The Corner

Utah’s Polygamy Law Wasn’t ‘Weakened’

I read the federal case out of Utah that supposedly “weakens” the state law against polygamy per (wishful thinking) in the New York Times. I don’t think it does. 

Here is the wording of the statute, with the part stricken:

A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.

The parties in question never sought legal recognition of their polyamorous relationship from the state. They did not have marriage licenses, for example, with the exception of the husband and his first (and still only legal) wife. The parties did not seek to take advantage of laws that apply only to married couples.

The issue is whether the state could criminally punish married people simply for cohabiting. The court said no, as a matter of constitutional law. The section of the statute criminalizing multiple marriages remains intact.

I think that is right. Unrelated consenting adults should be able to engage in “domesticity” in whatever combinations they please without fear of criminal penalty. The community might not like it. Most might, as I do, think it is highly immoral. Shunning would be appropriate for those of a censorious mind. But jail? No.

I strongly believe the state should never give official recognition to these relationships. Whether that center can hold remains to be seen. But this case isn’t about that.

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