A federal judge in Utah struck down part of the state’s ban on polygamy as unconstitutional yesterday.
US district judge Clark Waddoups ruled in December that a section of Utah law that prohibits “cohabitation” violates the Constitution’s religious freedom and privacy protections. He reaffirmed this decision in his Wednesday ruling, in which he also provided attorney’s fees to the plaintiff, Kody Brown, a star of TLC reality show Sister Wives.
A law against cohabitation does sound very intrusive. On the other hand what if it’s just a euphemism for a certain kind of exploitation?
“The decision brings closure for our family and further reaffirms the right of all families to be free from government abuse,” Brown said in a statement on his lawyer’s website. “While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our religious beliefs. Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs.”
“Plural families” is an interesting euphemism. They’re not just generally plural; they’re one man with several women, never the other way around.
The Guardian talked to Marci Hamilton.
“The decision is unfortunate in that the judge did not take seriously the ramifications of polygamy, which are the the oppression of women and children – it’s just the way the system works,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law. “Partly, Utah is to blame because they did a lousy job of presenting the evidence of the effects of polygamy and the way that the system operates.”
Hamilton said she believes it is unlikely that Waddoups’ ruling will be upheld if it is brought to an appeals court. Utah attorney general Sean Reyes had said earlier that the state would appeal the decision.
I think polygyny is generally very bad for women and children, but I’m not sure what should be done to address that.