021) and similar celebrations of the path to bliss starting at the local family court might be partially explanatory (the cash incentives are very different too!).

Let’s see if the article is convincing:

… I’ve learned that divorce can also be an act of radical self-love that leaves the whole family better off. My divorce nearly seven years ago freed me from a relationship that was crushing my spirit. It freed my children, then 5 and 3, from growing up in a profoundly unhealthy environment.

Profoundly unhealthy environment? Dad was beating the wife and kids while smoking crystal meth and without taking any breaks to inhale “essential” (in Maskachusetts) healing cannabis?

There was no emotional or physical abuse in our home. There was no absence of love. I was in love with my husband when we got divorced. Part of me is in love with him still. I suspect that will always be the case. Even now, after everything, when he walks into the room my stomach drops the same way it does before the roller coaster comes down. I divorced my husband not because I didn’t love him. I divorced him because I loved myself more.

The mom/author says that she wanted more time to work:

I made choice after choice to prioritize my career because I believed fervently in the importance of the work I was doing, providing legal representation to wrongfully convicted men and women.

I have spent much of the pandemic interviewing working women who are diverse across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, class, age and profession for a book I am writing about ambitious mothers and the benefits to their children when they prioritize their careers.

Talking to the subset who are divorced, I found a common theme, even a sisterhood: Divorce is painful and heartbreaking. But it can also be liberating, pointing the way toward a different life that leaves everyone better off, including the children.

One 38-year-old newly single mother who works full time and attends graduate school at night told me with pride that for the first time, she is living with her 9-year-old in an apartment she picked out, decorated and paid for on her own.

… for unhappily married women who are able to support themselves and their children, breaking free can also be like plunging into a cold ocean: a shock to the system that is at once brutal and cleansing. They can emerge stronger and clearer-eyed. Their children benefit because happier mothers are better parents.

That last one is my favorite. According to the author and the NYT editors, it is safe to assume that a person who is unhappy in a marriage is guaranteed to find enduring happiness just as soon as the divorce lawsuit is filed. And then the children will bask in the reflected glow of that enduring happiness as they shuttle back and forth between households, watch their college fund being spent on lawyers for both sides, etc. Certainly there is no possibility that the person dissatisfied with Situation A will become dissatisfied with Situation B. (A friend’s wife recently hired a 50ish woman to be her assistant. The woman complained that previous employers had mistreated her, sexually harassed her, etc. After a few weeks… she quit the assistant job.)

The first sentence in the above excerpt is also interesting. Mom says that she didn’t want to invest too much time in her kids because it was important to help the wrongfully convicted and the only way to truly focus on helping out in criminal court was via a trip to the local family court. But, unless the real answer is that she wanted to spend time have sex with new friends from Bumble, wouldn’t the optimum solution have been to dump all child- and household-related tasks onto the husband/father(maybe!) and hired help as necessary? The dad sounds like a total pushover: “He rarely travels and actively engages with nearly every aspect of our children’s lives no matter how mundane.” and “My ex-husband and I make a point of spending time together with our children, having regular dinners, watching sports and going for bike rides as a foursome.”

Overall, if it is this easy to use children’s feelings and words for one’s own benefit, almost any selfish adult decision can be justified. Imagine someone who identified as a “man” writing “I knew that my 5-year-old would be better off if he/she/ze/they could vicariously share the joy that I experience when out on Tinder dates with women 15 years younger than his/her/zir/their mom.” This was a popular perspective in the “do your own thing” era circa 1970 when no-fault (“unilateral”) divorce was being made available. According to the academic psychologists, this perspective is simply wishful thinking on the part of adults who are pursuing selfish goals. See “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-Year Study”, in which 131 children of divorce were followed; they did not fare well compared to adults who had grown up in intact families. The PDF is available:

Hardly any of our subjects described a happy childhood; in fact a number of children told us that “the day they divorced was the day my childhood ended.” … By the 25-year mark, the majority had decided not to have children.

No child of divorce in our study was invited by both parents, either separately or together, to discuss college plans. … Only 57% of the divorce group achieved their bachelor’s degree as compared with 90% in the comparison group. … Unhappy, [those who did attend college] settled for fields of study that were not their first choice, at lower ranked institutions than their parents had attended. It was at this time that one young person, echoing the emotions of many others, commented bitterly, “I paid for my parents’ divorce.”

The central finding of this study is that parental divorce impacts detrimentally the capacity to love and be loved within a lasting, committed relationship.

A subgroup of over 20 women from the divorced group sought out multiple lovers. … Their sexual encounters seemed driven by anger at men, which even their close relationships with their fathers did not seem to mute.

(i.e., a mother’s alimony-fueled escape to Tinderhood can result in daughters who are passionate Tinder users as well)

I find this a fascinating cultural artifact, not so much that the law professor would justify reorganizing her own life for her own reasons as something that benefits her children, but that these rationalizations would be of wide enough public interest to merit publication in one of our biggest newspapers. That says something about how passionate New York Times readers are about living their best life, regardless of the consequences to children and others.


  • the author, Lara Bazelon, was able to take time away from helping the wrongfully convicted to write an editorial for the New York Times complaining that Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t be enthusiastic about abortion (“the heart of the long, continuing march for gender equality”). This is consistent with her more recent NYT piece (above), since the best way to avoid being bothered by children is to abort them (legal right up to 36 or 37 weeks in Massachusetts if one doctor thinks the child who pops out will irritate the mother and therefore impair her mental health). Thanks to Professor Bazelon, we now know that a judge appointed by a Republican doesn’t love abortion as much as a Democrat-appointed judge would love abortion!
  • “Female Voters’ ‘Marriage Gap’ And The Midterms” (NPR): “Married women tend to have more conservative beliefs and vote more for Republicans, while single women tend to be aligned more with Democrats.” (i.e., one way to boost votes for Democrats is to encourage women to file divorce lawsuits)
  • Facebook uses a Malibu-flying engineering manager to promote careers in engineering… (we celebrate the mid-life gender ID change of a married “man” without considering the effects on the middle-aged wife and on the kids)
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Can income from prostitution be factored into the alimony formula?

Someone earning $700,000 over a 6-year period seeks alimony from a spinal surgeon spouse earning substantially more over the same period ($3 million in one year alone). For purposes of calculating alimony, does the court assume that $700,000 will be earned over the next 6 years by the lower-income spouse? The U.S. Sun raises what is perhaps a novel question. (Thanks to four separate readers who emailed this to me!)

Kim claimed in the documents for years he didn’t know that Turner was working as a high-priced call girl.

The divorce papers, which were filed in Manhattan Supreme Court in July, reportedly allege that Turner earned nearly $700,000 in cash from her clients.

They go on to claim that Turner had clients including a New Jersey-based real estate executive and an award-winning lighting designer, New York Daily News reported.

Dr. Kim only first became aware of his wife’s double life in December 2020 when he came across an explicit iMessage intended for Turner, which detailed a sexual encounter between her and another man, the court papers reportedly state.

“Not to belabor the obvious but the defendant clearly committed material fraud upon Dr. Kim by concealing her sale of sexual services in exchange for money prior to the marriage,” Dr. Kim reportedly states in the court documents.

This particular case was settled so we’ll never find out, but it would be interesting to see if a court would allow expert testimony on the question of what the future earnings of a prostitute might be.

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Government gives Americans 3,600 new reasons to fight over custody starting today

Today is the first day when a “parent” can get a $3,600 per child fully refundable tax credit from the U.S. government. This is a fully refundable credit, i.e., it turns into $300 per month Given that roughly half of American children don’t live with two biological parents, that means that the cash implications of winning “primary parent” status are more significant than ever. If there are two children, for example, and the parents have equal incomes, a 60/40 parenting split might result in a 2:1 different in spending power between the winner parent and the loser parent (state-by-state differences in child support formulae are substantial).

For plaintiffs who were on the fence regarding making a domestic violence allegation, for example, in hopes of enhancing prospects for obtaining primary custody, now there is an additional $7,200/year at stake (comparable to working 1,000 extra hours per year at the current federal minimum wage). For comparison, $7,200 per year is more than a Swedish plaintiff could obtain by having sex with the richest billionaire in Sweden. It is also more than a plaintiff could obtain by having sex with the richest defendant in Germany.

(The current wave of inflation that is washing over the U.S. also makes family court litigation more critical. See “Profits from Marriage and Child Support Depend Heavily on Inflation Rates” within the Quirks chapter:

Nominal rather than real (inflation-adjusted) investment income is included in every state’s child support formula. Consider a defendant with $2 million in premarital savings and a 2-percent real return on those savings. With inflation at 1 percent, the nominal return will be 3 percent or $60,000 per year. If inflation goes back up to a Jimmy Carter-era 10 percent, the nominal return will be 12 percent and investment income for child support purposes will be $240,000 per year, four times as high despite the fact that the real return on investment is the same. The effect of inflation in Wisconsin, for example, with its 25 percent of gross income rule for two kids, is an increase in the child support plaintiff’s share of investment income from $15,000 per year up to $60,000, far exceeding the $40,000 in real return.

The value of property division can also be boosted by inflation. Consider a jurisdiction where a divorce plaintiff is entitled to a roughly 50 percent share of any appreciation in the value of premarital savings. If the real value doesn’t change, but inflation is 10 percent per year, the separate property will double in nominal value over a 7-year period. A plaintiff who sues for divorce after 7 years will thus obtain 25 percent of the value of the property by collecting 50 percent of the appreciation. In a no-inflation environment, the share would be 0 rather than 25 percent.

If we’re going to have inflation plus extra government-sent rewards to the parent who wins custody, might the second best career choice in the Biden era be divorce litigator? (first best, of course, is child support plaintiff after having sex with a high-income partner!))


  • “New $3,000 child tax credit could raise issues for divorced parents” (CNBC, a little out of sync with the fact that never-married-to-begin-with is a common status for plaintiffs and defendants in U.S. family courts)
  • A section asking whether it makes sense to run a court system to pick winner and loser parents: What does [Linda Nielsen, professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University] think of the winner/loser custody system that prevails in most U.S. states? “A lot of social scientists say that a court cannot possibly pull together enough custody evaluators and psychology experts to accurately predict what is going to be the best parenting plan for each child in a particular family ” responded Nielsen. “The premise that custody evaluators can always give an objective recommendation is flawed. It is not like a driving test or a math test. There may be no standard set of credentials for custody evaluators. There is not necessarily consistency from one evaluator to another and many of the measures used in these evaluations were not designed for that purpose.. A psychologist can’t walk into an intact family, do an assessment and determine which parent is better for which child at which age in that family – or who will be the better parent four years from now. So why bring that difficult task into family court?” Nielsen says that a deeper problem with courts picking the “better parent” at the time of divorce may be that the judge is answering the wrong question. “It doesn’t matter who is a better parent at the time of the divorce,” says Nielsen. “I ask students [in a Wake Forest University Department of Psychology course] ‘Was your mother or father the better parent when you were 6, 10, 16 years old? Now answer the same question for your brother or sister. The answer is different at each age and, with siblings, depending on the personality of the siblings and the parents. The importance or effectiveness of each parent will go up and down as the child ages, which is one reason that children who are in shared parenting arrangements do better than children who spend less than 35 percent of their time with one parent.”
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Happy Irrelevant Person’s Day!

Hallmark says that today is Father’s Day. The Harvard Gazette takes a different view with “Why living in a two-parent home isn’t a cure-all for Black students” (June 3, 2021):

New research suggests financial and other resources are also key to success for youth

So a plaintiff who pops a Clomid and has sex with a married dentist and harvests the resulting child support will have cash-yielding children that turn out better than if he/she/ze/they had married a medium-income person and stayed married. (Since a night of sex can pay better than a long-term marriage. Caution: this is true in Massachusetts, California, New York, or Wisconsin, but not in Nevada or Minnesota. See Real World Divorce for a state-by-state analysis.)

At least for Black children, parental income is the only factor correlated with success:

Rather than the two-parent family being the great equalizer that most Americans imagine it to be, Black children from low-income, two-parent families find themselves in the same position as Black children growing up with a single parent. This is what I found in my forthcoming study in the journal Social Problems. In it, I explore the differential returns to living in a two-parent family for Black youth’s academic success. Drawing on a nationally representative sample, I found that there were no differences in the earned grades, likelihood of grade level repetition, and rates of suspension between Black youth from low-income, two-parent households and their peers raised in low-income, single-parent households.

The government can save us:

What we need are policies that alleviate financial hardship and facilitate good, consistent parenting. President Biden’s proposed American Families Plan is an example of such a policy.

The Harvard folks don’t highlight that the Biden family is leading by example on the plan that is financially optimum for the typical American capable of incubating a baby (see “Hunter Biden’s child support is finalized with his stripper baby mama” (Daily Mail) and when does this grandchild get to visit the White House to see Grandpa Joe?).

Let’s see who is funding the soon-to-be-professor who informs us that #Science proves that low-income Black men are useless and the mom who rids her home of one of them in favor of pursuing full-time Tinderhood is doing the kids a favor:

The National Science Foundation paid for this scientific result with your tax dollars.

Sadly, wherever there is science there are science deniers. “Sorry, Harvard, fathers still matter — including Black fathers” (USA Today):

A new report from the Institute for Family Studies co-authored by us with sociologist Wendy Wang finds large differences between Black kids raised by their own two parents, compared to their peers raised by single parents (primarily single mothers). Black children raised by single parents are three times more likely to be poor, compared to Black children raised by their own married parents. Black boys are almost half as likely to end up incarcerated (14% for intact; 23% for single parent) and twice as likely to go on and graduate from college (21% for intact; 12% for single parent) if they are raised in a home with their two parents, compared to boys raised by just one parent. Parallel patterns obtain for girls. Equally striking, we also find that Black children from stable two-parent homes do better than white children from single-parent homes when it comes to their risk of poverty or prison, and their odds of graduating from college. Young white men from single-parent families, for instance, are more likely to end up in prison than young Black men from intact, two-parent homes.

Whether you’re white, Black, or don’t see color, if there are humans on this planet who refer to you as “Dad” … I’d like to wish you a Happy Irrelevant Person’s Day!

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Bill Gates made one decision worse than Clippy

Happy National Paperclip Day (apparently popular in the Florida Free State; see this Orlando Sentinel article).

Until recently, as far as anyone knew, the worse decision that Bill Gates ever made was to launch Clippy.

Now we find out that Gates has a family court plaintiff who will be harvesting roughly half of what he earned prior to encountering her.

Consider that Bill Gates beat Xerox and Apple in the desktop computing market. He triumphed over IBM and its technologically superior OS/2 in operating systems. He defeated the U.S. Department of Justice in a landmark antitrust case (ran out the clock until George W. Bush took over!). He escaped the Internal Revenue Service and taxation by stuffing every share of stock that he wanted to sell into the Gates Foundation where it could be sold without attracting capital gains tax.

The one enemy that he couldn’t defend against or prevail over was his family court plaintiff.

(What if he’d stayed single, but periodically had sex with cash-motivated individuals seeking to make bank via pregnancy and child support? Washington State family law makes it tough for a plaintiff to obtain more than about $400,000 over 18 years. Suppose that Gates’s current plaintiff collects $60 billion. That would have been sufficient to fund 150,000 child support plaintiffs at the top of the Washington State child support guidelines. Maybe some of them could have moved to Massachusetts or California or Arkansas prior to giving birth and availed themselves of unlimited child support, as Hunter Biden’s plaintiff did (sex in D.C.; lawsuit in Arkansas). But “unlimited” doesn’t necessarily mean that sex partners would have been paid anywhere near $60 billion.

What if the Melinda entanglement was more about sex than procreation? If Melinda took advice from Betsy Salkind (“Men are like linoleum floors. Lay ’em right and you can walk all over them for thirty years.”), there would have been a short period of evening excitement followed by decades of deep freeze. A friend who is “familiar” (as the journalists say) with the rates charged by legal escorts in London and Germany says that the maximum that Bill Gates could possibly have paid for the highest-end all-night companionship is $2000 per woman per evening (London rates; substantially cheaper in Germany). A $60 billion fee to an American plaintiff would translate into 30 million evenings of top-class escort service in London or 82,192 years of every-evening companionship with one woman (more than 40,000 years of every-evening companionship with two women). The same friend says that Jeff Bezos’s situation breaks his heart. “He was the richest guy in the world. What is he doing with a 50-year-old who already had kids with two different men?”)

Maybe the most helpful thing to say to someone considering marriage to a less-wealthy lower-earning potential future plaintiff: “Do you think that you’re smarter than Bill Gates?”


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When is having sex with the boss a good idea? (Melinda and MacKenzie)

We are informed that sex between a high-income senior worker at a company and a lower-income junior worker is bad. Yet MacKenzie Scott, then a secretary (“administrative assistant”) at D.E. Shaw, turned sex with Jeff Bezos, a vice-president at the firm, into a multi-$billion fortune. And recently we’ve learned that Melinda Gates, who had sex with the founder/CEO at her employer (Microsoft), will soon join the ranks of strong independent female billionaires. Nobody is saying that it was a mistake for these women to have sex with their respective bosses. Nor is anyone criticizing the bosses for having sex with subordinates and then paying them $billions.

(What if the boss is already married and only “high income” rather than rich? Sex with the boss can still be far more lucrative than continuing to work, depending on the state (see Real World Divorce for each state’s child support formula and this calculation of how much better Ellen Pao would have done by having sex with her boss compared to suing Kleiner Perkins).)

How are people supposed to distinguish between bad-sex-at-the-office and good-sex-at-the-office?

An immigrant friend has been writing about Melinda Gates pulling the ripcord. A sampling:

[14-year-old] read Bill Gates’ divorce tweet and reacted: I so hate it how Americans always describe these things in this annoying sugary way: “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple” or “we’re no longer a perfect match.” A Russian woman would have said directly: “He got boring” or “He is crazy, I don’t want to deal with him anymore” or “he is running out of money” or “screw him, I am out of here.” In fact, I don’t think any European would talk like Americans do. They wouldn’t probably even say anything because who cares?

I am anticipating a firehose of stories: “Melinda Gates is the real founder of Microsoft, while Bill with the rest of the white men took all the credit”, “Melinda breaks the next layer of the glass ceiling in philanthropy”, “The rising tide of female billionaires: here is how divorce can empower you too”.

From a U.S.-born friend:

So I heard Bill Gates is having a massive parasite removed. The surgical process should cost about 65 billion dollars.

The actual complaint for divorce (“petition” in Washington State) filed by Melinda Gates:


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The haters who said that polygamy would follow same-sex marriage

Back when same-sex marriage was the subject of referenda (eventually rendered irrelevant by the Supreme Court), the haters said that same-sex marriage was the camel nose under the tent for polygamy. This was an outrageous calumny. See “Polygamy Is Not Next” (TIME, 2015), for example and “No, Polygamy Isn’t the Next Gay Marriage” (Politico, 2015): “Opposing the legalization of plural marriage should not be my burden, because gay marriage and polygamy are opposites, not equivalents.”

From CNN, six years later: “Three dads, a baby and the legal battle to get their names added to a birth certificate”:

This isn’t news, actually, but we’re just hearing about it now…

The judge ruled in their favor before their daughter Piper was born in 2017. Jenkins believes they are the first polyamorous family in California, and possibly the country, to be named as the legal parents of a child.

The journalists want us to know how much better this is than when there are two squabbling opposite-sex parents:

The dads and their children share a bustling house with two Goldendoodles named Otis and Hazel.

“We’ve had zero negative feedback from coworkers and friends. Everyone seems to just be delighted about the arrangement and that’s because they know us,” Jenkins says. “I think some people will look at this and say like, ‘Oh, this is exotic. It’s going to harm the child.’ But people who know us know that we have been taking care of these kids as best as we possibly can.”

That however hopeless things may seem as a young gay man struggling to fit in, the world is changing. And that he’ll someday find more love under one roof than he ever imagined.

(If two dads are good, maybe three are better! See The happiest children in Spain live with two daddies,)

From my inbox, “How Polyamorists and Polygamists Are Challenging Family Norms” (New Yorker): “Campaigns for legal recognition may soon make multiple-partner marriages as unremarkable as same-sex marriages.

Some excerpts:

The next year, in an online forum, they saw a post from a woman in her early thirties named Julie Halcomb that said, “I’m a single mom, I’ve got a two-year-old daughter, and I’d like to learn more.” Rich wrote, “If you want to know more, ask my wives.” Angela had opposed adding a third wife, but when she got off her first call with Julie she said, “O.K., when is she moving in?” Julie visited, mostly to make sure that the kids would get along, and joined the household permanently a week later.

Their living arrangements attracted other unwelcome attention. Neighbors called the police, and Child Protective Services interviewed the children. Since there was only one marriage certificate, the police couldn’t file bigamy charges. “They said, ‘We don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do,’ ” Julie recalled. “But we had them at our door constantly. One of the kids would have an accident at school—we’d have them there again. They were constantly trying to find signs of abuse.”

At the family’s largest, Rich had four wives, but when I met him, a couple of years ago, he and Angela were divorcing, and another woman, April, had come and gone. Rich, Brandy, and Julie were living with their kids—six, including Rich’s and Julie’s from earlier relationships—and saw Angela’s two every other weekend.

The Austins would like one day to enjoy the legal benefits that married couples take for granted. Brandy and Julie take heart from the success of the gay-marriage movement. “I’ve got a wedding invitation on the way from a friend who’s transitioning from female to male,” Julie said. “I’ve got classmates that came out almost twenty years ago. They’ve been lucky enough to get married. I wish people would be as accepting with us as we try to be of everyone else.”

We already have functional polygamy in the U.S. An American doesn’t need to settle for the highest-earning partner whom he/she/ze/they can find for a long-term marriage. He/she/ze/they can have sex once with an already-married high-income defendant and earn more via child support (see Hunter Biden’s plaintiff) than by getting married to a mediocre earner and enduring his/her/zer/their presence in the apartment 24/7. Soon we can have de jure polygamy?

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