Obama Appoints LGBT Athletes to Sochi Delegation »« American Atheists Gets Email

No, Polygamy is Not Legal in Utah

The headlines over the last few days have been screaming “Judge Declares Utah Polygamy Ban Unconstitutional!” The Christian right went ballistic immediately, saying, “See, we told you so! Gay marriage leads directly to the legalization of polygamy!” Like Mat Staver, the dumbest lawyer in America not named Larry Klayman or Orly Taitz:

On Friday, Utah Federal Judge Clark Waddoups declared that state’s law forbidding polygamy unconstitutional even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1879 that states can restrict polygamy – a man married to more than one wife. Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, expected the decision.

“Once you cross the precipice to deconstruct marriage so that it includes people of the same sex, there’s no logical or legal way to stop the avalanche of further deconstruction of marriage – which includes polygamy and even polyamory, group marriage,” says the Florida-based attorney.

Uh huh. Except the federal judge did not strike down the law banning polygamy. In fact, it didn’t say much of anything about it. Rob Boston explains what the ruling actually did:

If all you read was the headline, you might assume that polygamy was once again legal in Utah. It’s not. Instead, the state has been told not to interfere in religious ceremonies that, while they may have meaning for the people who take part in them, bestow no government recognition.

Nevertheless, conservative religious groups are distraught. See, they told us this would happen once same-sex marriage became legal in some states!

“This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life,” Russell Moore, top lobbyist for the Southern Baptist Convention, told CNN. “Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children. Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing.”

The problem with Moore’s statement is that polygamy is not legal in Utah or anywhere else in the United States. The ruling makes that abundantly clear.

So what did happen? Utah had a law on the books banning two people from living together if one or both of them is already married to someone else. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups struck down this part of the law. This in no way allows a person to have more than one legal spouse.

There are men living in Utah who insist, on a spiritual basis, that they can have more than one wife. They have a rather elastic definition of the term “wife,” using it to mean any woman who chooses to enter into a church ceremony with them. Legally, these men do not have more than one wife. A man is free to live with more than one woman, but only one of them can be his legal wife.

Some polygamist men in Utah are seeking legal recognition for all of their wives. This ruling does not give them that. The decision is just a reminder that the government has no business interfering in the types of personal and family relationships that people choose to form.

But panic, everyone, panic!

Comments

  1. ragingapathy says

    Stop with these facts! Such reasoned rhetoric could interfere with some very lucrative fundraising!

  2. says

    The Christian right went ballistic immediately, saying, “See, we told you so! Gay marriage leads directly to the legalization of polygamy!”

    Right…a certain far-right-wing religious sect wants polygamy, but the minute there’s any hint they may have got it, it’s time to blame gay marriage for “causing” or “enabling” it. What a classic case of pure cowardly childish scapegoating.

    Whenever someone tries to make up a link beteeen gay marriage and polygamy, the rest of us need to remind them, as forcefully as legally possible, that polygamy never came from gay people — it always comes from the people LEAST tolerant of gayness: Mormons, Muslims, and other backward groups who want to treat women as property, and pretend their god commands it.

  3. Wylann says

    Not to mention, gay marriage isn’t even legal yet in Utah. They seem to have missed that little detail.

  4. raven says

    No, Polygamy is Not Legal in Utah

    And people in Utah don’t smoke marijuana and underage drinking is unknown.

    The antipolygamy law was unenforceable and unenforced anyway. There are 60,000 polygamists in Utah and everyone knows who and where they are.

    Utah hasn’t prosecuted them for polygamy in decades. In fact, they just ignore them and hope they go away.

  5. says

    The antipolygamy law was unenforceable and unenforced anyway. There are 60,000 polygamists in Utah and everyone knows who and where they are.

    Uh, what?

    It’s trivially easy to enforce– don’t issue marriage licenses to more than one spouse. And they don’t. Leading to what is, to my knowledge, a perfect enforcement record.

    What people do instead is cohabitate with multiple sexual/romantic partners, which is legal in every state– including Utah, which this court ruling did actually address.

    This case is, incidentally, why the Brown family– Kody Brown and his four wives– fled Utah for Nevada, land of casinos, strip clubs, and brothels, where they are ironically more free to live their counter-cultural lifestyle in peace. Strange non-bedfellows, and all that.

  6. colnago80 says

    OT but related: Breaking news – the New Mexico Supreme Court has just ruled that same sex marriage is legal in that state.

  7. bmiller says

    The biggest issue I have with the screeching is that polygamy IS Traditional Biblical Marriage! What more could they want?

    Current marriage in the context of an isolated, independent nuclear family at war with the Fallen World is very much a modern/late Victorian creation anyway.

  8. Sastra says

    “This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life,”

    Actually, if you look at the arguments behind Utah polygamy it probably would have to be legalized if judges ruled that civil marriage is still anchored in God and religion. If someone has a revelation regarding God’s will for True Marriage, by what criteria could it be ruled ‘false?’ We’re left only with ‘sincere’ belief or not.

    Talk about your slippery slope.

  9. raven says

    Polygamy in Utah is de facto but not de jure legal. I’m sure everyone knows the difference.

    It’s still a problem with huge numbers of victims. One compound has 30 wives and 300 children, most of them girls. So where are the boys. It should be equal numbers.

    No one knows. Some of them are roaming the cities, the lost boys who were kicked out to prevent them from competing with older males for limited numbers of wives. They have few survival skills due to their upbringing.

    I’ve seen speculation of unknown reliability that some boy babies are just killed at birth. There are large numbers of babies in some of their cemeteries for various reasons, including a previous reliance on faith healing. It is estimated that infant mortality was somewhere between 25 and 50%.

    There is a flaw with polygamy. If one guy is going to have 30 wives, 29 other men are going to do without. Maybe they can marry each other.

  10. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults…

    It used to be about something else?

    Utah had a law on the books banning two people from living together if one or both of them is already married to someone else.

    What the fuck?

  11. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    Note how Staver says “…even polyamory!”. As if polygamy without the misogyny is somehow worse. I suppose to these people it probably is…

  12. says

    I’m starting to think I should’ve bought a name brand dictionary. I looked up “polyamory”. It means “When the moons hit your eyes like big pizza pies”.

  13. John Pieret says

    When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!

    Mandatory mention of Abraham, Isaac, Solomon and (God’s favorite) King David and their “non-traditional” marriages.

  14. says

    Polygamy in Utah is de facto but not de jure legal. I’m sure everyone knows the difference.

    Does it entitle people to visit their partners in the hospital? Does it give them tax breaks? Does it make it permissible for the partner of a legal citizen to remain in the country if he/she isn’t a legal citizen? Does it determine inheritance? Does it do any of the things gay people want when they say they want legal marriage?

    If not, isn’t it rather insulting to them to speak as if there’s little to no difference?

    It’s still a problem with huge numbers of victims.

    Polygamy is multiple marriage. It doesn’t have “victims” any more than marriage does.

    The problem with huge numbers of victims is Mormon fundamentalist polygamy. Actually, that’s not accurate either. The problem with huge numbers of victims is child abuse which is sometimes practiced by fundamentalist Mormon polygamists.

    Which is already illegal. Laws against it should be enforced.

    Polygamy should not be illegal because of their behavior any more than gay marriage should be illegal because of the behavior of gays.

    There is a flaw with polygamy. If one guy is going to have 30 wives, 29 other men are going to do without. Maybe they can marry each other.

    Or all get married to the same woman.

  15. raven says

    Does it entitle people to visit their partners in the hospital?

    They (the Utah FLDS) don’t much go to hospitals. Up until recently they were faith healers. And they died like flies, mostly children. The child mortality rate was around 25%. These days they have their own clinic.

    Does it give them tax breaks?

    They don’t pay taxes. They consume a lot of taxes. How do you think some guy with a high school education supports 300 kids? He doesn’t. The taxpayers do. 50% of them are on welfare, down from 90%.

    Does it make it permissible for the partner of a legal citizen to remain in the country if he/she isn’t a legal citizen? They rarely go anywhere. They need the isolation to keep their cults going.

    Does it determine inheritance? What inheritance? The FLDS decides all that. It operates as a government in their areas and pays no attention to the other governments. Even the police are FLDS.

    Does it do any of the things gay people want when they say they want legal marriage? No, and they don’t really care. They live outside of our society as a necessity.

  16. meg says

    Or all get married to the same woman.

    And there’s why it’ll never happen. . . . they’d fear that worse than gay marriage. . .

  17. raven says

    For those who think Utah polygamy is benign, you couldn’t be more wrong if you joined a fundie xian death cult.

    It causes huge problems and suffering. I’ll just list a few.

    1. They used to fight wars not too long ago for control of the women and money. I started to count the dead once and stopped soon. At 50 dead. One guy killed 30 people, many of them his relatives. They are a lot of graves in southern Utah and no one is too sure who is in them or how they got there.

    2. Inbreeding. A lot of these cults are small and people do things like marry their half sister or niece. Some groups have problems with genetic diseases.

    3. Child marriage. They like to marry the girls as young as possible and 14 is a common age.

    4.

    wikipedia:

    “Lost boys” is a term used for young men who have been excommunicated or pressured to leave polygynous Mormon fundamentalism groups such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).[1] They are allegedly pressured to leave by adult men to reduce competition for wives within such sects, usually when they are between the ages of 13 and 21.[2]

    There are an estimated 400 to 1,000 lost boys. These kids are tossed out into an outside world they don’t understand and have been taught to fear. There are programs to help them but they aren’t much.

    5. High mortality rates, especially of children. They are trying to get away from this but not so long ago, it was a third world rate, maybe a quarter of all kids died before age 18.

    6. Finances. The taxpayers pick up a lot of the bill. They also run a lot of scams and use a lot of unpaid child labor. Supporting a dozen wives and 50 kids costs money.

    7. General coercion. You don’t leave these cults. You escape or are kicked out. They try to prevent people from learning about the outside world, no TV, no internet, no newspapers.

    8. Child abuse and child sexual abuse are common. One tactic they use is known. They waterboard infants to teach them to shut up, a common religious method involving breaking the kids will.

  18. Abby Normal says

    Raven, what about atheist polygamists? Or are you lumping all polygamists in with the religious fanatics?

  19. raven says

    Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment
    books.google.com/books?isbn=1616144068

    Janet Heimlich – 2011 – ‎Religion
    Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment Janet Heimlich … closed Muslim communities will respond poorly to children who allege thatan imam … Examples include Jews, fundamentalist Mormons who practice polygamy, and Muslims.

    For some reason, fundies of most religions think they have to break their children’s wills. I suppose it is just a common brainwashing tactic.

    It usually involves physical abuse and is occasionally fatal.

    One problem is, What if it doesn’t work? They keep escalating. And then, oops, they end up with a dead kid.

  20. raven says

    ,blockquote>Raven, what about atheist polygamists? Or are you lumping all polygamists in with the religious fanatics?

    Got me.

    You are assuming atheists are better than theists.

    On average, that is the case so far in the USA. The bar is low but statistically they are better than the fundies in terms of less social problems and more education and so on.

    But we already know being an atheist doesn’t mean you can’t also be dysfunctional monster. It’s just less likely.

  21. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    I’m starting to think I should’ve bought a name brand dictionary. I looked up “polyamory”. It means “When the moons hit your eyes like big pizza pies”.

    Gee, and I thought Polly Amory was Cleveland Amory‘s little sister.

  22. Abby Normal says

    I’m just saying, if my only exposure to euthanasia was Jonestown I would have a very different opinion than I do from volunteering at a hospice.

  23. raven says

    Wikipedia: Ervil Morrell LeBaron (February 22, 1925 – August 16, 1981) was the leader of a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist group who ordered the killings of many of his opponents, using the religious doctrine of blood atonement to justify the murders. He was sentenced to prison for orchestrating the murder of an opponent, and died in prison.

    He had at least 13 wives in a plural marriage, several of whom he married while they were still underage, and several of whom were involved in the murders.

    and

    It has been estimated that more than 25 people were killed as a result of LeBaron’s prison-cell orders. Many of his family members and other ex-members of the group still remain in hiding for fear of retribution from LeBaron’s remaining followers.

    and

    Ervil LeBaron has also been linked to the death of his own 17-year-old daughter Rebecca, who was pregnant with her second child and hoped to leave the group;

    Look people, if child abuse and small scale wars appeal to you, by all means join a polygamous cult. But do practice your bullet dodging skills beforehand. They could use some outside gene flow.

    Ervil Lebaron got into a power struggle within his cult. 25 people ended up dead. Since they were all closely related, family members ended up killing family members. Lebaron among others, killed one of his daughters for trying to defect.

  24. Synfandel says

    “Once you cross the precipice to deconstruct marriage so that it includes people of the same sex, there’s no logical or legal way to stop the avalanche of further deconstruction of marriage – which includes polygamy and even polyamory, group marriage,” says the Florida-based attorney.

    Mr. Staver doesn’t appear to understand the meanings of the terms he’s using. For clarity…

    polygamy: the state or practice of being married to more than one person at the same time

    polygyny: the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time

    polyandry: the state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time

    polyamory: the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time

  25. raven says

    I’ve got to get moving but one more for the road.

    As several have stated, a lot of the problems with polygamy as it is in the USA, isn’t polygamy but Mormon polygamy.

    Well you have to go with the polygamists you have, not the ones you want.

    There are about 100 Mormon schismatic groups. The largest the RLDS, founded by Joseph Smith’s first wife and one of his kids, is pretty benign.

    Most of the rest are pretty weird. Many of them are polygamists cults. Two I’ve had to deal with aren’t polygamists but they are faith healers. Which has its own problems. It’s estimated that child mortality 0 to 18 runs around 25%. That is a third world number, not a US number.

  26. felidae says

    If I remember right, Joseph Smith came up with the polygamy doctrine when he wanted to screw his neighbor’s teenage daughter

  27. Lyle says

    @felidae #32.

    If I remember right, Joseph Smith came up with the polygamy doctrine when he wanted to screw his neighbor’s teenage daughter

    I don’t think that factlet was in the South Park episode (you know which one I mean), but it should have been.

  28. dingojack says

    Modus (#17) – I thought that was a Moray.

    Raven (#20) – … and Gary Leon Ridgeway is believed to have killed 50 or more women in his thirty year career as a serial killer. Therefore all men are EVUUL. Let the culling commence. @@

    Dingo

  29. says


    There is a flaw with polygamy. If one guy is going to have 30 wives, 29 other men are going to do without. Maybe they can marry each other.

    Or all get married to the same woman.”

    Well, that might be a lot of fun at Christmas, for the lady.

    Polymarriage is prolly much less likely amongst well-educated, psychologically healthy populations–because they, unlike the FLDS Maroons, know what sort of legal, financial, emotional and societal hurdles such arrangements present.

  30. says

    As several have stated, a lot of the problems with polygamy as it is in the USA, isn’t polygamy but Mormon polygamy.

    Okay…so can anyone come up with another example of polygamy, from anywhere, that’s better than the radical-Mormon kind?

    IIRC, several Muslim countries allow polygamy — but it’s not that widely practiced by a large fraction of people, simply because so few people can afford the legal obligations of more than one wife. And I strongly suspect that if a significant percentage of the men in these countries (not just the super-rich) DID start marrying more than one wife, those societies would start to see most or all of the same problems we now see in the FLDS communities. So if you want to try to justify or excuse polygamy, good luck finding a better example.

  31. dingojack says

    Raging Bee – I believe it’s quite common in African societies for a man to marry as many wives as he can afford. Whether that’s better or worse than LDS I can’t really say.
    Dingo

  32. pocketnerd says

    Thus Spake ZaraRagingBee:

    Okay…so can anyone come up with another example of polygamy, from anywhere, that’s better than the radical-Mormon kind?

    The problem with looking for better historical examples of polygamy is polygamy is almost invariably bundled up with patriarchy, oligarchy, and women-as-chattel — it’s not a consensual union of equals, but rather one man, generally of high social status, and as many females as he can buy, capture, or coerce.

    Numerous modern-day polyamorous families are essentially de facto polygamous marriages, and the power balance looks very different: They’re generally egalitarian, not limited to one male, and involve the explicit consent of each partner.

    What FLDSers and other misogynist kooks mean by “polygamy” is very different from what polyfolk mean by “polygamy,” and it’s not really fair to equate the two. I’m only for plural marriage when it means relationships with respect and consent. (And I’m only for single marriage with the exact same requirements.)

  33. says

    The problem with looking for better historical examples of polygamy is polygamy is almost invariably bundled up with patriarchy, oligarchy, and women-as-chattel — it’s not a consensual union of equals, but rather one man, generally of high social status, and as many females as he can buy, capture, or coerce.

    In short, the answer to my question is “no.”

    As for polyamory, I have no problem with that — but I do have a problem with plural marriage, which (with or without the misogyny) can create the kind of legal nightmares that marriage serves to avoid. But that’s another conversation.

  34. pocketnerd says

    Yes, I’m sure that’s one of the excuses I’ll be hearing when multiple marriage fights its legislative and court battles in 20 years.

  35. says

    pocketnerd “What FLDSers and other misogynist kooks mean by ‘polygamy’ is very different from what polyfolk mean by ‘polygamy’…”
    I went to a polyfolk music festival once, but they kicked me out after I booed a guy for playing too many guitars.

  36. says

    JESUS, Modusoperandi! Couldn’t you just be SERIOUS for onc…Wait, wtf am I thinking? If you were serious I would stop reading most of the threads a LOT sooner.

    Polygamy is gonna be legal when they can figure out a way to have it AND equality in the same relationships. Fuck, it’s obviously too hard for TWO people to have a successful relationship in a lot of instances.

  37. bill biesele says

    This an afternoon another federal judge ruled Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage unconstititutional, and also all similar state laws. Some county clerks have been performing same sex marriages.

Leave a Reply