• Wed, Jul 13 2011

The Stars Of TLC’s Sister Wives Will Challenge Utah’s Bigamy Law

Get ready to feel sympathetic towards people who creep you out! The stars of TLC’s reality show Sister Wives plan to file a lawsuit challenging Utah’s anti-bigamy law , which seems, at its base, to be an anachronistic intrusion into people’s private lives. Although it’s not the only state with such a law, Utah’s is particularly strict, including “cohabitation” on its list of no nos. If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching Big Love, it’s that this law was made by the state’s LDS-controlled government in an effort to distance the “nice, normal Mormons” from the crazy fundamentalists who live on compounds. Methinks the Mormon church doth protest too much.

Via Yahoo News/The AP:

Originally from Lehi, the Browns, who have 16 children, has been featured on the TLC reality show since last fall. They moved out of Utah to Nevada in January after police and Utah County prosecutors launched a bigamy investigation. No charges were ever filed.

The Browns practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.

Bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah. A person can be found guilty of bigamy through cohabitation, not just legal marriage contracts.

In a statement posted on his blog, Turley said the lawsuit will challenge Utah’s right to prosecute people for their private relationships.

“We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs. [...] In that sense, it is a challenge designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values – even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state,” Turley wrote.

In an age in which no sex thing you could possibly do will shock anyone at all, it’s sort of wild to think that Mormon fundamentalists, who have been doing this shit since the 1820s, still have to worry about the state going after them for living their lives the way they’ve convinced themselves God wants them to. I’m not a huge fan of the Mormon philosophy, which tends to be pretty sexist, and I think the state should absolutely still prosecute fringe groups when they engage in truly harmful practices (like child brides, ugh), but it’s every adult person’s right to consent to whatever kind of weird living arrangement they want to. It also infringes on freedom of religion, which the U.S. constitution seems to think is a pretty huge deal.

Anyway, I never thought I’d say this, but go Mormons. Fight for your right to cohabitate. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end with pimp daddy Kody Brown lying in a pool of his own blood, having a vision about feminism.

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  • Eileen

    There are laws against cohabitation with more than one person? Bwah? As long as you’re not asking for legal benefits, how is it ANY of the government’s business?

    (I’ve always been predisposed to like Mormons since the most beautiful, intelligent, talented, kindhearted girl I knew in high school was one, but I think this would be my opinion anyway)

    • Jamie Peck

      I know! Why are Mormons so goddamn nice?

    • Spydyee

      In Utah and Idaho they were forced to be part of the constitution of the states in order to gain statehood because the “Christian” folks in the rest of the USA decided that Mormons were not Christians and that Polygamy was a barbaric practice. Well that was their rhetoric. the reality is that they disliked that fact that Mormon Women Voted and the Mormon Solidarity that was expressed in forms such as Block Voting and Economic Solidarity. Women were portrayed as being ignorant and uneducated because they agreed to polygamy and they voted with the block of Mormons. I love how people assume that a woman cannot think for herself if she doesn’t think like them. It somehow never occurred that a woman might like the fact that her kids had numerous “aunts” homes to go visit when they were getting on her nerves. the “sister wives” helped one another with the children since the father was their husband too. These women could become involved in community activities because they could rotate taking care of the kids. The sister wives that had no children could either be very active including running for public office or they could watch kids so one of the mothers could be active in community affairs. Utah statehood was held hostage until the anti polygamy and anti cohabitation laws were included in the constitution. Then Congress proceeded to disenfranchise all the women voters who would have voted down the constitution before the measure was put to a vote in the new state of Utah. I am so sick of hearing people attack the LDS Church for sexist and repressive thinking when Mormon Women had to give up their right to vote and they had to sacrifice their relationships with their husbands to allow Utah and Idaho to become states. That sounds a great deal more like the rest of the USA has the repressive thinking and sexist attitudes. I am glad you had a good experience with a Mormon girl but please remember that Mormons are all different kinds of people, some are good and some are bad. The bad ones do not define the church and in reality neither do the good ones. What defines the church are the actions of the leadership. If the laws are repealed the leadership will have to take an actual theological stance not one where they are hiding behind the 12th article of faith and the fact that man made laws required them to leave the practice behind because it came into direct conflict with the 12th article of faith.

  • MM

    I would educate yourself a little more about Mormon polygamists before you jump to defend their rights. It’s hard to make the consenting adult argument when these women are brought up in an isolated community and groomed for polygamy and married off to older men in arranged marriages. It also hurts men, since young boys often get expelled from their communities to uphold the gender ratio. Communities are rife with child abuse of boys and girls. And I can’t speak for the Utah community but sermons from polygamists in BC teach blatant racism.

    I don’t think bi/polygamy is wrong in theory, but the way it is practiced in fundamentalist Mormon communities is deeply fucked up and I don’t think any self-respecting liberal should encourage them to fight for their rights.

    • MM

      P.S. I apologize for how outright bitchy that came across. I was all about the individual rights too until I learned more about what goes down in their communities. I suggest reading ‘The Secret Lives of Saints’ for information about FLDS communities in BC and in Utah.

    • Jamie Peck

      I repeat: “I think the state should absolutely still prosecute fringe groups when they engage in truly harmful practices (like child brides, ugh)”

      I do not condone abuse and like I said, I think a lot of these marriages are not very empowering for the women in them. But like it or not, if the women are adults at the time of marriage, they have the right to consent to it. The way to help them is not to go after them with law enforcement, as this will only cause them to circle the wagons. The way to help them is to create programs and resources so that the women who do want to leave feel like they won’t be completely helpless if they do. Persecution only breeds further isolation.

  • Penelope

    Just to clarify – ‘Mormon fundamentalists’ and ‘Mormon polygamists’ are misnomers. Ever since polygamy was abolished in the 1860′s it’s been against the law in the state of Utah, and against the teachings of the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) church. Mormons do not practice polygamy. Any Mormon practicing polygamy is excommunicated.

    These splinter groups have taken on the ‘LDS’ or ‘Mormon fundamentalist’ name, but they have no affiliation with the LDS (Mormon) church.

    • Jamie Peck

      Polygamy was a central tenet of the Mormon religion until the 1860′s, when the church abruptly changed its tune due to outside pressure (oh, and a “vision”). I don’t think it’s too far off base for the polygamists to consider themselves the true fundamentalists and the mainstream Mormon church to be the group that splintered off. Remember, people made all this shit up in the first place so there’s no real way to prove who’s a “real” Mormon. It’s all subjective as fuck.

    • Penelope

      I’m simply stating the difference between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and polygamous ‘Mormon Fundamentalists’, the latter of whom are behind this lawsuit.

      Your article implied that they are the same. I wanted to clarify that the LDS Church is in no way affiliated with these splinter groups, and therefore, your comment about ‘Mormon philosophy’ was directed at the wrong group.

  • Spydyee

    The reality is that Utah was required by the federal government to include anti-cohabitation and anti-polygamy laws in their constitution in order to become a state. Do your history research a little better. The federal government had already enacted the Edmunds-Tucker Act in order to take away from the church all of its property if the practice was not discontinued. Only modern generations of Mormons dislike the practice and the reason is because there is a conflict in their doctrines if the practice is outlawed. The articles of faith of the church includes one that requires them to be subject to kings, rulers, presidents and to honor, obey and sustain the law. As long a polygamy is outlawed in this country anywhere the church MUST take a stand against it because of the article of faith. If the laws change they will then have to address this on a theological level but for right now and for as long as there are laws against it anywhere in the US the LDS church is bound by its own articles of faith to prohibit the practice among its membership.

  • Spydyee

    Another inaccuracy is the concept that Mormonism in general is sexist. Brigham Young, as territorial governor of the land now know as Utah, provided to ALL adult citizens the right to vote. When Utah became a state the federal government disenfranchised hundreds, perhaps even thousands of women as well as all persons of color. So do not dare to call the Mormons sexist. the fact that there are some real jerks of men in the church does not make every man in the church or the church as a whole sexist. If anything take a good long look at the federal government and the number of women who currently serve or have served in elected offices and then go study the history of Utah. Utah has had more women hold elected offices in their local, territorial, and state government than the federal government has ever had and those women did that during times when women outside of Utah could not even vote because of the sexist ideals of the men of the so called “Christian Nation” called the United States of America. The fact that Mormon Women take pride in their motherhood does not make them oppressed, ignorant, or uneducated. They are not enslaved. They are empowered because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The lack of understanding regarding the powerful influence mothers can have over their children, both male and female, creates this confused concept that women who choose motherhood over career are powerless, subservient, dunderheads that cannot function without a man. The reality is anything but that. The number of college educated homemakers in Utah is actually pretty amazing. Some of these women have served missions for the church that required them to spend 18 months to 2 years away from their home and family just like the guys. These women bring into their homes a knowledge of the world and an understanding of both the good and the evil that can ensnare their children and teach their children what they have learned. They teach core values to theses kids that often create generations of strong, morally upright, leaders in business, church, community, public service and most importantly in their homes.