Headlines indicate that Utah’s law against polygamy has been overturned and that arguments were used from the same-sex “marriage” advocates.
I think the news is actually worse than that. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune:
A U.S. District Court judge has 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.
Notice that “effectively decriminalizing” is not exactly the same thing as “legalizing.” What the judge seems to have done is divorce the law from any sense of how people live in society. According to the judge’s ruling, no one is a bigamist or polygamist unless they attempt to get two or more marriage licenses at the same time.
In all other respects, the judge has ruled that the state may not legislate whether or not people cohabit, have children, and present themselves as married.
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.
So where does that leave us. Obviously it leaves the way clear for “sister wives” to go to court to demand equal rights of inheritance, taxation, etc with monogamous households. At that point, polygamy can be fully legalized in the name of “marriage equality.”
But there is another route left open—which I suspect is more likely.
Sister wives (and brother husbands, etc) can demand equality and get it without necessarily getting a marriage license. So polygamous (and polyandrous) households can get equality as a “household” or perhaps a “domestic corporation.” Maybe the term “civil union” will experience a revival.
Eventually, if this path is pursued, then getting married will be more or less like getting a vanity license plate. It will be a quaint hold-over service that the government offers monogamous couples. In the mean time, people who live together in some sort of “union” will be considered a “household” for as long as they last. Property and child guardianship will all hinge on this new relationship as the one of real importance to the government. It will empower lawyers and social workers and will marginalize real families.
The judge has ruled that the marriage license is nothing more than a piece of paper.