We recently did an interview on the radio, and a caller called in upset that we were flouting the law, and didn’t we realize that polygamy was against the Utah Constitution? There is a lot of history that many people don’t understand, history that has led us to the discriminatory statues that exist today, but the caller was actually misinformed.
When Mormons were being pressured in the late 1800′s to give of Plural Marriage as part of their faith there were many tactics employed against the LDS Church to do so, including taking away the Church Property. Many of these laws are chronicled in the last chapter of Love Times Three. After the LDS Church relented in 1890 its “official” practice of polygamy the territory was finally allowed into the Union in 1896. One of the “enabling” acts the Federal government put on as a condition of statehood was that “That polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited.”
It is this act that the caller referred to. It is this act that the State of Utah has attempted to use as a defense in the Brown lawsuit. Their attorney, Johnathon Turley has wisely pointed out to the State, see the full argument here, that what the Brown’s are arguing has nothing to do with allowing State sanctioned plural marriage. Though as Turley points out there are all kinds of contitutional problem with this “enabling” act by the Federal government.
Ironically, this is also where many people confuse the issue we have with the gay marriage debate. In both situations, gay marriage proponents, and those that think we are asking for legal polygamous marriage, the key issue is state recognized marriages. What we seek, as well as the Brown’s and other families like ours, is what every other American already is allowed, the right to cohabit with whomever we may as consenting adults.
The key component in the statue now, is that I “purport” to be married. That I use my free speech to call my cohabitating partners, “wife” or that I use my religious beliefs to define them as a wife in a religious only ceremony, of that I choose to support them and define them as part of my family is what consitutue a felony in the State of Utah and most other states.
In an ironic way, most civil unions involve a certain “polygamy” themselves. For a marriage to occur civilly, there is a contract between a man, a wife, and a third party, the State. So polygamy is not against the Utah Constitution, polygamous state sanction marriages are forever banned. Regardless of the technicality, we still desire to live free.