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Polygamists: The Follow-Up Story

The problem with follow-up stories is that nobody reads them. There’s a big splashy headline on Day 1 and by Day 2 it’s old news, and at Day 50 or Day 722, nobody can even remember what the story was about. And that’s a shame. Take the Texas polygamist cult story, for example. I have no sympathy for freaky polygamists and old men who “marry” 15-year-old girls, but this story should give us pause about the powers we have invested in agencies that have extraordinary powers to protect “the children.: From the Houston Chronicle:

SAN ANGELO — Ten “girls” taken into custody by Texas Child Protective Services have convinced the agency they are really adults and more are expected to be similarly reclassified this week, weakening the agency’s claim that dozens of underage girls were forced by a polygamist sect to have sex with older men.
On Tuesday, six more “girls” were deemed adults, including 27-year-old Leona Allred, whose lawyer insisted CPS knew from the beginning that her client was an adult.
“My client showed them the same documents they showed them from the beginning: a valid Arizona driver’s license and a birth certificate,” said Andrea Sloan.
Two others, Merilyn Jeffs Keate and Sarah Cathleen Jessop Nielsen, were reclassified as adults Monday as five judges began sifting through the cases of all the children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in West Texas.
CPS raided the ranch April 3 after the agency received a tip a 16-year-old had been physically and sexually abused by her “spiritual husband.” The caller has never been found and the tip has all but been ruled a hoax.
On April 28, CPS officials said the agency believed that 31 of the 53 girls were between ages 14 and 17 and were pregnant, had children or both. But that 31 figure has been tied precariously to the fact that 26 “disputed minors” were among them.

Imagine an American citizen being arrested in the U.S. and treated as a foreign terrorism suspect in spite of producing a valid American birth certificate and other ID. This woman is pushing 30, nursing an infant, and has been taken out of her home and put into a children’s shelter.
This story should be on every front page, but it won’t be.
So if she’s 27 years old, where’s the crime? (And if government experts can’t tell a minor from a 27-year-old mother, isn’t that going to be the defense of every statutory-rape defendant in America?) Polygamy (and “polyamory”) advocates already are arguing that they should be covered by the same legal protections homosexuals were given in Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans. If Lawrence and Romer are to be the law of the land, it’s hard to make a good legal case against polygamy as such. Consider this legal insight on Romer, which held that the law cannot “single out” homosexuals: “Polygamists, and those who have a polygamous ‘orientation,’ have been ‘singled out’ by these provisions for much more severe treatment than merely denial of favored status… The Court’s Disposition today suggests that these provisions are unconstitutional; and that polygamy must be permitted in these States… — unless, of course, polygamists for some reason have fewer constitutional rights than homosexuals.” Is that Lawrence Tribe? Lynne Stewart? No, that’s Antonin Scalia.
Rick Santorum saw this coming, and lost his Senate seat for saying so.

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