Unfortunately Canadians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the same day as us. Because of the ruling in Canada expected tomorrow we have been inundated with interview requests, two today, several tomorrow and many more on Thursday, including Canada AM, equivalent to the Today Show in the States. It means we will have to reschedule events with the family but we have much to be grateful for in having the opportunity to freely speak.
Most people, even Polygamists here in the States don’t follow the Canadian case. We had the fortunate experience to testify in the case and understand the ramifications. Brooke Adams, the coauthor of Love Time Three, recently wrote an excellent article on her blog talking about such ramifications. It is well written and articulate as usual and I highly recommend reading the entire article here. She writes:
“On Wednesday, a judge in British Columbia will tilt the pendulum toward one or the other of those comments when he issues a ruling on whether Canada’s anti-polygamy law violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Robert Wickett, an attorney who represents one of the men whose prosecution triggered the review, told The Canadian Press that if it’s found unconstitutional, polygamists in Canada will “be able to carry on with their lifestyle without fear of criminal prosecution.”
Which is why, he noted, outsiders are anxiously awaiting the decision — the Dargers among them. In January, Alina testified in the case. In the last chapter of Love Times Three, Val describes how Alina talked about the free choice she exercised in entering plural marriage and how much love exists in their family.
The Dargers, like many Fundamentalist Mormons I know, are not campaigning for the legal right to marry in Utah or any other state. There is no slippery slope — “if the country eventually permits gay marriage everywhere, then other groups will want the same treatment” — despite attempts by Fox TV host Bill O’Reilly and other detractors to raise that fear.
The “unresolved problem” for the Dargers and other polygamists are laws that criminalize committed, religiously based relationships. It’s not just a concern in Utah, where a majority of the 38,000 Fundamentalist Mormons who consider plural marriage a religious ideal reside. There are Christian fundamentalists as well as an estimated 26,000 Muslims in polygamous families throughout the U.S., despite laws in every state that bar plural marriage.
Utah’s bigamy statute classifies polygamous behavior — without ever mentioning the word — as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The law is worded to get around the fact there is no fraud against a person or the state in these consensual plural relationships, since there is never more than one legally licensed marriage. Under the statute, it is illegal for a married person to cohabitate with an unmarried person or “purport” to be married to someone else.
The two wedding photos the Dargers included in Love Times Three? In Utah, that’s all the evidence needed to convict them of committing a felony. For Joe Darger, who is legally married only to Alina, life is overshadowed by the prospect that he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years because he also has loving, committed relationships with Vicki and Valerie.”
I suspect tomorrow will uphold the ban on polygamy if I am to judge by the Canadian press we have interviewed with. Though Canada currently allows gay marriage and is much more liberal than our laws, their seems to be a strong sentiment against polygamy. This sentiment always seems to sway the the courts though justice is supposed to be blindfolded. This is why we continue to put a public face upon the topic.
If the law is upheld it will have to be changed as it is poorly worded. Unlike our laws Brooke refers to, this law addresses polygamy directly as it was specifically written to target Mormon Polygamists.
The laws says: (1) Every one who
(a) practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
It further states that there does not need be a witness to the marriage, or proof that the marriage occurs, nor does there need to be sexual intercourse. This type of wording brings about all kinds of legal problems which why I suspect the law will at least have to be modified, and of course is why in part, the entire thing should be thrown out.
Most of the arguments for keeping the law center around the inherent abusive nature of polygamy to women and children, the “over aggressive males competing for women” and the harms it causes to democracy. Yet it is the very law against polygamy that is abusive to women and children, and that drives the practice into the shadows, it creates closed societies, which is the only time men compete for women, and it is inconsistent with democratic principles of freedom.
Whatever the result of the ruling tomorrow, we will continue to press forward to educate the public. We know the principles on which we stand are true and correct, and it is important that a free society allow the most unpopular to have a voice.
We thank you for all of you who continue to support us, your voices matter and they need to be heard!