OPINION – There are more questions than answers in the aftermath of Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups that eviscerated the state’s anti-polygamy law.
The judge took a very narrow position in his decision that, quite frankly, still puzzles me after going through the 91-page ruling he issued. The decision, in a nutshell, declares that violation of the Utah polygamy/bigamy statute can only take place if a person has more than one marriage license on file with the state.
Everything else – from cohabitation to spiritual marriage – is OK.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he doesn’t know yet if the state will appeal the decision. He said he is studying the issue, which in Real World-speak means he is huddling with his political advisors to determine how voters would react to a challenge of the Waddoups decision. It’s always about the votes, you know. Herbert told the Salt Lake Tribune he would “much rather see decisions on social issues” made by the Legislature, but he still needs “to understand the arguments and logic” that went into the ruling.
Members of the Utah Attorney General’s Office begin meetings Monday to also explore their options. However, given the history of that office, and how the previous two administrators of that office turned a blind eye to polygamy, I have little faith anything of substance will come from it. As far as the Legislature is concerned, I have even less confidence in the right thing being done. We’ll probably see a lot of razzle but very little dazzle.
There were a number of people wondering how the decision would impact the mainstream LDS church. The church issued a statement on the Waddoups decision that read:
This ruling will have no effect on Church (sic) doctrine or practice. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not practice polygamy, regardless of its legal or cultural acceptance. The polygamists and polygamist organizations in parts of the western United States and Canada have no affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that the term Mormon – widely understood to be a nickname for Latter-day Saints – is sometimes misleadingly applied to them.
I would be willing to bet my last dollar that the church will not rescind its current prohibition of plural marriage. There would simply be too much at stake, plus it would create massive problems for members of the mainstream church in the other 49 states and countries across the globe where polygamy is still illegal. I seriously doubt that a revelation allowing a return to The Principle is imminent.
I do, however, see the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. repopulated by the many who relocated to FLDS enclaves in Texas, rural Colorado, and South Dakota. Why risk prosecution elsewhere when you can go home and not worry about the cops hauling you in?
And, there have been some who say that by decriminalizing polygamy, there will be less sexual abuse of young girls who are forced into marriage with older men. If anything, I would expect that the incidence of abuse would increase. Do the math. There are only so many females in that community.
Because doctrine instructs that plural marriage is the gateway to eternal salvation, more and more men will now want to save their souls, even if it means marrying little girls.
When there was a law on the books, cops were reluctant to enforce it. Now that there virtually is none, spiritual marriages will occur unfettered, which means more and more females will be tossed into spiritual marriage.
The most disturbing aspect of all of this is that I have seen and heard a number of comments stating that “now the doors are open to just about anything.”
Again, in Real World-speak, that translates into the ultimate lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage.
Somehow, polygamy and same-sex marriage got linked along the way. In fact, in his decision, Waddoups cited in partial defense of his decision a Texas case where the anti-sodomy laws were overturned.
Members of the gay community that I know have not been particularly comfortable with the linkage between their circumstance and that of the fundamentalist polygamists, and rightly so, because they are two completely different issues.
They abhor the pedophiles who hide behind religion, they are disgusted by the fraud committed by those who practice “Bleeding The Beast,” and they take great issue with those who would repress or deny equal rights, as in the way women are regarded in polygamous societies.
We, as a society, have more to lose with the legalization of polygamy than with the legalization of same-sex marriage, not because of morality, or the odd nature of plural marriage, but because of the context of the polygamous culture.
But, I seriously doubt that is the prevailing attitude in Utah, where there’s a lot of talk about civil liberties with not much action.
Same-sex marriage is clearly a case of civil liberties restrained. Polygamy, within the context of the sexual abuse, fraud, and rejection of women’s rights that takes place, is not, even under the umbrella of the First Amendment and religious freedom clause, a fact lost on many, but a reasonable limitation nonetheless.
The ruling does, according to some from within the polygamous world, have an impact on the fundamentalist leaders.
Jailed pedophile Warren Jeffs, who leads the FLDS, and leaders of the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB, out of northern Utah, have, for years, built upon what they call the persecution of their people for their belief in plural marriage.
Now that the law has been overturned, what other tools will they use to propagandize their congregations?
No bad days!
- On the EDge: Waddoups’s polygamy decision not surprising
- On the EDge: Talk is cheap, polygamy isn’t
- On the EDge: Courting polygamy solutions?
- Urquhart to reintroduce LGBT antidiscrimination bill
- ON Kilter: Censorship, a family value
- Group rallies at courthouse in support of same-sex marriage; STGnews Videocast
- High court defers marriage question to states
- On the EDge: Polygamy, it’s ‘still’ against the law
- ON Kilter: The gay marriage debate is over
- On the EDge: When the badge works against you
- On the EDge: The eyes of Texas saw the opportunity to protect its little girls, while Utah’s remain tightly shut
- On the EDge: Utah stance on marriage is hard to swallow
- ‘Plygs,’ a fact-based novel by southern Utah journalist
- Federal lawsuit goes after Hildale, Colorado City for discrimination
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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