Will Utah Revert To Polygamy Again?
Religion is a weird thing and I'm not comfortable with government getting involved in even recognizing it as legitimate. If people want to worship a sky god or a rock or ancestors or whatever, they should be free to do that-- unless they harm others and commit crimes. Mormonism is obviously nonsense from start to finish but is it any more ridiculous and any more of a hustler tradition than any other religion? Maybe.
Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups, a right-wing Mormon freak who George W. Bush appointed to the judiciary (and confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent), ruled that its unconstitutional for Utah to ban multiple wives. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the judge "sided with the polgyamous Brown family, ruling that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional."
Judge Clark Waddoups’ 91-page ruling, issued Friday, sets a new legal precedent in Utah, effectively decriminalizing polygamy. It is the latest development in a lawsuit filed by the family of Kody Brown, who became famous while starring in cable TV channel TLC’s reality series Sister Wives. The show entered a fourth season at the end of the summer.Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb...
Waddoups’ ruling attacks the parts of Utah’s law making cohabitation illegal. In the introduction, Waddoups says the phrase "or cohabits with another person" is a violation of both the First and 14th amendments. Waddoups later writes that while there is no "fundamental right" to practice polygamy, the issue really comes down to "religious cohabitation." In the 1800s-- when the mainstream LDS Churh still practiced polygamy-- "religious cohabitation" in Utah could have actually resulted in "multiple purportedly legal marriages." Today, however, simply living together doesn’t amount to being "married," Waddoups writes.
"The court finds the cohabitation prong of the Statute unconstitutional on numerous grounds and strikes it," Waddoups later writes.
Utah’s bigamy statute technically survived the ruling. However, Waddoups took a narrow interpretation of the words "marry" and "purports to marry," meaning that bigamy remains illegal only in the literal sense-- when someone fraudulently acquires multiple marriage licences.
The Browns could not immediately be reached Friday night, but issued a statement through their lawyer calling the decision humbling and historic.
"While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs," Brown wrote. "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."
Jonathan Turley, the attorney representing the Brown family, called the opinion "magnificent" Friday in a phone conversation. In a blog post, he added that it strikes down "the criminalization of polygamy" and will allow "plural families to step out for the first time in their communities and live their lives openly among their neighbors."
"Regardless of how you feel about the legal issues in the case," Turley told the Tribune on Friday, "this is a decision that was rendered after considerable amount of reflecting and consideration by the court."
Turley explained that the ruling means everyone is entitled to freedom of religion as well as due process. He also expects the ruling to stand up over time, and potential appeals, which the Utah Attorney General’s Office has indicated in the past it might pursue.
Joe Darger, who with his three wives detailed their life in the book Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, praised the decision and said it would change the future for Utah’s polygamists. He said that he learned of the victory Friday night when Kody Brown called him. The call was unusual-- the two men don’t call each other frequently, he said-- and when he learned of the ruling he felt "shocked."
"It just caught us off guard," he said. "It’s like Christmas came early."
Darger added that his 25th child, a girl who was born Dec. 10, will face an entirely different future as a result of the ruling.
The Browns filed their lawsuit in July 2011, arguing Utah’s law violated their right to privacy. The family’s argument relied primarily on the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the Texas law banning sodomy, which was celebrated by gay rights advocates.
…Turley also criticized what he characterized as anecdotal evidence to say polygamy fostered abuse.
Months passed after the hearing without any developments, though many speculated that Waddoups was waiting for U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage before making a decision. However, those rulings came and went in June and still the Browns’ lawsuit remained unresolved.
Turley pointed out Friday that abuses against spouses and children in monogamous and polygamous relationships will continue to be prosecuted.
According to Darger, who has lobbied in favor of polygamy in the past, the next step will be focusing on equality, education and overcoming bigotry. However, with polygamy decriminalized he does not anticipate a push to go one step further and legalize plural marriages. Darger said other causes will consume his energy in the future and he and other polygamists would prefer simply to have less government involvement in their lives.