Brown Family Challenges Utah’s Polygamy Law

Today, we filed the complaint below in the challenge to Utah’s criminal polygamy law. I am still in Salt Lake City for the filing. With me today is our local counsel Adam Alba, an outstanding young attorney and one of my former students. As noted earlier, the lawsuit is on behalf of my clients, the Brown family. The Browns are featured in the TLC program Sister Wives as an openly polygamous family.

The Plaintiffs are Kody Brown, Christine Brown, Janelle Brown, Meri Brown, and Robyn Sullivan.

The Defendants are Governor Gary Herbert, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and County Attorney Jeffrey R. Buhman.

There are seven claims for relief:

Claim One: Due Process

Claim Two: Equal Protection

Claim Three: Free Exercise

Claim Four: Free Speech

Claim Five: Freedom of Association

Claim Six: Establishment of Religion

Claim Seven: 42 U.S.C. § 1983

As in past cases, I will have to be circumspect in what I say after the filing of this action. However, we are honored to represent the Brown family in this historic challenge,” said Professor Turley. “We believe that this case represents the strongest factual and legal basis for a challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in the federal courts. 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. This action seeks to protect one of the defining principles of this country, what Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the right to be left alone.’ 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.

The following is the statement from Kody Brown, which will be the only statement at this time on the filing:

Statement of Kody Brown:

“There are tens of thousands of plural families in Utah and other states. We are one of those families. We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. While we understand that this may be a long struggle in court, it has already been a long struggle for my family and other plural families to end the stereotypes and unfair treatment given consensual polygamy. We are indebted to Professor Turley and his team for their work and dedication. Together we hope to secure equal treatment with other families in the United States.”

Here is the complaint filed today: Brown Complaint

Jonathan Turley

190 thoughts on “Brown Family Challenges Utah’s Polygamy Law

  1. Good brief, concise and logical. Pretty obviously Utah is engaging in selective prosecution after affirming to the Brown’s that they would not prosecute them. While that is not the central thrust of the case it is indicative of what a hot-potato this matter is. That means it’s ripe to be addressed and the Browns are lucky to have such a fierce advocate as the Professor to do so on their side. May I assume that the outline of the case to be presented before the SCOTUS is already written? :-)

  2. This is such a wonderful case to make, on so many different levels. I note that the LDS donated a lot of money to defeat gay marriage in California. It is time that citizens of Utah have the right to have a government of law under our Constitution, rather than a thinly disguised theocracy, changing the beliefs of their own original prophet for political gains.

    I am not a Mormon and frankly doubt the religion’s authenticity, but I am also not a prophet and don’t arrogate to myself the right to judge others beliefs. However, I will defend the right of individual, non-conforming Mormon’s to adhere to what they believe are the true Mormon teachings of their Prophet. It must also not be forgotten that plural relationships are not merely the choice of certain Mormons, but is also the choice of others holding different beliefs. As long as no one suffers, the State has no business delving into, or ordaining the nature of human relationships.

  3. So of course the difference between gay marriage and polygamous marriage is that in case 1, more people get what they want, while in case 2, fewer people get what they want. Specifically societies that widely adopt polygamous marriage end up with an underclass of men who can never marry.

    How serious is that problem? Would law have any business enacting pro-monogamy laws to prevent it? Why should women not have the option of being a second or third wife to a “successful” or otherwise “desirable” man, instead of the wife of a “lower status” man?

    Those are all reasonable questions. But the fact remains that polygamous marriage as an institution is in-egalitarian. It produces male winners and male losers. This is the opposite of gay marriage which produces more male and female winners in a society.

    Some people think that it favors unequal patriarchal relationships within the polygamous family too, but I do know that some women defend such relationships – are they doing that because their polygamous marriages are freely chosen, or are they in some way deprived of their free will by the patriarchal ideas that sustain polygamous marriages? I honestly don’t know, but it seems possible. What I am sure of is that simple math assures that the advantage of some men, inevitably and mathematically is the disadvantage of others, in polygamy.

    That is the reason that the 19th century’s two great questions of human equality were slavery and polygamy. They both addressed the question of whether we would live in a society in which men were equal…. or not.

    Polygamy isn’t as bad as slavery, if all of the partners are consenting. But the forgotten and forever unable to marry men who it freezes out of family, are the forgotten victims, and good reason to consign it, along with slavery, to the dustbin of history.

  4. “As long as no one suffers, the State has no business delving into, or ordaining the nature of human relationships.”

    Mike S. wins the kewpie doll. That statement is quite true regarding all the law as well. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, and promoting the general welfare all require that government only intervene to prevent harm and promote the common good. If the common good or the individual is not harmed, a relationship is not the business of government. When it comes to weighing the harm to an individual versus the common good, it is utilitarian and axiomatic that the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few or the one.

  5. As a colleague of mine once said about a case I was about to try, ” I am more impressed with counsel than his client’s case.” Good luck!

  6. Miles,

    Your comment begs the question that all males (or for that matter females) are equally attractive mates when they are manifestly not. If they were, serial monogamy would not the norm in our society (which is what marriage/divorce statistics tend to indicate). If polygamy has no criminalizing restrictions, what is to stop a woman from having multiple husbands (other than perhaps male ego)?

  7. “Polygamy isn’t as bad as slavery, if all of the partners are consenting. But the forgotten and forever unable to marry men who it freezes out of family, are the forgotten victims, and good reason to consign it, along with slavery, to the dustbin of history.”

    Miles,

    As I alluded to on the other thread, I have never had money, fame or power, yet I’ve been lucky to have had many good relationships with desirable females and a great current one with the love of my life. Your assumption that the powerful will get most of the women is only workable if coercion or an impoverished society exists. In a society where there is choice, women are intelligent enough to choose the relationship that gives them what they need.

    The other thing i think you overlook is as women attain equality of power, who’s to say they wouldn’t want to have multiple husbands? The right to choose one’s relationship goes both ways and the assumption that the so-called Alpha Males will get the females in a free and open society doesn’t hold. By the way in the 19th Century that was a discussion had by mostly males, since women didn’t have any real autonomy

  8. Mike S.,

    “However, I will defend the right of individual, non-conforming Mormon’s to adhere to what they believe are the true Mormon teachings of their Prophet.”

    I’d say we must be cautious about defending certain rights of individuals regarding the adherence to the teachings/practices of their churches. Some FDLS groups force young women into marriages with much older men. In some cases, the women are practically held captive.

    *****
    And this:

    Polygamy’s ‘Lost Boys’ expelled from only life they knew
    Sect’s outcasts are casualties of marriage practice
    By David Kelly, Los Angeles Times | June 19, 2005
    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/06/19/polygamys_lost_boys_expelled_from_only_life_they_knew/

    Excerpt:
    ST. GEORGE, Utah — Abandoned by his family, faith, and community, Gideon Barlow arrived here an orphan from another world.

    The freckle-faced 17-year-old said he was left to fend for himself last year after being forced out of Colorado City, Ariz., just over the state line.

    ”I couldn’t see how my mom would let them do what they did to me,” he said.

    When he tried to visit her on Mother’s Day, he said, she told him to stay away. When he begged to give her a present, she said she wanted nothing. ”I am dead to her now,” he said.

    Gideon is one of the ”Lost Boys,” a group of more than 400 teenagers — some as young as 13 — who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years.

    His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to compact discs, and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television, and staying out past curfew.

    Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours’ notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.

    Authorities say the teenagers aren’t really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.

    ”It’s a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?” said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. ”People have said to me: ‘Why don’t you prosecute the parents?’ But the kids don’t want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the number one bad guy — Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys.”

    The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known,
    controls Hildale and Colorado City.

    The sect, which broke from the Mormon Church more than a century ago, has between 10,000 and 15,000 members.

    It believes in ”plural marriage,” that a man must have at least three wives to reach the highest levels of heaven. The Mormon Church forbids polygamy and excommunicates those who practice it.

    *****

    Warren Jeffs may be in jail now–but…

    Jailed sect leader retakes legal control of church
    By Dennis Wagner, USA TODAY
    Updated 2/24/2011
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-24-jeffs-church_N.htm

    Excerpt:
    PHOENIX — Warren Jeffs, the jailed “prophet” of a polygamist sect based in two towns on the Arizona-Utah line, has launched a purge of key followers and reassumed legal command over his church’s corporation.

    But former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints don’t seem to agree on what it means for the embattled organization or for its 55-year-old spiritual leader, in jail since his arrest in 2006. He resigned the presidency a year later.

    “It looks like Warren is taking power back,” said Carolyn Jessop, a former congregant who now lives in Salt Lake City and is still in contact with sect members. “It changes everything. He had indirect access before. Now, instead of people managing everything in the name of Warren, he’s managing in his own name.”

    Flora Jessop, a former church member in Phoenix who is not related to Carolyn and who also keeps in touch with members, offered a contrary view: “Warren never let go of control of the church, so I don’t know why this is a big deal. He’s always been calling the shots. Warren has always been the prophet, and there can be only one prophet on Earth at a time.”

    In a Feb. 10 declaration filed with the Utah Division of Corporations, Jeffs identified himself as the president and “sole” of the corporate arm of the FLDS sect, which is not affiliated with mainstream Mormonism.

  9. Monogamy is a pact of equality among men. The more freely men can acquire multiple wives (simultaneously or serially), the more a society will tend toward an unequal distribution of women. Abandon monogamy and powerful men will acquire women. Indeed, the very idea that women are “objects” to acquire like wealth, is encouraged by a polygamous social structure. In this sense, polygamy is also bad for women, because it makes them pawns in an acquisition game.

    The odd Tibetan and similar examples aside, there simply are very few examples of women acquiring multiple husbands, so we can dismiss that as a practical matter.

    But does monogamy have any place in the American constitution or legal framework, or must marriage be consigned to a more “market based” analysis (acquire whatever you can), or simply addressed under the categories of:
    Claim One: Due Process
    Claim Two: Equal Protection
    Claim Three: Free Exercise
    Claim Four: Free Speech
    Claim Five: Freedom of Association
    Claim Six: Establishment of Religion ?

    Well I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’d argue that you have to go back to the core principles of the declaration… the equality of man… and in this case perhaps even the original gendered meaning…. “all men are created equal”… and use that core principle to defend monogamy.

    Of course we had to enact whole amendments to the constitution to establish that principle for African Americans. We’d probably have to do something similar to establish the same general principle in the area of the equal rights of all men to form a family. (I understand how radical this is… I’m pursuing this as a thought experiment.)

    The point is that monogamy is about the equal rights of most men to take a bride and to have children. The fact that polygamy meets the needs of women to take a husband and have children, and might even meet their needs for freedom of choice in so doing, doesn’t eliminate the reality of the shut-out men.

    Do we feel a sense of solidarity with them? Does restricting the number of partners a man may have, or the number of wives a woman may partner with in a marriage, produce a harm that is so great that it outweighs the harm experienced by men who are shut out from ever reproducing?

    And really, do we want to live in a society that is so unequal and cruel?

    Polygamy seems innocuous because it is still rare. But our whole society is moving in a direction of wealth and status inequality. Do we want to enable that growing inequality among rich guys (they are mostly guys) to include the number of spouses they can simultaneously control?

    At a primitive level, monogamy is a bunch of guys sitting around saying “we’re in this together… everyone gets the same plot of land, the same basic rights, and for God’s sake, just one wife per man.” That’s a purely mythological expression of a deep idea. The growth of monogamy parallels the growth of human equality in history… its decline presages the rise of inequality.

    Which side of history do we want to be on, Mr. Turley?

  10. Bob,

    “Other than William Holden in “Stalag 17,” who says ‘give that man a kewpie doll?’”

    Apparently at least one other person does. :)

  11. Yes, thanks Elaine.

    …and even though I called monogamy a mythological “pact among men”, really every mother of sons surely has an interest in each of her sons’ future happiness as a groom with a bride. Women should be part of that pact too.

    If her only interest is grandchildren, then one married son with two wives and one who can’t fine a wife, is just as good as two with one wife each… but surely women have an interest in the equal happiness of all their sons, and not just the number of grandchildren they end up with.

    Monogamy is about equality. Polygamy provides choices, but human history suggests that the choices people make tend to lead us away from basic equality. Can democracy survive polygamy?

    The male victims of polygamy are invisible, driven away, and not in the courtroom where the happy family appeals for its right to be a family like any other.

  12. Miles,
    >”societies that widely adopt polygamous marriage end up with an underclass of men who can never marry.”

    Source? And please disregard data from countries where the family (i.e. the father) chooses the spouse rather than the child and/or where a dowry is paid when the daughter is sold.

    >”But the fact remains that polygamous marriage as an institution is in-egalitarian. It produces male winners and male losers. This is the opposite of gay marriage which produces more male and female winners in a society.”

    Not only is this a false dichotomy but “winning” in this case is a value judgment and presupposes that anyone other than Charlie Sheen wants to “win” constantly.

    >”What I am sure of is that simple math assures that the advantage of some men, inevitably and mathematically is the disadvantage of others, in polygamy.”

    You mean just like every other human endeavor? I almost get the feeling that you’re trying to apply economic modeling to this issue.

    >“But the forgotten and forever unable to marry men who it freezes out of family, are the forgotten victims, and good reason to consign it, along with slavery, to the dustbin of history.”

    You know that is one of the older, discredited arguments against homosexuality? That every homosexual man living the “bachelor lifestyle” somehow condemns a woman to poverty and spinsterhood?

    Women are not products, this is not an issue of ‘supply and demand”. You are in every case expressing the relationship as a function of Man controlling Woman. That relationship will be unhealthy and unwholesome regardless of the number of people involved.

  13. Miles,

    “Monogamy is a pact of equality among men.”

    Really? The ladies have no say or equality in the matter then? I suppose that might be true if one wants to take the strictly sexist view of the Declaration but last time I checked a relationship, long term or otherwise, requires the equal consent of the female in this country. We don’t sell women into this country like they do in Saudi Arabia and parts of India. Women do have a say in the matter. Also, just because something is rare doesn’t mean it is not going to happen. Polygamy is defined as marriage between more than two partners. Just because polyandry was historically a Tibetan practice does not mean that once legal barriers to polygamy are removed that it won’t be practiced here any more than just because polygyny is historically an African and Asian practice that it won’t be practiced here either.

    The matter here is indeed equality. It is equality of choice for both males and females to enter into polygamous relationships which, by the way, includes the right to exit from polygamous relationships and enter into monogamous relationships should they so desire. No one is suggesting forced polygyny or any other form of polygamy, but rather giving an equal choice to enter into those relationships by consenting adults of either gender.

    So what’s it going to be? Are you going to allow others to have freedom of choice (including the freedom to practice their religious beliefs) or are you going to limit their choices because you think (in a rather sexist manner I might add) that “[m]onogamy is a pact of equality among men”? Because if you opt on your current course of logic, you are denying equality to men (as well as women) who disagree with you about monogamy being a pact of equality between men. If you don’t like polygamy, don’t practice it. That’s what I plan to do. However, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I think others should be denied the choices on how to manage their relationships (absent the obvious criminal behaviors of pedophilia and slavery).

  14. I suggest you review the well documented facts in Elaine’s post above.

    In the lottery of life, maximizing the number of winners is a good and just thing. Polygamy assures, if widely practiced, that many men will never marry and never reproduce. This is a self evidently cruelty. Elaine’s report gives you a taste of just how cruel the mechanism of driving young men away really is, but the deeper cruelty is to freeze those men out of marriage and reproduction.

    Economic modeling? No, basic principles of political equality.

    Fortunately for the homosexuality argument there are lots of gay women too. The numbers don’t have to add up perfectly, but they have to point in the right direction.

    Monogamy assures that women are not products or objects, and that teenage boys are not driven off as useless threats to social order.

    Finally, as noted above, in the end both men and women who care about equality have an interest in monogamy. All the men who are threatened with never marrying or reproducing are the first injured party, but every father or mother who loves those men shares that interest.

    Beyond that, we all have an interest in a society that does not have a free floating class of bachelors who are frozen out of marriage, if not out our sympathy for their plight, then out of simple self interest for the order and safety of our society.

  15. I should take the example of a misogynistic religious zealot and self-described “prophet” as the normal polyamorous experience? Then I should also look at the millions of women who will be beaten by their husbands as an indictment of heteronormative monogamy. This case is awful and scary and that is why it is in the news. The thousands of healthy polyamorous families who are quietly and happily living out their lives are not the beaten and frightened women that the media keeps showing.

    That situation is the result of the destructive and oppressive theology practiced by those specific individuals.

  16. MASkeptic,

    You are welcome. I’m glad to have been helpful, but I think eloquence might have been better served if I had not left the word “marriage” out of “We don’t sell women into marriage this country like they do in Saudi Arabia and parts of India.” :) Hell hath no fury like a post comment button pushed in haste.

  17. MASkeptic,

    My point in leaving my previous comment about some FDLS groups and Warren Jeffs was–as I stated earlier–to suggest we should be cautious about defending certain rights of individuals regarding the adherence to the teachings/practices of their churches.

  18. ““We don’t sell women into marriage in this country like they do in Saudi Arabia and parts of India.”

    Once again proving that “haste/Hell” statement. ;) I should stop trying to type as fast as I think. :roll:

  19. Elaine,

    I completely agree that religious conviction is not an exemption from the law or rational morality. However Miles seemed to be implying that because Hitler ate sandwiches, hoagies are evil.

  20. Elaine,

    You bring up a good point. Free exercise does have rational limits but those limits should always be considered in light of a competing compelling state interest. For example, not permitting human sacrifices reflects a compelling state interest. I fail to see any compelling state interests in criminalizing polygamy as long as the same safeguards that apply to other forms of marriage apply (parties must be of age of majority, valid consent, etc.) are applied.

  21. For the record, I think Mespo earned the kewpie doll on this issue. I think those opinions were expressed on the other thread. Regardless, my distaste for this topic brings me back to what I said earlier about marriage itself; i.e. that it is not a fundamental right but a civil right created by society. And to be brutally honest, were I to invest any meaningful amount of time into this matter, I would probably wind up working out arguments against polygamy.

  22. kderosa,

    It really doesn’t matter. I don’t see a rational basis for criminalizing polygamy either. But thanks for pointing me toward Boerne v Flores. The last time I had any occasion to look at law concerning Free Exercise was several years ago when the RFRA was still in play (which did have the compelling interest standard). There’s a lot wrong with that Flores decision, more than just what readily meets the eye, but then again, the Rehnquist court was only marginally better than the Roberts court.

  23. The drawback of any closed society is that children are subject to training that predisposes them to certain beliefs that are not necessarily in their best interest, such as women being submissive to men, marrying early etc. This is a wider problem than just the Mormon faith. It is widespread among fundamentalists and works to stifle a young woman from reaching what might be her full potential. I have a problem with that whole mindset but I don’t think it’s illegal.

    The problem with a polygamist system where few men may have many wives but some or a large number of males may not is that the community ceases to grow in any stable fashion. If that’s not the case now where polygamy, while not legal, is ignored by the state why should that change dramatically if the law is changed? Is there some pent up demand among the available pool of women for some few attractive men that would change the equation?

    If the concern is that women have a diminished ability to refuse a proposal of spiritual marriage then that changes the equation regarding the tenant of consent which should be a prerequisite in all marriages and associations. Either the law should be changed to remove all prohibitions to free association or the law needs to be enforced fairly and vigorously among all of Utah’s citizens.

    Thanks for the info Elaine. I’ve read about the ‘lost boys’ in the past and frankly do not understand how a community can legally get away with that. Children younger than the age of emancipation can’t just be thrown away and no citizen can be ‘run out of town’, literally driven to another city and shoved out of a car. I would think that this is a criminal matter that comes of the state not enforcing laws already on its books. Maybe the lost boys need to ask about the legality of what happened to them as a class in a civil court.

  24. Bob,

    Could you come up with a reason a policy argument that didn’t simply cater to male ego or to a particular flavor of Christianity? What’s your argument against it contractually? Constitutionally? I’d also like to hear them if you want to argue that people of age and able form valid consent don’t have a fundamental right to shack up irregardless of whether you approve of the form or not. I’d like to hear them if you want to make them. If not, that’s okay too.

  25. “Other than William Holden in “Stalag 17,”

    Bob,

    We may disagree on this topic, but that was one hell of a movie. Having seen it when I was young I don’t remember the exact dialogue, but as he was going down the trap door Holden said something to the effect of if I ever see one of you guys again don’t bother to say hello. A great ending and response to his ill treatment.

  26. Gene H.,

    Please note that the first comment that I made was in response to something that Mike S. had written.

    Mike S. wrote: “However, I will defend the right of individual, non-conforming Mormon’s to adhere to what they believe are the true Mormon teachings of their Prophet.”

    My response: I’d say we must be cautious about defending certain rights of individuals regarding the adherence to the teachings/practices of their churches. Some FDLS groups force young women into marriages with much older men. In some cases, the women are practically held captive.

  27. Elaine,

    And I have no issue with regulation of that kind of practice, just with criminalizing polygamy in general. You’re talking about a situation where valid consent is compromised.

  28. Well Gene,

    I’d probably fire a few emails back and forth with Mespo, who’s put a lot more thought in this matter than I, and in those emails I’d probably start out by saying this policy of treating women as collectibles has a Brown v. Board of Ed. feel to it. You know, marrying many women tends to treat those women less equally than in a monogamous relationship.

    What do you think Mespo?

  29. Elaine,

    Just so we are clear on terms, when I say valid consent I mean that consent is informed, is freely, mindfully, and actively given, uses mutually understandable words or actions, and indicates a willingness to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. In your example, informed and freely are compromised as are possibly mutually understandable language.

  30. Mike,

    Steve McQueen couldn’t hold a candle to William Holden in Stalag 17. Incredible wit, steel resolve, the essence of ‘cool’ and the perfect mindset to adopt when surrounded by mindless jingoism.

  31. Bob,

    How exactly does entering into a relationship voluntarily where one may have an unequal position comport to a violation of equality as long as consent was valid? What about the rich guy who marries an unskilled unemployed woman? They are not in equitable positions either, but there is no gender based class argument being made against that inequity? Marriages, like lots of relationships, often have dominant and subservient parties. As long as entry into that relationship is consensual and valid, I’m not sure where I see where you are going with Brown considering that was based on forced racial segregation where consent was vitiated as a matter of state policy.

  32. Gene,

    Separate is not necessarily equal. Consent does not necessitate lack of harm to the women or society.

    Brown was all about the psychological and sociological damage done by separate but equal.

    Thus the argument becomes that one cannot equate polygamy with monogamy because (for instance) it treats women as collectible chattels.

    [Insert all the other crap wrong with it as expressed by Mespo in the other thread here: ]

    Like I said, I can conceive of a template for an argument, but I’d need someone like Mespo to flesh it out.

  33. If you continue to debate polygamy in terms of the people allowed in, it can look like a joyous realization of religious freedom, personal choice, etc.

    Take a step back and look at it as a licensed institution that shapes society, and only then do you see its victims. That is, you would see them, if you looked.

    The male victims of polygamy are invisible, driven away, and not in the courtroom where Mr.Turley will be helping some happy family appeal for its right to be a family like any other.

    The victims of a polygamist social system are wounded, abused, dispirited and they have no fancy lawyers like Mr. Turley. Indeed, I don’t even know what legal standing they have. But I do know what moral standing they have.

    The number of polygamists is small today, and their thrown away young men can still go off to swim in the larger ocean of the US population where potential mates can still be found, so for now their fate will go unnoticed.

    But multiply the number of polygamist families, and you’ll see what will happen. It won’t be pretty, and Mr. Turley will have had a role in bringing it about.

  34. Bob,

    I’d have to see that fleshed out because I’m having a real hard time with chattels being able to grant valid consent. Don’t get me wrong. As a practical concern I think polygamy is generally one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas, but as a civil liberties matter, as long as all the participants are there voluntarily, of age and no one is harmed, I have to go with the choice that grants the individuals their choice over societal preference.

  35. “and no one is harmed”

    The Brown v. Board of Ed. angle would set out to show just who is harmed and why.

  36. “The range of human behavior is in the direction of being infinite and yet we mostly have so much in common in the way we feel. Other than in instances of exploitation, force or coercion, we should all be free to explore our heart’s desires, in all their possible complexities.”

    Elaine,

    At 4:10 pm today I posted the above quote on the other “Brown thread.” I chose the words “Other than in instances of exploitation, force or coercion”
    carefully and I’ll explain why. Prominent in many of the arguments against
    gay rights, gay marriage and gay adoption were charges that permitting these rights would encourage pedophilia. This would force many who are in favor of full equality for gay people to preclude this type of argument by asserting that of course pedophilia was wrong but……..etc. I’m well aware of the abuses of monsters like Jeffs and of the “lost boys” phenomena. I also stated on that thread that I’m not a fan of the LDS, or Mormonism in general and I’ve done some reading on the subject. All abuses of the type that come from people like Jeffs should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Instances of exploitation, force and/or coercion cover this reprehensible behavior.

    There is, however, no particular correlation between the Brown Family (for whom I’ve already stated my distaste) and the well known abuses of certain Mormon fundamentalists. From what I saw of the first years shows the children seem fine and the family seems to raise them well. The wives of the family entered into this form of relationship without coercion. This family is not one, apparently, that would act in the manner of Jeffs, or the compounds that produce “lost boys.” I imagine there are many polygamous family’s where the family atmosphere is benevolent and beneficial. I also imagine there are many examples of polyandry in our country where the participants are closeted.

    Would I encourage my single daughter to enter into a polygamous marriage, no I wouldn’t and would try to talk her out of it. I’ve raised my daughters to be independent women and so my opinion wouldn’t sway her. If she decided to, however, I would give her all the support she needed. Knowing her I doubt that route is on her horizon.

  37. Miles,

    I think perhaps you are exaggerating the general appeal of polygamy. I don’t know if you really think it’s that big a danger to society or if you’re simply engaging in scare tactics for whatever reason, but the simple facts concerning divorce rates in this country tend to belie any concern that polygamy is going to run rampant if allowed. Most people prefer simply monogamous relationships (regardless of gender) and have since the dawn of civilization. It is only a small percentage of people who would be interested in a polygamous arrangement in a free society where people cannot be bought and sold into marriage. It’s not like a Sheik building a harem. Most people aren’t going to want to enter into a polygamous relationship for the same reasons I’d never get into one: more parties take the complications inherent in a monogamous relationship if it should go wrong and multiply them. It’s a lot of potential hassle for a lifestyle – assuming that multiple sex partners is the driving criteria – that could be maintained by remaining single. If the goal is large communal family? Maybe some people see that hassle as a cost worth the benefit. However, to suggest that if polygamy were made legal that monogamy would be threatened and we’d suddenly have an excess of bachelor’s I think flies in the face of human nature.

  38. Gene H.,

    “as long as all the participants are there voluntarily, of age and no one is harmed,…”

    One would have to question whether the children of such marriages may be harmed. I don’t have the answer to that. Do you know if anyone has ever conducted a study/studies on the subject?

  39. Elaine,

    I will say though that empirical evidence that it’s bad for children would be something I’d consider a valid reason for keeping polygamy criminalized. By bad for children too I mean some measurable detrimental effect other than just a predisposition to adopt their parents attitudes about polygamy. Something concrete and not a common thing in any parent/child relationship like an increased rate of depression or other mental health issues or the like.

  40. Bob, Esq.:

    I do agree that this whole arrangement has the feel of paternalism with women regarded as collectible trophy chattel. I fail to understand the advantages for women in a relationship which protects successor wives not at all in terms of intestate succession and separate maintenance. I see very little to be gained except some measure of security and perhaps it true as the Eagles told us in “Lying Eyes, that ” every form of refuge has its price.”

    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/cmCjwibhSN4/

  41. If one wanted to see just how locked out of reproduction beta males are in a polygamous society one only needs to look so far as the number of descendants of Genghis Khan there are.

  42. “Take a step back and look at it as a licensed institution that shapes society, and only then do you see its victims. That is, you would see them, if you looked.”

    Miles,

    From my last post above to Elaine, I addressed that concern. However, I disagree with you on another premise and that is that society’s are to be shaped by laws or a legal system. Who among us is that wise to know the effects on a society of any activity allowed/disallowed for years down the line? Prohibition was instituted to positively shape society away from intoxication. That was the essence of the argument for the Amendment. How did that work out? The War on Drugs is another example of trying to shape society’s mores, the country is losing.

    In a country such as ours hopefully governed by a Constitution and with its citizens having the right of freedom, the idea of government shaping social norms is not a good one. Many people live lives that I personally don’t approve of, but as long as they break no laws and no laws are made unconstitutionally to ban their behavior, my attitude is live and let live. No good has ever come from legislating morality and no good ever will.

  43. Mike S.,

    “From what I saw of the first years shows the children seem fine and the family seems to raise them well.”

    It’s a TV “reality” show. Appearances can be deceiving. Do you suppose the family would want to come across as dysfunctional on national TV? What are/were the motives of this polygamous family? I have to question how this family came to have its own show. I also have to question why, if polygamy is illegal in Utah, the family would want to broadcast it to the world.

    I’m not accusing this family of anything–but I’m left to wonder about certain things. Call me a skeptic.

  44. False equivalence. Rape and slavery are not the same as a voluntary consensual relationship. Most guys don’t have the Horde to go out collecting women for them.

  45. I see a lot of mean assuming that women don’t favor polygamy because they don’t. Females tend to be hypergamous, men tend not to be. As you can see from the current dating market at colleges, young women bend over backwards for the most sought after men. Now it’s a winners take all game. Who’s to say that women might not prefer 1/5 an alpha male over the eventual beta male they will finally settle for down the round and then divorce.

  46. Mespo,

    I institutionally see a Brown v. Board of Ed. type argument working here. It’s not the lying eyes so much as what the eyes are lying about.

    The price for that form of refuge is the inherent devaluing of the woman and the denigrating of her sense of self as COMPLETE equal.

    Then throw on all your other observations…

    Polygamy is in no way equal to monogamy per the treatment of women.

  47. Hey, here’s another effort to shape society…. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

    And here’s another…. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

    And, wisely, in the 19th century another threat to human equality was also banned from our political community: polygamy. Utah’s admittance to the union required its renunciation.

    If that’s shaping society, then I don’t know what kind of person could possibly oppose it. These laws (amendments) and political decisions are all about legislating morality. No society can exist without doing so. We have some basic norms that establish the kind of society we are and want to be.

    Slavery got settled in the constitution, but unfortunately polygamy, which is also a fundamental question of human equality, was settled in more political and less concrete manner. Too bad. Now it can be re-litigated by Mr. Turley. It remains a contested ground.

  48. Bob, Esq:

    History says you’re right, but is this a value judgment for the legislature or a rights issue for the courts? There is certainly both a rational and historic basis for legislation.

  49. Gene,
    “It’s not like a Sheik building a harem. ”

    It’s pretty much exactly like that.

    “Most people aren’t going to want to enter into a polygamous relationship”

    Every man who marries an additional wife reduces the number of available women by that amount. I think there are lots of reasons that many men would choose multiple wives. Society is changing, and it can change.

    ” to suggest that if polygamy were made legal that monogamy would be threatened and we’d suddenly have an excess of bachelor’s I think flies in the face of human nature.”

    I have a very different view of human nature from you. Polygamous marriages are historically normative. Just read the bible, to take but one example. Polygamy is natural, and it is historically common.

    What is not natural is equality. Equality is something you have to build with laws and social norms. Monogamy is part of creating a community based on rough political equality.

    Moving in a polygamous direction as a society is as easy as falling off a log. There are always powerful, disproportionately attractive men who can offer things that multiple women want. That’s the way the world is and always has been. What happens when you let things go in that direction is a world that I don’t want to live in, and I think if you think about it that you wouldn’t want it either.

  50. Mespo,

    I think it can be both. But it would be less a rights issue and more of a power issue in the courts. That’s to say there’s nothing in the constitution empowering the government to treat women as less than equal as a result of a successful argument under any of the other protections afforded.

    Assume Turley wins every point on his brief in the abstract, yet the result necessitates treating women as less than equal, where does the court derive its power to grant Turley the relief prayed for?

  51. Bob, Esq.:

    It sure is an interesting equal protection argument. May the legislature pass a law sanctioning a relationship of subservience of one gender to another? Or put more concretely may the legislature permit a condition of inequality to exist with respect to legal rights enjoyed by other members of the same class? Intriguing!

  52. mespo,

    “May the legislature permit a condition of inequality to exist with respect to legal rights enjoyed by other members of the same class?”

    I think that goes to the heart of my contention. If the inequality is assumed through valid consent and is a transactional cost for entering into a non-traditional agreement, why should the court disallow that relationship absent some other policy interest? Just like a contract for professional fights. It’s against public policy to contract to fight as a general rule, but if the persons possess informed valid consent including their assumptions of risk, the state allows those contracts. I see the assumption of risk in a polygamous marriage to be analogous. It’s a non-standard arrangement that will carry certain risks like a proportionately lower claim in intestate successions, etc. As long as all parties know these risks and enter into the relationship with valid consent, I really don’t see the harm.

  53. There’s a lot of things I admire about Josef Smith.

    But I spit at his feet when it comes to polygamy.

    His people are still paying for his mistake… and his lies.

  54. Bob, Miles, mespo, Nate, et al.

    Wow. Just… wow.
    The baseline assumption that keeps getting made in your arguments (with several of Miles’ points excepted) is that poly relationships MUST somehow be based on male domination rather than mutual love and affection. As if an informed, independent, and healthy woman or man is incapable of loving more than one person in a relationship or making healthy decisions about the relationships in which they are involved.
    The needs of a healthy relationship don’t suddenly change because you have more than one partner and there is an incredible amount of work that goes into making sure that everyone is getting what they need emotionally. And no one suddenly loses the ability to walk away if their needs aren’t being met.
    So many of the vilifications I’ve read don’t take into account a woman with multiple husbands. Or a man with multiple wives, some of whom may have other husbands of their own. It’s just automatically assumed that anyone who’s involved must be some kind of ego tripping misogynist or a religious wacko or both.
    As I mentioned in the previous article this is not an academic issue for me.
    Bob, am I diminishing my loved ones or treating them like chattel? Am /I/ diminished somehow mespo for being in a polyamorous relationship? Are you prepared to assert that without knowing one single detail about our situation?

  55. MASkeptic:

    My views are based on a very limited exposure to the topic. From what I can determine from the Brown family and the limited reading I’ve done, it is overwhelmingly one husband multiple wives, and has some paternalistic overtones. i am always willing to hear new information.

  56. >”it is overwhelmingly one husband multiple wives, and has some paternalistic overtones.”

    Since the majority of documented modern practitioners are LDS fundamentalists that is to be expected. I posted in 2008 “Orthodox (insert religion here) is a threat to racial and sexual equality.”* and I stand by that statement. Any relationship that is derived from the elevation of one partner over another is unhealthy.

    But just as modern marriage has evolved away from being a property transaction between a father and a suitor, modern poly relationships are being recognized as a good choice for some people for a variety of reasons. It is certainly not for everyone, and as someone who was raised by two wonderful, loving parents in a monogamous relationship I’m not even going to say poly is for most people. But someone shouldn’t have to worry about getting arrested in Utah for honestly answering a question about their family life. THAT is what this lawsuit is about. I don’t feel a need for my relationship to be validated by the state. I certainly don’t feel the need for religious validation. I just don’t want people to assume that I’m some kind of misogynistic monster just because of a lifestyle choice or that I somehow cannot love a child that doesn’t share my genes.
    That and you know, it would be nice not to have to worry about going to jail.

    * http://jonathanturley.org/2008/09/16/england-officially-recognizes-sharia-rulings/

  57. from Elaine M.

    [quote]I’d say we must be cautious about defending certain rights of individuals regarding the adherence to the teachings/practices of their churches. Some FDLS groups force young women into marriages with much older men. In some cases, the women are practically held captive.[/quote]

    Child bigamy is unlawful under a separate Utah statute which is not being challenged by Professor Turley and the Brown family nor would they: All of the wives were over the age of 18 when they either legally or spiritually married into the family.

    Do not confuse the abuses of the compounds, shrouded in secrecy due to illegality, with the independent households like the Brown’s.

    The states which still prohibited “unnatural acts” between same-gender and opposite gendered couples made the argument that they had to ban the sexual acts between same gender couples in order to keep the STD level low and to keep “Cruising” to a minimum, which is ridiculous on it’s face. The Supreme Court still ruled against the bans on private conduct.

    Utah’s reasons for keeping the cohabiting polygamy ban is ridiculous on it’s face. Given the logic of these Utah prosecutors, any person who is openly gay and says so on television could be prosecuted under Utah’s sodomy law. That is ridiculous.

    I’m not certain that Kody Brown likes me particularly. I’m sort of outside of his faith and I’m pretty certain to be damned to many FLDS, but the government has no business telling people to closet themselves when they engage in consenting relationships with other adults. No business, none whatsoever.

  58. Gray Peterson,

    I wrote: “I’d say we must be cautious about defending certain rights of individuals regarding the adherence to the teachings/practices of their churches. Some FDLS groups force young women into marriages with much older men. In some cases, the women are practically held captive.”

    You wrote: “Do not confuse the abuses of the compounds, shrouded in secrecy due to illegality, with the independent households like the Brown’s.”

    I didn’t confuse the two. Please note the that I wrote about “certain rights” and “some FDLS groups.” I was just suggesting that we should be careful about defending some practices on religious grounds. BTW, I never wrote anything on this thread about criminalizing polygamy.

  59. Once again, the “anti” arguments keep getting based on treating “polygamy” as a synonym for “polygyny”. If *I* know living, breathing polyandrists, how many are there I DON’T know about? And I doubt they would be impressed by being told they could “be dismissed as a practical matter”.

    I do not see the relevance of invoking “descendants of Genghis Khan”, as I expect that by this time they would include most inhabitants of the northern hemisphere. Didn’t I read that most Europeans are descended from Charlemagne?

    Something else which comes to mind is Chesterton’s observation that “a man can have as many wives as he wants as long as he does not call them his wives– or rather, as long as he does not go through certain more or less mystical ceremonies to call them his wives.” Thus, Hefner goes uncriticized for his harem because he does not CALL them wives.

  60. Elaine, your original post raised several valid concern that many people share. I personally felt the need to address some of the issues but recognize that just raising a point doesn’t define your position. I’m sorry you have to keep explaining that.

  61. “These laws (amendments) and political decisions are all about legislating morality. No society can exist without doing so.”

    Miles,

    I think you are conflating premises here and your quote above shows what I mean. All society’s need basic rules of existence. That of course is shaping, but it is not necessarily “moral shaping.” That is where I make the distinction. Morality connotes both religion and public mores. In my opinion a society has no business shaping the religious/sexual morality of its people.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

    And here’s another…. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

    Take away creator from the first quote and what you have is simply a structural not moral issue. The founders were trying to develop a country,
    different from what had come before in human history, that would allow its’ citizens to make up their own minds as to the life they chose to live. This was grounded in the experience of many groups that had arrived on these shores from places where they were denied religious liberty (i.e. Puritans, Quakers, Catholics, Jews, etc.). Their one enormous hypocrisy though was that they allowed slavery for political reasons.

    This hypocrisy was redressed in the second paragraph above after our bloodiest war. These men all were Enlightenment thinkers, trying to create what was to them a rational state. To me, at least, this wasn’t religious morality, it was an ingenious way to allow people to live with personal freedom of action, thought and speech. No religion at the time of the Constitution’s writing preached this, nor believed in it conceptually.

    The constitution is moot on marriage, on sexuality and even on honesty, all
    of which are moral issues. I am much in favor of this lawsuit prevailing, not because I think polygamy is a perfectly good idea, it wouldn’t work for me personally and I know this from experience. Much prior to my three decade marriage I lived for six years in a polymorphous relationship.which scarred me emotionally. Yet it was a valuable learning situation for me in allowing me to determine what I truly wanted and was capable of in a relationship and I’ve chosen strict monogamy.

    Your assumption that all such relationships are exploitative is only sustainable by looking into the examples of powerful men who one way or another amass a group of more than one woman. In all of the cases you choose the women had no choice. Today, except for barbarity like the Jeffs type of compound, this is not necessarily true and the Browns are an example of that. I do make a distinction between laws that order a society and laws that impose someone’s notion of morality on a society. I am against the latter.

  62. “is that poly relationships MUST somehow be based on male domination rather”

    I personally have never dominated any female in any relationship, perhaps it’s because the women that attract me are not the types that seek or would stand for domination. In truth I’ve never even fantasized about that because I do believe that in general women are smarter and much more interesting than men.

  63. Mike S.,

    “Morality connotes both religion and public mores.”

    I don’t think morality necessarily connotes religion. There are many moral people who are atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists who live by an ethical and moral code.

  64. In defense of Polygamy (and andry for that matter):

    All of the argument’s I’ve read so far against it (with the exception of Bob’s), can also be applied to various forms of monogamy. From paternal overtones, to excess unmarried men, they’ve all existed in monogamist societies. They’re all symptoms of inequalities in a society, either between the sexes, or between the classes. That has nothing to do with the number of mates deemed normal by that society.

    So, my question is, if we can have monogamist relationships without them, why on earth couldn’t we have relationships with more than two partners?

  65. I think the Brown’s just opened a can of worms. They might be biting of their nose to spite their face. What was once possibly punishable up to five years , may now end up regulated beyond their desires.

    I can’t see polygamy not being decriminalized without regard to standard ideals of marriage.

    If it were to occur, the best I can see is marriages reflecting business laws.

    Sooner or later, a spiritual wife will leave and even if she signed something giving up right to property, children or anything else – with the dark side of polygamy, you can bet that eventually something will be disputed.

    Not to mention, the hidden victims, the Lost Boy’s.

    If any attorney were to fight for any noble right and cause, you would think it would be for the young victims (such as these Lost Boy’s) instead of for the likes of religious agenda.

  66. Elaine,

    That’s why I referenced “public mores.” Mores don’t strictly have religious connotations.

  67. “There’s a lot of things I admire about Josef Smith.
    But I spit at his feet when it comes to polygamy.
    His people are still paying for his mistake… and his lies.”

    Nate,

    There is nothing I admire about Joseph Smith. In my personal view he was a con man, who changed the “gospel” to suit his personal desires. However, I
    feel the same way about L.Ron Hubbard. Religious leaders of all persuasions contain many con men dressed as moralists, including my own.
    Nevertheless, we can’t as a society abjure them with moral judgments, except when in cases like Jeffs, their conduct is clearly unlawful and despicable.

  68. Mike S.,

    There is something sexy about an intelligent woman…Maybe it is just me….but I would take a woman’s mind over body….but if we both get Alzheimer, then it won’t really matter….

  69. Gene H.,

    Here’s something I just found:

    Is polygamy bad for society?
    An anthropologist argues that it is as Canada considers whether having multiple wives is a constitutional right
    By Tracy Clark-Flory
    Salon, 7/28/2010
    http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/2010/07/28/polygamy

    As the U.S. reacts to Warren Jeffs’ shocking legal victory, Canada is embroiled in its own battle over polygamy. The British Columbia Supreme Court is considering whether outlawing polygamy would violate the constitutional right to religious freedom and freedom of expression. The case was prompted by the arrest of two of the country’s own Jeffs-like characters — the leaders of Bountiful, a rather, um, bountiful Mormon group in B.C. — but it gets at a much larger question: Is polygamy bad for society?

    At least that’s the question anthropologist Joseph Henrich answers in court papers filed recently on behalf of the province. He warns that the practice of taking multiple wives generally drives men into competition that is “increasingly dangerous to society and to themselves.” This tends to make women “valuable objects rather than loveable people” and leads men to try to “control them more carefully.” The upshot is greater inequality between the sexes, a push for younger and younger wives, and lesser male investment in their individual children and wives (“partly because their resources will be much more widely spread; partly because they will increasingly spend their efforts on getting more wives rather than looking after the ones they have”). Note that polyandry, the practice of women taking multiple husbands is incredibly rare, so it doesn’t provide much in the way of real-life outcomes.

    His conclusion, which you can read here, is ultimately about the benefits of monogamy:

    Societies possessing norms that more effectively shape, harness, reinforce, and suppress aspects of our evolved psychology in ways that benefit the group as a whole in competition with other societies spread at the expense of societies possessing fewer group-beneficial norms. Monogamy may have spread, and continue to spread, because monogamous societies are more competitive: monogamy seems to redirect male motivations in ways that generate lower crime rates, greater GDP per capita, and better outcomes for children.

    If we’re to accept his conclusion, then the question the B.C. Supreme Court has to answer is whether those constitutional guarantees can stand up against those negative outcomes.

    *****
    Link to the sworn affidavit:
    Polygyny in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Theory and Implications
    By Joseph Henrich, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition, and Coevolution
    University of British

    http://www.vancouversun.com/pdf/affidavit.pdf

  70. Mr. Spindell,

    “Nevertheless, we can’t as a society abjure them [Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, etc] with moral judgments, except when in cases like Jeffs, their conduct is clearly unlawful and despicable.

    Absolutely.

    Which is why I kept my comment on the personal level. But I felt the need to take a stand and call Josef Smith out on the evil he embroiled his people in.

    He had an affair for which his wife left him. Instead of hanging his head in shame for breaking his vow to his wife and to God, God apparently looked favorably on his behavior and blessed him with the “revelation” of plural marriage.

    I spit at his feet.

    Now we as a society are going to decide, again, whether to reconsider where to draw the line. As this thread indicates, where it will be drawn remains to be seen.

    I feel sorry for his people who inherited the madness and can’t seem to escape it.

  71. “Steve McQueen couldn’t hold a candle to William Holden in Stalag 17. Incredible wit, steel resolve, the essence of ‘cool’ and the perfect mindset to adopt when surrounded by mindless jingoism.”

    Bob,

    I agree. A quality I think Holden had, that McQueen had only to a lesser degree, was the ability to infuse his characters with deep intelligence, as well as cool. McQueen was, however, a favorite of mine and the quintessence of cool, though I the wonderful “Magnificent Seven” I think James Coburn stole the show for cool. Damn, now you’ve got me started on Movies and made me think about Toshiro Mifune, who in “Seven Samurai,”
    “Yojimbo” etc. al., represented the best of “ruffian cool.” I’m digressing and going off topic, sorry, but I inhale movies.

  72. Mike S.

    Your assertion that I claimed that polygamous relationships are “exploitative” encapsulates your misunderstanding of my argument.

    I would argue just the opposite. Polygamous relationships can be happy for all the participants (although evidence suggests that this is far from always the case.)

    The problem with polygamy from a societal perspective is less the polygamous marriages than the people who are excluded from them – the men who are denied the opportunity to marry and reproduce.

    No argument about the personal freedom of men and women to contract whatever kind of relationships they want among multiple parties can wipe away the social reality that polygamy creates a class of men who are winners in the marriage and reproduction lottery and a class who must be losers.

    A commitment to polygamy is a commitment to inequality.

    Now there are no guarantees that in a monogamy system marriages will be successful, or that children will be created. But at least each man and woman has something resembling a reasonable chance.

    Societies that allow men (and again, the polyandry argument is simply not realistic) to accumulate multiple wives, are creating a gradient that will profoundly reward some men, and punish others.

    Unless our laws protect the potentially excluded men that polygamy must create we are not creating a society in which basic equality is guaranteed. This is not equality of outcomes – this is equality of opportunity. You don’t get guaranteed a successful or fruitful marriage – but you have to have some kind of reasonable chance at that. Polygamy denies that to men, in proportion to its success in becoming a social norm.

  73. “He warns that the practice of taking multiple wives generally drives men into competition that is “increasingly dangerous to society and to themselves.” This tends to make women “valuable objects rather than loveable people” and leads men to try to “control them more carefully.” The upshot is greater inequality between the sexes, a push for younger and younger wives, and lesser male investment in their individual children and wives”

    Elaine,

    That he says it doesn’t make it so. Eight now as Gene pointed out the trend of serial marriages shows some men do objectify women and go after younger ones. Women, however,have a choice in our society and if they freely want to enter into such a relationship that’s their business. Why they would I don’t know, but then I’m often amazed by men who want to marry women 20 or more years younger than men. As AY said and I agree:

    “There is something sexy about an intelligent woman…Maybe it is just me….but I would take a woman’s mind over body”

    We’re always going to have ignorant men who objectify women, but I think women are too smart to fall for that kind of man, or if the do establish a relationship it is for personal reasons beyond affection.

  74. Miles,

    So, let me ask you a question. Why is your basic assumption that if legalized polygamy would become the social norm?

    Women in the US get to reject marriages, with no legal and few social repercussions, that’s a HUGE difference between us and polygamist societies that have existed in the past.

    If, like me, you feel that most women (and men for that matter) would reject the arrangement, then there’s no reason to worry about the hordes of men without mates. In fact, if you look at the numbers, there’s a movement away from marriage and co-habitation of any sort. I somehow don’t see this becoming a social norm any time in the near to distant future.

  75. “The problem with polygamy from a societal perspective is less the polygamous marriages than the people who are excluded from them – the men who are denied the opportunity to marry and reproduce.”

    “A commitment to polygamy is a commitment to inequality.”

    Miles,

    I understand that is your opinion and I’ve read your arguments backing it up. They simply don’t persuade me. As to the first quote above I have seriously heard that argument made in the past about maintaining bans against homosexuality in lesbians. I don’t for a second believe you are homophobic, because you write very reasonably. However, assertions of belief have been most often responsible for bad law. Your second statement is just bald, unsubstantiated assertion, which ends up as your opinion which I would defend your right to have.

    “can wipe away the social reality that polygamy creates a class of men who are winners in the marriage and reproduction lottery and a class who must be losers.”

    Isn’t the basis of this assertion that many, many men would want to hog all the women and indeed if able would have multiple marriages, if permitted. I don’t think that is true. I certainly wouldn’t and I doubt you or the majority of men here would. There will always be some egotistical asses of men who would want essentially harems, but then there will always be men who are asses. Just as with homosexuality, legalization won’t make any of the poly’s more attractive.

    “the polyandry argument is simply not realistic”

    Could you explain why it isn’t realistic. Do you believe that the vast majority of women only want to have sex with one man? In a society where women have equal rights, we still admittedly have a way to go, why shouldn’t they want multiple partners/husbands? Some will, most won’t, but that is also the case for males. Relating well to one woman, even one as worthy as my wife, is not an easy task. Relating to more than one woman at a time can be quite exhausting as I discovered in my “single” days. However, I knew many guys who handled it with ease, but when they finally settled down it was with one woman. By the way there were no double entendres implied. Relationships are only tangentially about sex, although sex is important.

  76. Mike S.,

    “That he says it doesn’t make it so.”

    I didn’t say it did. I had asked Gene H. yesterday if he knew about any studies that had been done on polygamy. He said he didn’t. I found one that I provided a link to. That’s all.

    Just as there are dumb men–so, too, there are dumb women. Neither sex has a monopoly on “dumbness.”

  77. Gyges,

    You say: “I somehow don’t see this becoming a social norm any time in the near to distant future.”

    I do. I see our entire society moving in a direction of inequal distribution of economic resources. Now in parallel, we are observing an effort to enable unequal “distribution” (to put it crudely) of women… which amounts to unequal distribution of access to reproductive opportunity, sexual opportunity, relationship and love opportunity.

    Polygamy is part of the same package that we see on a national scale with income distribution. Right now it doesn’t look that way. People think that polygamy is a San Francisco thing, a Utah thing… a hinterlands thing. What could it have to do with Wall Street and the concentration of economic and political power?

    Well, I say, just watch. Polygamy is natural and it is ancient. In the ancient world powerful men often controlled disproportionate resources (we’re moving in that direction).

    Meanwhile, as we endorse the unequal distribution of economic resources, we are also further along in the US toward creating a disenfranchised imprisoned underclass, with more people per capita in prison than anywhere. That’s just a little like those poor Mormon teenagers who are driven out of their communities because they are a threat to the powerful men who want to take their sisters for wives (speaking loosely here.)

    I think that the more you understand about how normal and widespread polygamy has always been, the clearer can be your understanding of why its outlawing was such an important political advance.

    Mike

    I support homosexual marriage for the same reason I support monogamy and oppose polygamy. Homosexual marriage enables more people to experience the benefits, with social approval, of marriage. Polygamy, does the opposite – it shuts people, men, out of marriage, in proportion to its success.

    —-

    I’m pretty tired of repeated claims that polygamy (by which I mean poly-gyny) is somehow an equal opportunity phenomenon. Polyandry is extremely rare and always has been. There is no reason to think that one woman – many men constellations would ever approach in number the formation of one man – many woman constellations.

    No, polygamy amounts to desirable successful men forming relationships with multiple women that serve to lock out less desirable, less successful men. How do we feel about those cast aside men? Are they part of our human society? Are they our brothers, our sons? Do we want to integrate them, or cast them aside, send them off to prison or war, and rule them out of the human future by denying them a reasonable chance to reproduce?

    I’m a leftist, a progressive, who happens to believe that the evidence of human history and anthropology supports the profound value of monogamous marriage as a foundation of political equality, social stability and human happiness.

  78. The one-child policy in China that has been in effect for, I think, about three decades, has led to an imbalance in the male/female ratio. This had led to some problems.

    The following article isn’t about polygamy. Still, I think some of you may find it interesting reading.

    *****

    In Asia, The Perils Of Aborting Girls And Keeping Boys
    by NPR Staff
    http://www.npr.org/2011/06/15/137106354/in-asia-the-perils-of-aborting-girls-and-keeping-boys

    Excerpt:
    June 15, 2011
    In her trip through China’s Suining County in Jiangsu province, journalist Mara Hvistendahl saw plenty of familiar signs of economic growth. But she also saw something at an elementary school that startled her: There were far more boys in the classrooms than girls.

    After months of research, she discovered a wide gap in the ratio between boys and girls, not just in China, but in other parts of East and South Asia. In her book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, Hvistendahl writes that wider access to ultrasound technology and abortion has allowed parents in these developing countries to abort daughters in the womb and keep sons.

    “As a country develops, birth rate falls, new technology comes in, and, unfortunately, one of the side effects is skewed sex ratio at birth,” Hvistendahl tells Morning Edition host Renee Montagne.

    The rise of an educated and wealthy clientele in many Asian countries has made sex-selective abortion more common. But, Hvistendahl says, there are a few key differences between the cultural context of abortion in Asia and the West.

    “In the U.S., a woman may have to brave picket lines to get an abortion,” Hvistendahl says. “She may not have a clinic in her town, and in many parts of Asia abortion is readily available, and so is ultrasound.”

    Hvistendahl adds that gender discrimination in developing nations does not fully explain the drop in the number of girls born. “You have countries where women have very low status — in the Middle East for example — and the sex ratio at birth is balanced,” she says.

    Gender imbalance comes, in part, from dramatic drops in birth rates. “The average Korean woman in the 1950s had six children. Now the birth rate is close to one,” says Hvistendahl. “It’s not that women necessarily want sons any more than before, but there’s more pressure on them.”

    Hvistendahl explains that part of the drop in birth rates in Asia can be attributed to “a history of population control, and a dark history at that.”

    ***

    The Dangers Of Gender Imbalance

    As an example of the consequences of sex selection, Hvistendahl says that in Taiwan, many men have difficulty finding wives using traditional methods. Some even spend thousands of dollars on “marriage tours” to other Asian countries.

    The fee includes travel, lodging and the purchase of women there. Hvistendahl says the problem is not limited to Taiwan, but also South Korea, and is growing in China, India, Albania and Azerbaijan as well.

    As men find it more difficult to find wives in these countries, Hvistendahl says, “it is leading to unrest and almost certainly will lead to more.” Unmarried men are responsible for more violent crime than married men. And, Hvistendahl adds, research in eastern China showed a correlation between a high male-to-female sex ratio and the crime rate.

  79. Miles,

    Can you point to a society that changed back from monogamy to widespread polygamy? I’m honestly curious. Things have been WAY more unbalanced economically in Western history, and I can’t recall anybody switching to a polygamist marriage system. It was proposed in Nazi Germany, but that didn’t go anywhere.

  80. Gyges, I am not aware of such a society. But history hasn’t yet done all the things that history is capable of doing! In the US, we might be the first, with Mr. Turley’s help.

    Apparently the way it would happen is that people would make claims based on freedom and individual autonomy… having forgotten the good reasons that the specific freedom of men to marry multiple women was once ruled out.

    I wasn’t aware of the Nazi proposal, but it certainly makes sense that they would propose it. They didn’t last long enough to put it into effect, but do you doubt that they would have had they lasted? And, you can certainly see how polygamy would be consistent with a worship of power and powerful men… and a corresponding disgust for less powerful men.

  81. Elaine, Thanks for that great material and the insight of the connection between limiting the supply of women through polygamy, and the analogous (in effect) practice of limiting the supply of women through sex selection.

    These are different problems, but the social effects are definitely related.

  82. I couldn’t imagine any democracy ever voting to go back to a polygamist society. Certainly the male losers would be against it. And as long as more females than alpha males are against it, as is probably the case, there would never be popular support.

  83. Elaine M.

    The Browns themselves are a better case study than your anthropologist. All they want is the right to be left alone from the government.

    The case is trying the fix the absurdity of the fact that if the wives are referred to girlfriends there would be no problem, but if they are called wives then it is a felony.

  84. Elaine,

    I read that Canadian report over lunch. Interesting stuff. I’d like to re-read it before forming a final opinion on the data, but my first impressions are that polygamy presents a more interesting set of problems than the contractual analysis suggests. While I thought that some of the problems (such as the slide into younger age pools for brides) could be addressed by taking societal norms and codifying them to create legal barriers to that practice, others clearly could not, such as the increased child mortality rates. There is some of the conclusions – specifically some of those regarding social status – that I was somewhat unconvinced by but those disagreements probably stem from my own admittedly unusual thoughts (and biases) concerning social status on the whole. I’ve always found that the way I value people socially is a bit different than the way others do so I try to take that properly into account when reading this sort of data. Overall, I’m going to say that the report – while not perfectly persuasive on all points – gives me reasons to change my opinion, but just the details of that change need time to gel and another review of the data.

    Great find, by the way. I guess it’s true what they say about librarians. Librarians know where it’s at. ;)

  85. Miles,

    I could give you this “history hasn’t yet done all the things that history is capable of doing” exact response to your statement that all polygamist societies are unequal. Everything you object to happens just as regularly in monogamist societies with inequality as they do in polygamist societies with inequality. That suggests to me that they’re related to problems in the social rather than legal structure.

  86. Chris Nystrom,

    Please understand this: I am not for the criminalization of polygamy! I’ve already stated that more than once before on this thread–or maybe the other “Brown” thread. I don’t think Kody Brown should be charged with a felony.

    The Browns may be a good case study. That said, it is just one polygamous family.

    You wrote: “All they want is the right to be left alone from the government.”

    If so, why did the family decide to star in a TV reality show? Didn’t the family think the show would call attention to itself?

  87. The absurdity is that the fiction of naming a wife a “girlfriend” currently somehow absolves the men of a felony.

    Laws against bigamy / polygamy should address the reality of one man / multiple women… regardless of the legal status of the marriage.

    It should not be legal to maintain a relationship with multiple women (whether they are called girlfriends or wives), with whom a man repeatedly sires children.

    Do we want the State that involved in people’s lives? Well, the State is ultimately an expression of the community and its democratic will and its constitutional foundations.

    Of course, it would be better if the State didn’t need to be involved, but when men are tying down multiple women we have a form of social organization that has consequences beyond the men, the women and their children, as noted above.

  88. Gene H.,

    I’m a firm believer in getting as much information on a subject as I can.

    “Librarians know where it’s at.”

    That’s true. We librarians know where it’s at–and we know how to use it!

    :)

  89. Miles,

    “It should not be legal to maintain a relationship with multiple women (whether they are called girlfriends or wives), with whom a man repeatedly sires children.”

    And you think that any system set up to enforce this wouldn’t favor the connected and wealthy?

  90. I looked over the information that was submitted to the courts and I’m impressed with the breadth of his research. I will point out something that the author himself confirms in his report.

    The societies that Joseph Henrich uses as the basis for his projections have the roots of their sexual inequality rooted much deeper than polygyny. The woman is treated as chattel from the moment of her birth and the decisions about who she will marry is decided by the family through a complicated calculation of improving the wealth and social standing /of the family/. Those women have little or no vocational education or independent means of support. Most are solely reliant on their husbands for their wellbeing due to prohibitive laws (Such as prohibitions against women driving in Saudi Arabia). The laws in those countries impose further inequality by restricting or denying divorce to women unhappy with their situation. Also present are cultural conventions that stigmatize divorced women, providing a strong disincentive for them to leave unhealthy or unhappy relationships. Without those legal and cultural barriers, specifically worth noting; ‘living in a paternalistic theocracy’, the effects of the legalization of polyamory in a world of (ostensible*) sexual equality are NOT known and can only be guessed at.
    My personal opinion is that monogamy is, and will likely remain, the most common type of marriage commitment. But it’s not the life I’ve found myself living and I don’t think the government should continue to criminalize the private relationships between informed consenting adults.

    *gender, racial, and sexual equality are all things that we need to continue to work on in our society.

    Miles,
    “The absurdity is that the fiction of naming a wife a “girlfriend” currently somehow absolves the men of a felony.”

    So are you contending that the difference between felony polygyny and the act of infidelity with a mistress is that your wife doesn’t know so it’s not illegal?

  91. “I support homosexual marriage for the same reason I support monogamy and oppose polygamy. Homosexual marriage enables more people to experience the benefits, with social approval, of marriage. Polygamy, does the opposite – it shuts people, men, out of marriage, in proportion to its success.”

    That does not make sense on several levels.

    1. Why is homosexuality gender neutral but not polygamy? Your position seems inherently sexist.

    2. In a free relationship market maybe polygamy would soak up some of the demand created by same sex marriages?

    3. Maybe some people would prefer and be fulfilled in an other than traditional marriage where they would not be in a traditional marriage. In fact the complaint lists one of the sister wives (Robyn Sullivan) who was in a monogamous marriage, but preferred polygamist marriage.

  92. Gyges,

    “Everything you object to happens just as regularly in monogamist societies with inequality as they do in polygamist societies with inequality. That suggests to me that they’re related to problems in the social rather than legal structure.”

    Sure, it is possible to imagine that new things can happen in this world.

    Social, legal and economic structures are all related to each other.

    I think that polygamy in a modern industrial society like ours, once Mr. Turley and friends are successful, is likely to be to ancient polygamy, as modern day capitalism was to merchant traders from the middle ages – vastly more significant in scale and impact.

    Powerful men already practice serial polygamy, of course, and with little shame. Why not do away with the pretense of divorce? Well, again, what is the goal? What vision of the good society do we want to paint in law and social institutions?

    I see legalized polygamy as part of the general set of ways in which the world can grow vastly more unequal, if we let it.

    Monogamy is no panacea – it’s just a reasonable balancing of interests and passions and human needs. Polygamy is also a “balance” of interests, passions and needs, but has such an obvious downside in its exclusionary effects, particularly in societies with growing inequality, that I can’t imagine how its legalization could be viewed as an advance in human society. It’s a balance too… a balance that stomps on the lives of many men.

  93. “That’s true. We librarians know where it’s at–and we know how to use it!”

    Elaine,

    Was that “code” for some other meaning?

  94. Chris,

    “2. In a free relationship market maybe polygamy would soak up some of the demand created by same sex marriages?”

    Not sure how that would work. Can you explain?

  95. Elaine M. wrote

    “If so, why did the family decide to star in a TV reality show? Didn’t the family think the show would call attention to itself?”

    Perhaps to gain public sympathy for their cause, and when the time was right sue the state and perhaps win and then finally be left alone to share the freedoms that the rest of us enjoy without fear?

  96. Chris,
    “That does not make sense on several levels.

    1. Why is homosexuality gender neutral but not polygamy? Your position seems inherently sexist.”

    Please be serious. Polygny (which most Polygamy in most cultures is and due to human evolutionary history is likely to remain ) shuts men out of marriage. I say polygamy when I mean polygyny, because that’s what human polygamy is in practice and historical reality.

    “2. In a free relationship market maybe polygamy would soak up some of the demand created by same sex marriages?”

    There is NO evidence or reason to think that heterosexual men seeking wives would have any interest in gay relationships. Your suggestion is part of the general hostility to the interests of men in that situation.

    “3. Maybe some people would prefer and be fulfilled in an other than traditional marriage where they would not be in a traditional marriage. In fact the complaint lists one of the sister wives (Robyn Sullivan) who was in a monogamous marriage, but preferred polygamist marriage.”

    The happiness of women and men in polygamous marriages doesn’t interest me much. I believe that such marriages can be happy for some people. It’s just not the point. The point is the shut out men.

  97. Chris,

    I’ve thought of that possibility too. I think the Brown children should be able to attend public schools and be open about their family situation without the fear that something bad could happen to their father. I think the state should do what is best for the Brown children. Putting Kody in prison would serve no good purpose.

  98. Mike

    “So are you contending that the difference between felony polygyny and the act of infidelity with a mistress is that your wife doesn’t know so it’s not illegal?”

    Shall we debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    I’m really not interested in criminalizing sex. On the other hand, the state may have a role to play in defining the terms of social order and household formation, through a combination of education, advocacy, intervention and criminal penalties.

  99. “Not sure how that would work. Can you explain?”

    If two men married each other, then there are two women out there who now have no chance of having a husband. Polygamy balances out homosexuality.

    Actually, I find the whole “control the marriage market” argument absurd. In our free relationship market adults can, and do, connect up with who they want to connect up with. We gave up state control of this task when adultery laws went out the window.

    This lawsuit is about what we can legally call what is already happening. Absurdly the law is on the side of less responsibility (“girlfriend”), and against more responsibility (“wife”).

  100. Miles,

    Well, at this point we’re just talking in circles. Personally, I don’t see that you’ve provided any evidence that the U.S. is drastically different then all those other European countries (and itself in the past), that had huge amounts of inequality and didn’t revert to the polygamist hell you describe. On the other hand, I’ve given key differences (most importantly, the status of women) that it IS different than the polygamist societies you use for models.

    We’re both just making educated guesses. Personally I’d rather err on the side of individual freedom than puritanical ideas.

  101. Chris,

    “If two men married each other, then there are two women out there who now have no chance of having a husband. Polygamy balances out homosexuality.”

    What about lesbians getting married? Did you consider that? It isn’t just gay men who believe in same-sex marriage. I don’t see how polygamy balances out homosexuality.

  102. “The point is the shut out men.”

    This is absurd. Should we make what Hugh Hefner and Charlie Sheen are doing illegal, too? To protect the poor men who are left out with no women? Or would you prefer the state just assign every man a women to make sure everyone is taken care of?

    The truth is we currently already have a free relationship market and men can and do take care of themselves. This lawsuit is simply about what we are allowed to call it.

  103. “Sure, it is possible to imagine that new things can happen in this world.”

    Miles,

    In your 4:15 comment that begins with the above line don’t you realize that you could substitute homosexuality for polygamy and come up with the type of argument a homophobe would use to argue for banning homosexuality.

    “Why not do away with the pretense of divorce?”

    That is the only line that wouldn’t fit. however, talking to that question your statement:

    “I’m really not interested in criminalizing sex. On the other hand, the state may have a role to play in defining the terms of social order and household formation, through a combination of education, advocacy, intervention and criminal penalties.”

    Miles, please of course you are as shown by your “On the other hand” and what follows.

    “Societies that allow men (and again, the polyandry argument is simply not realistic) to accumulate multiple wives, are creating a gradient that will profoundly reward some men, and punish others.”

    Finally, though I’m sure you don’t intend it, your arguments continue to border on being sexist. You give all the power to men in getting these relationships and none to women for either avoiding or partaking. Do you really think so little of a woman’s ability to choose.

    Your arguments are beginning to border on the territory of the anti-abortion movement. Women must be protected because they can’t choose for themselves. Society must be protected in order to ensure procreation. Same lines of reasoning being used.

  104. “I think the Brown children should be able to attend public schools and be open about their family situation without the fear that something bad could happen to their father. I think the state should do what is best for the Brown children. Putting Kody in prison would serve no good purpose.”

    So what do you suggest, if anything, be done?

  105. Chris,
    You say:
    “If two men married each other, then there are two women out there who now have no chance of having a husband. Polygamy balances out homosexuality.”

    While statistics in this area are variable, most studies suggest that yes, there are very slightly more gay men than gay women, and so there might be a slight imbalance. But the big picture is that gay men don’t create a significant deficit in the market of available men for marriage because they are balanced by lesbian women who also remove themselves from the heterosexual marriage “market”.

    “We gave up state control of this task when adultery laws went out the window.” In a sense you are right. That was preliminary to legalizing polygamy. We’ve been moving in this direction, growing economic inequality, legitimization of serial monogamy, glorification of men who bed lots of women, and now “naturally”, polygamy too. A society has to make choices. Will it be one in which men have an equality of opportunity for marriage, love, sex and reproduction, or would we rather be a baboon or gorilla society in which an uber male controls large number of females? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714142137.htm

    There’s nothing sexist about my arguments at all. Indeed, if there was any reason to think that women would choose to gather multiple husbands, and so do in the same numbers as men chose to gather multiple women, then I don’t think I would have any objection to polygamy at all. But the burden of evidence that this would ever happen is on those who say that it might. Nothing in our animal or human pasts suggests that it would. Polygamy remains a case of one man, many women, across species and across most of human history.

    In the one polyandry case that I know of (Tibet), the men who share a wife are almost always brothers (or cousins), so that they share a genetic interest in the woman’s child, regardless of actual paternity. However this, again, is a very rare case, in a human cross cultural context.

  106. Chris

    “Should we make what Hugh Hefner and Charlie Sheen are doing illegal, too?”

    Mildly Illegal and strongly socially unacceptable.

    “To protect the poor men who are left out with no women?”

    Now you’re getting it. Compassion. Justice for all. A vision of a human society in which the maximum number of people’s needs are met and their humanity recognized.

    “Or would you prefer the state just assign every man a women to make sure everyone is taken care of?”

    I’d prefer that we organize society along monogamous lines for exactly that purpose, to create a just society in which everyone (more or less) gets taken care of, or has the opportunity to get taken care of, in terms of reproductive opportunity, relationship opportunity, sexual opportunity and intimacy/love opportunity.

  107. “or would we rather be a baboon or gorilla society in which an uber male controls large number of females?”

    Do you even watched the show in question? Are the women involved “controlled” or volunteers? Have they chosen the man that they want to be with?

    So you are saying that the state should deny the wives the opportunity to be with the man that they love so as to satisfy your own sense of fair play? So ultimately it is the job of the state to make some people unhappy (wives) so that other people can be happy (single men). And that is your definition of justice?

    No. I think the free relationship market much more just and fair than your government controlled relationship market.

    “There’s nothing sexist about my arguments at all.”

    Yes it is. Very much so. See above and the use of the word “controls”.

    “Nothing in our animal or human pasts suggests that it would. Polygamy remains a case of one man, many women, across species and across most of human history.”

    So you are saying that polygamy is perfectly natural and you believe that it is the government’s job to fight human nature?

    You never answered if you want to use the state to go after Hugh Hefner and Charlie Sheen, too?

  108. Gyges,
    Reasonable question:

    “Miles,
    “It should not be legal to maintain a relationship with multiple women (whether they are called girlfriends or wives), with whom a man repeatedly sires children.”

    And you think that any system set up to enforce this wouldn’t favor the connected and wealthy?”

    To the extent that it did favor the powerful, that would be a bug… and not a feature.

  109. Chris, As I already stated the problem with polygamy is that it IS quite “natural” and common in human history.

    Yes, it is society’s job, acting through its institutions (aka government) to control human nature, preventing all sorts of natural preferences like murder, robbery, rape, incest, and the taking of many wives. This is ethics 101. It’s what communities do to create just stable societies.

    To repeat myself, I have no interest in the preferences of the women and men involved in plural marriages. Some of them, and certainly those featured on a TV show, are no doubt quite happy. I’m only interested in the men you don’t see, the ones who will never find a spouse because of those happy families that you do see.

    The example of “controls” I gave is an example of a sexist male dominated animal society, the kind of thing I oppose our human society becoming. I prefer a democratic community of equality and equal opportunity.

  110. The logical fallacy I see perpetuated above is the fallacy of small numbers versus large numbers. The number of families that will opt for a poly family group is a very small number compared with the total number of people. We see polygamy as a common lifestyle in the middle east, for example, but the actual number of people available is so large that it does not even make a ripple when we consider statistical probabilities.

  111. “Mildly Illegal and strongly socially unacceptable.”

    What shall you do sir? Shall you jail them and separate them from their kids?

    How about this? Lets prosecute polygamists on the same day we start prosecuting adulterers and fornicators who have more than one partner with the exact same penalties? Otherwise it sure looks like you have a prejudice against marriage and sanction an unequal access to the law.

    “Compassion. Justice for all. A vision of a human society in which the maximum number of people’s needs are met and their humanity recognized.”

    Except, of course for the wives, who are preventing from marrying the man that they love, which seems to me to me fundamental human right.

    “I’d prefer that we organize society along monogamous lines for exactly that purpose, to create a just society in which everyone (more or less) gets taken care of, or has the opportunity to get taken care of, in terms of reproductive opportunity, relationship opportunity, sexual opportunity and intimacy/love opportunity.”

    That is not the world we live in, and to use the state to achieve your utopia would be a terrible thing. You seem to be wanting to do with human relationships what socialists want to do with money.

    Further your utopia seems to think monogamy meets everyone’s needs, but as you said earlier, by nature humans are polygamous. It is therefore not a great stretch to believe that polygamous relationships meet some peoples needs, too, but in your utopia they would be frustrated by the very government that is to serve them and protect their rights.

    No, I think the free relationship market is a much better solution

  112. “I’m only interested in the men you don’t see, the ones who will never find a spouse because of those happy families that you do see.”

    That certainly explains why you ignore the rights of the women involved. I suggest that if you want to create good law you need to be concerned with everyone concerned, not just a subset.

    “The example of “controls” I gave is an example of a sexist male dominated animal society, the kind of thing I oppose our human society becoming.”

    I understand you want to perform social engineering. Instead you want to replace it with a sexist government society that limits the choices that women are allowed to make for husbands.

    “I prefer a democratic community of equality and equal opportunity.”

    It is impossible to have democracy, equality, or opportunity without the most basic of human values: freedom.

  113. People are also by nature murderous, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have laws against murder.

    I would consider men who marry multiple women, and women who enter plural marriages to be equally complicit in doing what comes natural, even when it is disruptive of a stable and just social order. For the men, and in many or most cases, for the women too I’m sure it looks like a solution.

    I have a different vision, a vision of a society which doesn’t shut men out of marriage, which supports the economic and personal attributes of so called “lower status” men, so that they are in fact attractive marriage partners for women.

    You see, an egalitarian society goes hand in hand with monogamy… supports it, and is in turn supported by it.

    The “utopia” that you complain about is just the thing that normative Western culture has advocated for hundreds of years. It’s only in the last hundred years (with Mormonism?) that we have renewed polygamist efforts, and just in the last 10 or so years that those efforts have taken up new religious freedom and personal freedom arguments.

    So this is the first real challenge that monogamy has seen in modern history on a legal level, and it’s no coincidence that it is occurring as the radical political right is seeing new strength. The love of inequality, and the hatred of community, of regulation and of self government, go hand in hand and are rising on many fronts, economic, interpersonal, cultural.

    Free relationship market? I don’t believe even you are really for that. You do oppose incestuous marriages? Child marriages? Of course you do. Markets function best when they are subject to reasonable regulations.

  114. So here’s an independent argument about the relationship between monogamy and political equality. Worth reading.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/jul/26/religion-polygamy-monogamy-psychology-crime

    And here’s the paper it is based on, which sets out some of the arguments I’ve described above.

    http://www.vancouversun.com/pdf/affidavit.pdf

    See page 21 for the meat of it.

    Polygny produces
    1) increased crime and antisocial behavior among men
    2) younger age of marriage for women
    3) increased inequality between sexes
    4) less paternal investment in offspring
    5) reduced GDP due to changes in male economic choices

    And that’s just the start of it.

    Now all of this is an argument based on reasoning about how societies and people function. You are free to dispute it, but the case is fairly compelling if you are willing to read it seriously.

  115. So much for the fallacy of small numbers. According to Miles’ expert report, half the polygamist societies have greater than 20% of the males practicing polygamy. That, at best, leaves 80% of the remaining males scrambling for 60% of the remaining females. That sounds like a healthy society.

  116. “People are also by nature murderous, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have laws against murder.

    I would consider men who marry multiple women, and women who enter plural marriages to be equally complicit in doing what comes natural, even when it is disruptive of a stable and just social order.”

    Miles,

    First of all do you realize that you equated polygamy with murder? Really, I mean really Miles? This is the equivalency in your head? I must tell you, with all due respect, that I am beginning to think that you’re anything but the Leftist you proclaim yourself to be. I really think that you are satirizing the left by adopting a silly social position of social engineering as an argument against polygamy, This is to evidence the old meme that Leftists want to run people’s lives. However, I could well be and have been wrong about people, so maybe I’m wrong about you. What you might not understand is that makes your arguments worse in my opinion. Because trust me as a lifelong radical I would pray that someone with your mindset never, never gains any political power.

    “I have a different vision, a vision of a society which doesn’t shut men out of marriage, which supports the economic and personal attributes of so called “lower status” men, so that they are in fact attractive marriage partners for women.

    You see, an egalitarian society goes hand in hand with monogamy… supports it, and is in turn supported by it.”

    That Miles is total bullshit and I’ll tell you why. I’m also for an egalitarian society. Status offends me as does our current class system. Do men of power gather presumably desirable women, to a greater degree than the rest of the male population, you bet they do. However, the elite also own the best, most scenic property. Money and power brings with it any number of privileges that lets those with it rise above the law, despite what it is. When Nelson Rockefeller was Governor of New York, which had a terribly strict divorce law at the time which he supported, his wife had to go to Reno to get a divorce in Nevada. Social engineers, such as yourself, would argue that the law was nevertheless correct since it encouraged families to stay together even if that was because they couldn’t afford going to Nevada.

    The same was and is again becoming true with abortion and also the need for organs. The rich get what they want and the social engineering types try to enforce their version of morality on the masses. Your views are close in spectrum to those of past/present religious leaders who wanted/want to impose their vision of a perfect society on the masses.

    If you truly want a more egalitarian and free society then don’t start the road there with imposing your social views on everyone. Fight instead for control of Corporate power, limit corporations ability to influence our government through campaign contributions, that are really bribes. Make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and assume a fair burden of responsibility for sustaining this society. I could go on and on, but if you haven’t gotten the point yet, why bother. your solution is frankly ass-backwards if it is an egalitarian society that you want.

    The world has seen many “egalitarian society’s” where 98% of the people are equal in poverty and the 2% that rule them are oh so concerned with the “moral” behavior of the 98%. The only egalitarian society I want is one where there is equality under the law, a generous social safety net, the ability of the individual to maximize their potential and corporations that must bear their fair share of the burden and receive only their fair share in return. Where it really is one person, one vote.

    My disparagement of your argument is by no means to imply that I don’t believe a good case can be made against polygamy, but you haven’t been the one to make it. I’m certainly not personally in favor of plural relationships and as I stated on one of these two threads many years ago I actually experienced one, whose results were shattering to me.
    My negative experience only proved to me that I couldn’t handle it. I believe and I have seen others who could. I am, however, strongly in favor of allowing people to make their own choices, providing others rights are protected and that the less a state socially engineers what is really a personal preference, the better. I take it you believe something else.

  117. Shorter Mike Spindell: My social engineer: good; Your social engineering: bad.

    Also, there goes that famous lefty intolerance again you’re all famous for and like projecting onto your opponents. Also, I find it amusing that your avatar pic has that glazed over look in the eyes and frozen smile. Are you trying to control your urge to scream and go on full attack?

  118. In case my punctuation left any ambiguity ( I don’t think it did…), I consider men and women equally complicit with each other. I did not “equate” polygamy with murder – I illustrated by way of exaggeration the fact that “natural” behaviors are not ipso facto moral or desirable ones. I think this is obvious to any fair reader.

    Powerful people will attempt to circumvent laws. Our choice is whether we remake laws to legalize what they do, or whether we redouble our efforts to equally enforce the law.

    Libertarians and right wingers prefer the first approach. We leftists and progressives would prefer that the law mean something and that it be enforced without regard to power or wealth, or even against the inherent power that accrues to the wealthy. This is just basic to who we are. We believe in the rule of law.

    Your view of law as being the will of the 2% enforced upon the 98% has it all wrong. That’s what law is in danger of becoming, but what it should be, and what we work to have it be, is an expression of the will of the majority, within the constraints of the constitution or other first principles.

    As the article notes http://www.vancouversun.com/pdf/affidavit.pdf part of creating a society of equals has been supporting the institution of monogamy. It’s one of the things that has made Western democratic civilization possible. Please, read the article, because it expresses this argument better than I have done.

    I’m less negative about plural marriage relationships than you. Although I’ve never really experienced one (multiple girlfriends doesn’t count!) I see no reason that they couldn’t be very rewarding for all of the parties involved. I just don’t care because the quality of the relationship is a trivial matter. The fact that the men report that such relationships are stressful for them is however a suggestion that it is no easy thing, but if that’s freely chosen, so be it. Not my problem.

    My problem is what a society of plural relationships looks like. My concern is what it feels like to be a young man wandering in the wilderness with little help of every finding a wife. You seem to dismiss these young men.

    When wealthy man gather lots of resources that doesn’t necessarily stop others from doing so too. But the supply of women is much more fixed, and the need to marry, to reproduce, to have a sexual partner, is in some ways much stronger than even the desire for wealth.

    Position yourself at the edge of society, as one of those men, from a poor family, on the edge of society. Your sister found a secure home with the wealthy merchant and his other 3 wives. Your friend’s sister, the one you might have married, she also found a marriage with an older wealthy merchant and his two other wives. You and your friend are locked out of wealth, and locked out of marriage, reproduction and sex. THAT is what a polygynous society ultimately looks like….. lonely, horny, unfulfilled, angry, young men. They can go to war, they can get into all kinds of trouble. It’s an ugly and brutal world. That’s were polygamy goes. Wealth inequality is nothing compared to inequality of access to women.

  119. I think we all are operating under the burden of a dearth of observable facts on which to bas an educated assessment. As long as any social behaviour is illegal the circumspect nature of the illegally participating group will work to limit observation. We don’t and can’t know what the normative behaviour of a society that extends freedom of association to other than monogamous unions will entail until those other unions are no longer illegal. In many ways the debate is similar to the debate on legalizing some kinds of drug use.

    We can’t say what will happen because we don’t have untainted data. Given some time to implement the change in the law and observe what happens to the family and wider social dynamic will provide untainted data and future lawmakers will have a knowledge base grounded in reality and not fear or speculation. There isn’t a good argument against the petition because there isn’t good data to base that argument on.

  120. I think we all are operating under the burden of a dearth of observable facts on which to bas an educated assessment.

    A majority of countries still practice polygamy in one form or another so we have plenty of data to base our judgments on. None of it appears to be very good. See the expert report cited above.

  121. K., I read it. Restrictions on marriage or free association is not the way to address income inequality IMO.

  122. @lottakatz, it seems that the countries that practice polygamy have plenty of income equality, just the wrong kind. Correlation isn’t causation (I’m looking at you, GeneH), but I’d be a little skittish about taking that chance. Also, is this really a free association issue? They can freely associate all they want, they just can’t call it marriage.

  123. “They can freely associate all they want, they just can’t call it marriage.” – And so by controlling the language you are going to achieve equality? And the 1st Amendment right to free speech is not important?

    However, you are 100% correct. That is what this case is about: what you call it. And Miles and his two girlfriends are not guilty because he used the socially acceptable term “girlfriend” instead of the socially unacceptable term “wife”.

    This is a slam-dunk case and Jonathan Turley is going to win it.

  124. “Shorter Mike Spindell: My social engineer: good; Your social engineering: bad”

    A fair comment.

  125. “Wealth inequality is nothing compared to inequality of access to women.”

    Wow. Who is objectifying women now? You treat them as chattel to be evenly distributed and you totally ignore the possibility that the women may prefer to be married to that wealthy merchant, than to your impoverished model man.

    Further, you seem to totally discount the possibility and benefit to society that that impoverished young man will not improve himself so that he can afford a wife.

    Further, your description of a polygamous society is no different that our own “monogamous” society. The wealthy men still get the women and the poor men are left out (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The only difference is that in our society the men do not have to take responsibility for the women because the women are just “girlfriends” not “wives”.

    However the point is mute. Until you jail Arnold and separate him from his kids you have unequal access to the law which is unjust. So you have to either make Arnold’s behavior criminal and put him in jail or you have to leave Kody Brown alone. I submit that is going to be a lot easier to leave Kody Brown alone than it will be for you to pass a law to put Arnold in jail.

  126. “Powerful people will attempt to circumvent laws. Our choice is whether we remake laws to legalize what they do, or whether we redouble our efforts to equally enforce the law.”

    Miles,

    The polygamy movement is not the domain of the powerful, nor would I guess that those with true power in this country, like LDS, favor it.

    “We leftists and progressives would prefer that the law mean something and that it be enforced without regard to power or wealth, or even against the inherent power that accrues to the wealthy.”

    No argument here.

    “Your view of law as being the will of the 2% enforced upon the 98% has it all wrong.”

    Misstatement of my point. The condition of society’s being run by and for the benefit of roughly 2% of their population is one that is pretty much the historical norm. In America today and in its history this has roughly been the case. Hence the ongoing uphill battle engaged in by people on our side. The law we have, derived from our Constitution and (past) SCOTUS rulings, is amply able to produce an egalitarian society. Its’ enforcement is where the will of the 2% comes in and they are for the most part immune from its’ reach.

    “As the article notes http://www.vancouversun.com/pdf/affidavit.pdf part of creating a society of equals has been supporting the institution of monogamy. It’s one of the things that has made Western democratic civilization possible. Please, read the article, because it expresses this argument better than I have done.”

    I have read the article. This case deals with both Warren Jeffs, other enclaves of his type and the “Lost Boys”. I’ve already said that these are monstrous situations, but that there are laws already on the books to deal with them. Whether or not cases are won or lost is immaterial to the larger question. Mr. Henreich does indeed have impressive credentials, but the nature of Anthropology is that it is a science where much opinion and debate is ongoing. Google their Cro-Magnon versus Neanderthal debates and your head will spin from the well argued, diverse and op-positional opinions on the subject. I think that comparing the Brown’s and others situations to Jeffs et. al. doesn’t fly, nor is directly correlated.

    “My problem is what a society of plural relationships looks like. My concern is what it feels like to be a young man wandering in the wilderness with little help of every finding a wife. You seem to dismiss these young men.”

    Again you have stated where we differ. Your idea is that polygamy is a more attractive solution for men and thus if legalized would reshape society and cause many men to go spouse-less. I don’t believe it is a more attractive solution to even most rich men. Therefore I don’t believe and have seen no evidence of, except if you call opinion evidence, the belief that it will prevent hordes of single men from reproducing or having a stable relationship. The examples given of past and current societies where it has been misogynistic are noted, but in each case one can cite religious and or meglomaniacal reasons that trump the proposition that polygamy/polyandry is destructive per se.

    “Position yourself at the edge of society, as one of those men, from a poor family, on the edge of society.”

    I am one of those men. Orphaned at 18 from with no resources from my parents and relatives unable to care for me. I worked my way through
    college, totally self supported, mostly at a Liquor delivery job 30 hours weekly paid mainly in tips. I lived in a furnished room, with a community bathroom. Somehow, my life was full of women from a higher social strata
    who were desirable to me and thought me desirable. After college I worked as a caseworker for the Welfare Department and I assure you I never lacked for the attention of desirable women. One needn’t be handsome, wealthy and/or have good potential to find a woman. A male, looking for companionship in most cases, has to be someone who is attentive to a women and who they find listens to them. Ones physique, social status or good looks needn’t be a handicap. Besides do you think most women, beyond gold digging status seekers, or terribly insecure people, would want to be wife number 2, 3 or 4?

    I believe there are some though that would find such a situation comforting on some level, perhaps being in the warmth of an extended family. At the same time there are no doubt some decent men who really desire a large family. You would deny them this right to get together simply based on your notion of what is best for society and you make it clear that their feelings are not relevant to your beliefs.

    I would venture to say that perhaps 25% of this country believe homosexuality to be destructive to society and to its institution of marriage. They would have laws against it and punishment for those who have partaken. They strongly believe they are defending marriage and society. Your argument in the end mirrors theirs, even though I know you very much disagree with homophobia. To me your argument if successful overreaches government’s role in personal relationships.

    By the way, my characterization of you and your opinions in my prior comment were far too harsh regarding you personally. I apologize for that. In truth besides this issue there is probably much we agree upon and I shouldn’t make our discussion personal. That was wrong of me.

  127. Chris,

    You say
    ” “Wealth inequality is nothing compared to inequality of access to women.”

    Wow. Who is objectifying women now? You treat them as chattel to be evenly distributed and you totally ignore the possibility that the women may prefer to be married to that wealthy merchant, than to your impoverished model man. ”

    I don’t ignore the possibility. I consider it very likely that some women would prefer a wealthy merchant and that the wealthy merchant would prefer multiple wives. That’s the problem, not a justification.

    As for objectifying women, I simply note that marriage, reproduction, sex and love with a woman are more valuable to most heterosexual men than money. Money, in fact, is arguably gathered by heterosexual men primarily so that they may have marriage, reproduction, sex and love with a woman. If this is a revelation to you, I’m glad to be of service. This doesn’t mean that “women are prostitutes” or that we are “objectifying” women. It is simply a statement about what most men’s real priorities are in life, and of course is well founded in evolutionary logic – the only game that matters in evolutionary terms is reproduction, so naturally reproduction and the things that surround it and facilitate it are foremost on men’s minds. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Darwin, or God.

    Mike,

    I think we’ve said it all.

    I think the polygamy movement has a great future in a nation that is throwing off all of its inhibitions about wealth inequality. Today, Mormons, tomorrow Wall Street.

    Some people like yourself focus on your personal determination to win the game of musical chairs (which exists in even our society, and which would be much more competitive in a polygamous society.) Others take a moment to consider the position of the inevitable losers in that game, and ask whether this is the game that we should be playing at all. That’s what I’m doing. I’m a winner too – happily married with children. And because I live in a society in which the normative pattern has been that less successful male members of society have also had a shot at marriage and family life, I’m safer and more secure. In many neighborhoods of course marriage is collapsing because men can’t earn a decent living (you can read the opinions of African American women for example, to learn more about that.) These are not happy or healthy neighborhoods.

    The safety and security of society is tied up with the bringing as many men as possible into stable marriage relationships. This isn’t just my opinion – it appears to be born out in cross cultural studies. Single men are dangerous. Single hopeless men are even more dangerous. And, their happiness matters. Your personal narrative of bootstrapping is admirable, but it doesn’t address the question of how society itself solves the problem of other men who are frozen out of marriage by the men and women who choose plural marriage.

    You put my objection in a similar category to those who oppose gay marriage. I think you do that because Western society has been built on monogamous assumptions so long that we’ve lost an intuitive sense of how and why monogamy represents a moral advance over the natural state of polygamy. Also advocacy for monogamy has been something that comes from the same quarters as anti gay bigotry. But I’m asking you to think about monogamy in different terms. I’m not supporting it for churchy moralistic reasons, as you understand. I’m supporting monogamy for reasons of egalitarian philosophy. Of course, any social reform may require enforcement, but enforcement is justified if it prevents a greater harm.

    To some extent our monogamous cultural inertia has prevented the need for enforcement, but I think the cultural consensus for monogamy has pretty much collapsed, as we see in Turley’s case far above. Maybe monogamy norms are not worth the price. Maybe we just let it go, but I think if we do the US will be quickly on its way toward a kind of science fictiony amalgam of ancient near eastern polygamous societies in which wealth men gather large harems, upper middle class men gather smaller groups of women, and vast armies of angry dispossessed men hover outside the gates, ready to be used as cannon fodder in war, or to rob and steal, because they have been assigned the role of “walking dead”, never able to reproduce. The Mormons are just the nose under the tent of Western civilization.

  128. And, I should correct that to say, that “the polygamous Mormons are the camels nose under the tent of Western civillization.” Obviously, most LDS people (“Mormons”) are not polygamous, and I don’t mean to include them in that claim. The “Mormons” I’m referring to are a schismatic group, who are rejected by the mainstream church, apparently. I would include other advocates of polygamy with them too, but they are the ones involved in this case.

  129. “Maybe we just let it go, but I think if we do the US will be quickly on its way toward a kind of science fictiony amalgam of ancient near eastern polygamous societies in which wealth men gather large harems, upper middle class men gather smaller groups of women, and vast armies of angry dispossessed men hover outside the gates, ready to be used as cannon fodder in war, or to rob and steal, because they have been assigned the role of “walking dead”, never able to reproduce. The Mormons are just the nose under the tent of Western civilization.”

    Miles,

    I think we’re pretty much there already and the acceptance of polygamy has
    nothing to do with it.

  130. “I don’t ignore the possibility. I consider it very likely that some women would prefer a wealthy merchant and that the wealthy merchant would prefer multiple wives. That’s the problem, not a justification. ”

    What is not clear is why the rights of your hypothetical lonely men trump the rights of these ladies to choose their own destinies.

  131. It is not so much that their rights trump the rights of women to make other choices, but rather that their rights have value too.

    A modest limitation on the right to form plural marriages deprives no one of their ability to reproduce, but eliminates a reproductive death sentence, a much more severe harm. How’s that for clarity?

    The women’s choice of plural marriage is not a given, but is, like all choices made by men and women, based on the available alternatives. By educating marginal men, giving them hope, jobs, a place in society, they can be the kinds of men that women freely choose.

    By discouraging plural marriage at the same time, those women and men who might naturally choose it, can be encouraged to make other choices. If that feels coercive, well, just look at how polygamous societies coerce through social custom and economic inducement to get women into multiple marriages. There is a measure of coercion no matter which way you go… but only one path consigns a whole underclass to reproductive failure.

    We’re not going to eliminate adultery, or stop some powerful men from keeping a girlfriend or two on the side. We can make a choice however about simply returning to the pre-civilization norm of polygamy, or maintaining a society that discourages extremes of wealth, power and spouse acquisition, and gives every man a least a chance at marriage and children and all that come with them.

  132. I am so thankful that an attorney is taking this case. What is wrong with our society that we can’t stay out of their personal lives? These people are in a relationship that they choose to be in–they are raising their children together, with help with all sorts of family, they appear to be productive members of society so why is it the public’s business to tell them what kind of a relationship they can be in? We need to take a closer look at this–how many single parents are raising their children because the other parent is no where to be found? Well, this family is raising their children, it is their priority, the children appear to be intelligent and well-mannered, the moms can rely on help from the other adults in the family for all sorts of support, and the man they chose to love only wants to love them! So let them be! Society should take some lessons from this family. How many relationships fail due to infidelity? Millions. But is infidelity against the law? No. And this family is knowingly and willingly in a relationship that promotes love, family, good people–so quit persecuting people that have a different lifestyle. It appears to work–work with it!

  133. “why is it the public’s business to tell them what kind of a relationship they can be in?”

    It is the public’s business because the public is harmed when young unmarried men are handed a reproductive death sentence, as more polygamous relationships are formed and they are locked out of marriage.

    Those young men are your friends, your sons, your relatives. It’s sad that you don’t care about them.

    Right now, such men are few, but give it time and the harm will become apparent.

  134. Well said Joy. Poeple should be free to live their lives without government interference. The government has better things to do than to harass fine upstanding citizens like the Browns.

  135. Most of the folks here confuse the issue. If the information on the lost boys is accurate then it isn’t plural marriage or polygmany that is immoral it is the violations of morale principles that is immoral. If all the charges against Warren Jeffs are accurate, then he should be charged with and prosecuted for the actual laws he has violated. I realize that based on current laws polygamy is illegal but the actual litigation which placed that law into effect, was illegal in itself and in violation of the U S Constitution by congress as then supported by the high court of the land. If within plural marriage the rights are stripped for citizens then those responsible should be charged and prosecuted for their crimes against society. That would include such crimes as, rape, incest, kidnapping, and any action that would violate another persons rights. If one man is favored by more than one wife and they are willing participants I would think based on the constitution they are with in their rights as citizens of the United States. The U S Supreme Court did not honor their oath of office in the 1800’s when they outlawed what they called polygamy as the constitution refused them the right to support a law that the congress was not at liberty to pass according to the First Amendment; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
    There is nothing in this amendment that includes the separation of church and state, there is nothing in this article that permits the US Congress to pass any law respecting any establishment of religion. That would apply to the law prohibiting plural marriage which was a religious ordinance in a religious establishment.

  136. G,
    Surely you don’t actually believe what you say.

    ““Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    The mere fact that religions proscribe an action does not mean that when a government also proscribes it it is establishing a religion.

    Religions prohibit murder. Are laws against murder therefore violations of the first amendment?

    Religions prohibit incest. Are laws against incest first amendment violations?

    Court rulings have long recognized that religion is not a catch all category that can include any behavior that a religious group can dream up. Just the opposite. When there exists a compelling state interest, reflecting a compelling community interest and a compelling human and societal interest, in prohibiting a behavior, the American legal tradition has long held that legislatures and courts are well within their rights when the prohibit the behavior.

    Can faith healing believers withhold medical care from their children and pray the sickness away? Courts have repeatedly held that if children are injured the parents who do that can and must go to jail. Religion is not a get out of jail card for behaviors that are inimical to our society’s interests.

    Polygamy has been established over hundreds of years of Western civilization and since the mid19th century in America as in opposition to our civilization’s values and interests.

    —–

    Use your imagination. Imagine a small town on the Western frontier, with 100 men and 100 women. 10 men have gathered some 10 wives each. The 10 men and their 100 wives are gloriously happy – they own the stores, run the town, own the land, and their happy children are everywhere – a real polygamous heaven.

    The remaining 90 men in the town, roughly equal to the number of wives, can never marry because there are no women around. They can’t go to the next town either, because the same situation applies there. Because this is polygamous heaven, the whole country is organized on this principle. 90% of the men in this heavenly land have only a few options… attempt to become one of the lucky 1 in 10 wealthy, powerful, polygamists, attempt a little covert sex and reproduction on the side, or perhaps go off to war to plunder and rape in some foreign country.

    Meanwhile, the 10 men are in a state of perpetual nervousness, working to acquire new wives, protect them from the marauding masses, and the whole society is throwing away the economic efforts of the 90 who if they had a wife would be investing in her and in their children with that woman. Their lives are wasted angling for reproductive opportunity and economic opportunity that may never come.

    Now, is this a prescription for a just and stable social order? Why should the fact that “religion” wants a world like this, force a society to allow a world like this? Obviously, no self respecting society, and no society that values all of its members, will allow claims of religion to support a world like this.

  137. Miles,

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around why you are so dedicated to the proposition that polygamy would be such a winner and that many single men would be left stranded. You’ve stated that you are married and a father. I assume you are happily married, I am also and have been for 30 years. As happily married as I am and as much as my children have made my life complete, the thought of having another wife and more children simply has no appeal to me, even for the sake of sexual variety. I believe that most married men would feel the same, don’t you?

    There are presumably others who feel differently but they are a minority and always have been. Do you really feel that Sultan’s had hundreds of wives for sexual variety. They were statements of power to further tamp down their oppressed people and impress them with their sexual potency. Wives were also diplomatic currency.

    Now when you’re talking about today, in this country, I can positively assure you that the Corporate powers-that-be are not pushing polygamy as part of a plot to destabilize society, quite the contrary. They want the status quo maintained and enforced. I believe that you are of the left, but I think in your zeal for the underdog, you are looking at the wrong targets.

  138. “There is nothing in this amendment that includes the separation of church and state, there is nothing in this article that permits the US Congress to pass any law respecting any establishment of religion”.

    Grinunbarrett,

    I agree with you that the banning of plural marriage is unconstitutional. What troubles me is the inference that no law can be passed affecting the beliefs of a religion. Now you were clear in your wording and referencing of Jeffs that there are some “religious” beliefs that are actionable. Perhaps its my long years and my cynicism about the ability of people to find new angles to do mischief that I can’t accept fully as a prospect that “no” legislation can deal with the ingenuity of the con man or huckster.

    Nevertheless, as I’ve written over and over on this topic it is my deeply held opinion that plural marriages of any form, given adult consent and absence of coercion, should be legal under our Constitution. I don’t view this as a religious issue per se, even though i’m aware of its history in the Mormon
    belief. I feel it is a human rights issue in the sense that all citizens should have equal rights to live their lives without government dictating their sexuality.

    I noticed from your link that you are part of what appears to be an LDS supportive organization. I’m getting tired and I only viewed the site superficially so I apologize if i’m wrong. If I’m right, however, what do you think of the prohibition of gay marriage, which the LDS has invested money in to fight? Would you personally deny gay people the rights that you think people in plural marriages should have? If so what is your rationale? Please understand I am asking out of curiosity, rather than as a prelude to attack your beliefs whatever they are. This is especially true since we both agree on this particular issue.

  139. Mike, My parable of the Western town is intended to be an exaggeration, to illustrate the problem for people who have not considered it.

    To put it in more realistic terms, if just 20% of men take just 2 wives, they’ve just eliminated the marriage prospects of 20% of the other men in society. Surely you would acknowledge that 20% of men (and 40% of women) choosing polygamy is a possible outcome of legalized and socially approved polygamy? How about 10% of men and 20% of women? Even at that level, you are generating a huge male population that cannot marry or reproduce, even if it wanted to do so.

    The relationship between power and polygamy is an interesting one. I agree that at this stage in history, monogamy and “mainstream” values predominate in the business world as a matter of formal, outwardly expressed, ideology, but of course wealthy men already engage in serial monogamy, possibly to a greater extent than less wealthy men. If you look in historical Mormon culture and in other societies, wealth and wife taking are definitely related, and why not? It requires, historically, resources to support additional spouses, and one of the things that women have historically found attractive about men is their ability to be “providers”, resource gatherers. How could we not expect that capable men would concentrate both money and spouses?

    Of course corporate powers are not pushing polygamy. But there are deeper trends at work, all of which legitimize various forms of inequality. So for example, some people fight against progressive taxation. Others work to assure that wealth can be passed from generation to generation, by limiting the estate tax. Others work to weaken community and public colleges, preserving education as good for higher income families but not lower income families.

    And now, seemingly unrelated, but actually completely consistent with these efforts to increase the unequal distribution of “goods” (in the broadest sense) among men, some think that we should be indifferent to the concentration of women in the houses and families of some men. No one is sitting back and planning this, but it is part and parcel of the delegitimization of principles of equality in which I, as a progressive, believe in.

    It’s different people, but it points in the same direction.

    Will we return to a situation of sultans and potentates with harems? Probably not, although, once polygamy is legal, presumably we would have no argument against that arrangement should it be chosen by some men and women.

    Could I be with two wives? My wife of course would not allow it in our cultural context, but I don’t see any reason that I couldn’t have done it in another life and culture. I see plusses and minuses, in terms of responsibility, intimacy… many things. However, I prefer to live in a society that formally constrains me from contracting such a relationship, even if I desired it, for all the reasons of justice and social equity that I’ve described previously.

    I can imagine other things that I might like to do, even though I recognize that if I did them they would have negative consequences for others. As a result I vote for laws that constrains me from pursuing what is, in another sense, my preference.

  140. “As a result I vote for laws that constrains me from pursuing what is, in another sense, my preference.”

    Miles,

    I’m sorry to say this but I suspected this was the underlying motivation for your passionate views. Many people find it hard to restrain their own emotions and so want government, or their religion to do it for them. Life doesn’t work like that. We all must individually take responsibility for our thoughts and our actions.

    Because a large percentage of the people who were my co-workers for many years were women, there were more than a few who expressed attraction to me, knowing I was married. Infidelity would have been easy for me and many were interesting and attractive people. Was there temptation,
    yes, because “free” sex is always tempting to the younger man’s ego and drives. However, there was also self control and contemplation of the consequences. Not the least of these were my vows to my wife, but beyond the vows was my commitment to her as my best friend and lover. I’ve never been unfaithful to her in our relationship by word or deed. I have no regrets or yearnings of what could have been.

    I also learned in the years before my marriage that fantasy when acted on never, ever turned out like the picture in your mind. Adding to this were years of therapy that taught me to take responsibility for my life. If you need
    legal rules to control your behavior, then I would strongly suggest you need some sort of therapy, or counseling to learn how to control it on your own, without feelings of deprivation.

  141. Mike, Well then let me relieve you of your suspicions. Human beings create societies with rules to constrain ourselves and others from acting on our routine anti-social impulses.

    Traffic lights and policemen constrain me from rushing through an intersection as I might prefer to do, and they constrain others too. We could have a free for all, relying on everyone’s sense of self preservation, but in fact the whole intersection works better when we have alternating stops and starts in each direction, subject to certain rules, and subject to some enforcement, and yet also acted on by most participants even in the absence of external coercion, simply because people understand that the rules make sense for everyone who arrives at the intersection.

    Your denigration of law is typical of the rise of the Libertarian right, and the coming anarchy. Every aspect of human society, everything that makes life in society good and rich, is possible because we collectively as a society make rules that we all agree to be bound by.

    We don’t do this because we are particularly weak (as the right wing crazies and Ayn Randians put it), as you choose to portray me. We do this because we are ordinary humans with ordinary antisocial impulses, stemming from our ordinary human desire for personal advantage, survival, etc.

    Law works in two ways. Through enforcement it constrains the weaker among us from antisocial behavior. But, much more importantly, through internalization of its values it constrains the stronger among us. We write these rules upon our hearts, and they become a part of our hearts. As the poet says, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul,” Law isn’t something that belongs to the “government” – law is, or should be, in our hearts.

    You laud your own fidelity and say it is better than someone else’s because, although you were tempted, you chose “self control and contemplation of the consequences.” I think that’s no basis for civilization at all. I don’t want to live in a society where I have to rely on your, or my, self control or awareness of punishments or other consequences alone, good and effective as those things are. Today you or I may think monogamy is best, tomorrow you or I may reach a different conclusion. But society cannot be based on your passing preferences, or mine.

    Law serves the function of encoding and transmitting social wisdom and norms that are collectively agreed on and represent an optimal form of social order, based on a thorough analysis (we hope) of the kinds of social order that result from different laws.

    Your vision of why people should do the right thing is typical short sighted right wing libertarian thinking. Individual moral choices are worthless and blow away with the wind, in the absence of collective, community moral choices.

    I wouldn’t care so much about the individual choices people make if those choices only damaged the individuals involved, but of course, as I think I’ve amply shown above, individual choices (like polygamy) can hurt other people. Family formation is never a purely individual choice. It lays the groundwork for all of human society.

    That is why I care about it, not some imagined (on your part) inability to control myself. I don’t care about my choices or your choices because we’re just random people with our random preferences. I care about what we as a society choose, and that is the domain of law.

  142. “As a result I vote for laws that constrains me from pursuing what is, in another sense, my preference.”

    “Your denigration of law is typical of the rise of the Libertarian right”

    Miles,

    I was responding to your implication in your first quote above. The implication clearly stated that you would be interested in polygamy if the law was different. Indeed, you have stated time and again that you believe people would generally prefer polygamy if given the chance. Is that an incorrect restatement of your posts?

    You also imply that I don’t believe in the “rule of law”, which is hardly the case and which is backed up by years of my comments here. You “red light”
    analogy is absurd. One doesn’t go through red lights because the results are often horrendous. I obey the traffic laws not because they are laws, but because they make sense. I don’t harm others not because there are laws against it, but because I have a moral and ethical conscience inside, informed by my rearing, my religion, my reading, my education, my philosophy of life and my experience through the years.

    The “Law” isn’t our moral compass, it is our need to have a society not ruled by chaos and power. As such, by your standards, we should be able to enforce any law that enough people in power deem necessary to maintain their idea of stability in society. There are some leftists I’ve known who had similar beliefs, but in truth they were Maoists and Trotskyites. I’m not “red baiting” you I feel you’re not a communist, merely pointing out that to be on the Left, does not necessarily mean one believes in personal freedoms.

    As to your second quote I’ve been a supporter of the ACLU for fifty years, are they a right wing organization? Libertarians occasionally share similar beliefs to leftists, but generally believe in a societally untenable philosophy.
    The Libertarians aren’t even consistent in beliefs. Ron Paul, their current poster boy, is anti-choice. What I represent is classic liberal and progressive thought, though some conservatives would generally agree with the freedom I believe in. I inferred it in my last comment, but i will state it clearly now. I think you are projecting your own internal struggles onto the polygamy issue.

  143. Well, I generally support the ACLU, but not always. I’ll refrain from that whole discussion of what is “really” left or right, although it would be interesting.

    Law should be a reflection of majority preference, within boundaries defined by first principles (constitutional or other).

    Your attempt to psychologize my policy preferences is objectionable. People may disagree with you for reasons other than their personal preferences.

    Male interest in multiple sexual partners (and female interest too, but that’s a whole other discussion) should not be a debatable issue – it appears to be almost universal.

    Male ability to pursue those interests, and interest in pursuing those interests, of course varies. Male interest in sustaining the attendant costs will also vary. Being interested in multiple partners doesn’t mean that all men desire a “polygamous” marriage, and it doesn’t mean that they would act on every sexual opportunity, but we can readily observe that some men in societies that do not prohibit polygamous marriage contract such relationships. I don’t understand what about this fact set you find controversial.

    I do not consider myself any different in this regard than men in those other societies. I have a certain interest in multiple sexual partners, a certain interest in multiple wives, and a constraining set of deterrents to acting on those interests, including my own preferences to be faithful to my wife, my wife’s preference that I be faithful to her, etc. etc. No different from how you describe your own situation, except that I acknowledge that my ultimate behavioral choice has conflicting component parts. Each family and each person has its/his/her own little drama, one that is irrelevant to this discussion.

    My preferences for my own life don’t matter one little bit here. Your inability or unwillingness to think about social policy, your insistence on viewing this as a matter of personal preference, is, I must admit, rather frustrating.

    If I have any personal skin in this game, it is because I might easily have been one of those frozen out of marriage in a polygamous society, and because I don’t want my son (or any other man) to have to live in a society in which he is frozen out of marriage. My personal concern is no more to have or to stop myself from having more than one wife than it is to assure myself (were I 30 years younger) that I can have at least one wife. But, again, that’s not about my personal interest, but because I can imagine myself in both positions… the position of a man wanting to have one wife, and unable to find her, and the man wanting to have more than one wife, and getting what he wants. I am no more one of these men, than I am the other. I am both of them, and I seek a set of rules in which they can both live together in peace.

    “Indeed, you have stated time and again that you believe people would generally prefer polygamy if given the chance. Is that an incorrect restatement of your posts?” Somewhat incorrect. I have repeatedly stated that a significant number of people would choose polygamy if given the chance. Whether that would be 5% of men or 50% of men, I don’t know. I would look to existing polygamous societies and recent historical examples for evidence of what the rate would likely be, and derive further conclusions from the growing concentrations of wealth in our own society to imagine how bad it could get in America.

    ” I obey the traffic laws not because they are laws, but because they make sense.”

    When you pull up to a stop light at 3 in the morning, with no one around. Would go through the light because no one is there and there is no enforcement? Sometimes perhaps I would. But I haven’t always done so, and I believe that I haven’t done so because I actually believe in law, not just as a matter of reason, but as a matter of obligation, even when objectively speaking there is no reason at all to obey at 3 am. I don’t know what that has to do with this debate however. Laws against polygamy make sense. We should obey them for that reason, but on the off chance that some folks think they don’t apply, no harm in having some enforcement and some education.

    “by your standards, we should be able to enforce any law that enough people in power deem necessary to maintain their idea of stability in society.”

    So long as the people in power are in fact representatives of the People, and legitimate, and constrained by first principles, etc. etc., yes. That’s modern Western democracy, not some radical vision.

    I too am a conventional liberal/progressive. Polygamy is not consistent with any liberal or progressive philosophical stance. It is based on a too limited, too “individual liberty” focused, understanding of progressive political thought. Progressive political thought has always held a communal component, which includes the interests of the least powerful. Monogamy protects those interests, and polygamy tramples on them.

  144. I too am a conventional liberal/progressive. Polygamy is not consistent with any liberal or progressive philosophical stance. It is based on a too limited, too “individual liberty” focused, understanding of progressive political thought. Progressive political thought has always held a communal component, which includes the interests of the least powerful. Monogamy protects those interests, and polygamy tramples on them.

    Do you believe it to be acceptable for the state to step into the relationship of the Brown’s, and criminalize it, regardless of the desires & wants of the people in said unofficial plural marriage?

    The reason your statements completely freak me out is that I heard the EXACT same language, that if gay men and lesbian women were allowed to marry, there would be a permanent underclass of people being unable to “find someone” to marry because too many gays and lesbians would form relationships with each other rather than “doing their duty” to be part of an hetero relationship.

    The reason why a lot of people are revolted by your beliefs. It is a belief that the state must shape society by use of criminal law against things that are not a matter of abuse (underage, inability to consent). That is anathema.

    Every liberal and progressive I know (myself included) does not like the idea of the state telling someone what they can do in private consentual relationships.

    Too “individual liberty” focused? Disgusting, sir. Disgusting. You’re no liberal. True Liberals embrace individual liberty against government criminalization, but support economic justice, too. You cannot ban cohabitating plural marriage as a way to deal with low level economics.

  145. Calm down.

    “Do you believe it to be acceptable for the state to step into the relationship of the Brown’s, and criminalize it, regardless of the desires & wants of the people in said unofficial plural marriage?”

    Yes, just as the state may criminalize an incestuous marriage between a brother and a sister or an uncle and niece, even if the parties claim that they are consenting adults. The state may consider the genetic or health issues, or it may consider the social policy problems, or have other reasons.

    “The reason your statements completely freak me out is that I heard the EXACT same language, that if gay men and lesbian women were allowed to marry, there would be a permanent underclass of people being unable to “find someone” to marry because too many gays and lesbians would form relationships with each other rather than “doing their duty” to be part of an hetero relationship.”

    Huh? That doesn’t make sense. If gay men marry gay men and lesbian women marry lesbian women, then MORE people can get married. If polygamous men marry multiple women then FEWER people get married.

    “The reason why a lot of people are revolted by your beliefs. It is a belief that the state must shape society by use of criminal law against things that are not a matter of abuse (underage, inability to consent). That is anathema.”

    I don’t know anyone who is revolted by my beliefs. Last time I checked monogamy was a normative position in Western countries. If a few people object, well, let’s try to persuade them.

    “Every liberal and progressive I know (myself included) does not like the idea of the state telling someone what they can do in private consentual relationships.”

    Really? So the liberals you know have no problem with abusive parents retaining control over their children? The liberals you know have no problem with parents withholding medical treatment because of their religious beliefs? And of course incest is cool with them?

    I didn’t think so. Libertarians may think that personal relationships are private, but progressives believe in community and in the involvement of of the community in our lives.

    “Too “individual liberty” focused? Disgusting, sir. Disgusting. You’re no liberal. True Liberals embrace individual liberty against government criminalization, but support economic justice, too. You cannot ban cohabitating plural marriage as a way to deal with low level economics.”

    Too exclusively focused on individual liberty.

    Your disgust doesn’t impress me.

    The economics we are discussing here are the highest level of “economics.” We’re talking about reproductive economics, and whether our marriage rules will permanently shut a class of men out of reproductive opportunity and marriage.

    Monogamy solved that problem to a significant degree, a long time ago, and now Mr. Turley and others are trying to unwind it back to a situation that is designed to assure permanent social unrest.

    Read this, and then come up with some better arguments:
    http://www.vancouversun.co​m/pdf/affidavit.pdf

  146. Another aspect of the Polygamous unions to consider:

    Polygamous ‘marriages’ are actually one legal marriage plus a bunch of live-in extramarital affairs throw into the mix.

    Women live longer than men.

    When Daddy-O dies the extramarital women, usually with little to no education, get NOTHING, unless he wrote them into his will. And even so, only the legal wife has a RIGHT to a share of his estate…whatever share the particular state had decreed a wife is entitled to. (Even if he gave the legal wife less than that amount in the will, she can still claim her legal due. He has no right to give her less than her legal due.)

    So….lots of “spiritual wives’ get just that. Something floating around in the ether and nothing more. Nothing to support themselves with. No right to his social security. Nada. And who is going to inform these ladies of these financial facts of life before they move in with him? Him? They gonna consult a lawyer prior who will point these facts out to them so they can make an ~informed choice, not just a ~consentual one?

  147. This man is awesome. It would be wonderful to see polygyny de-criminalized. Afterall, gays can’t get arrested, why should polygynists? Men have been married more to more than one women since the beginning of time, and all major religions have made this permissable. Imposing monogamy on men is not conducive to biology. It is merely a modern social constraint.

  148. If he is not legally married to the other wives then whats the problem? Half the state will need to be in court for living with someone they are not married to.

  149. Things that do not harm others but are against the law:

    Having consitual sex with your sister.

    Sitting on a park bench drunk with an open container.

    Base jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Being naked in a bar.

    Riding on a motercycle without a helmet.

  150. I am at a loss for words!
    People WANT polygamist marriages? Um, with the world already being WAY overpopulated by monagamous marriages and relationships, what in the world is going on in the minds of people that think one man should impregnate as many women as he can and call it religion?

  151. Pardon my late entry, but the statute reads, plainly or otherwise, with a distinct inferrence that the polygymous families live apart or are otherwise not entertwined with the exception of the offender:
    76-7-101. Bigamy — Defense.
    (1) 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.
    (2) Bigamy is a felony of the third degree.
    (3) It shall be a defense to bigamy that the accused reasonably believed he and the other person were legally eligible to remarry.

    Or is this just the inferrence for the defense of polygymy?

  152. I am no longer certain where you are getting your information, but great topic. I must spend some time studying more or working out more. Thanks for wonderful information I used to be on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  153. Why is the state even in the business marriage, anyway? It has no business deciding matters of the heart. The only reasons marriage is a government function is because of income tax (which was not a legally-passed Constitutional amendment) and because health care is tied to our employer. Eliminate the income tax and have a sales tax and make all health insurance individual, as it is in Switzerland, and Americans can return to respecting each other, as the Founding Fathers intended.

  154. It seems to me that it would be just as unequal to legalize polygyny but not polyandry, the only way to do this fairly would be to legalize all forms of plural marriage between consenting adults, and I think it would also be reasonable to set a much higher minimum age for plural marriage, say 21. (or even higher, if possible say 26.) Even have a waiting period – not allow people to decide one day, get married the next.

    So that people would take the commitment as seriously as possible.

    Of course, there must be a way to write these laws to distinguish groups by the same methods that most of us use when making judgment calls on this kind of thing, and not legalize anything that could be coercive, a way should be found to do that.

    I do not think the cult-like groups (who appear to be quite different than the Browns) should be legalized. The prosecutors could distinguish between these two distinct kinds of multiple marriage, which seem as different as night and day to me.

    Abusive and controlling plural marriages are cults, like, for example, the Manson “Family” and, (in stark contrast to the courageous Browns) they should not be legal.

  155. Dear Mr. Jonathan Turley,

    I know it’s been a while since you filed with the 10th District Court on the Browns’ complaint but it’s been 2 years since the filing. I wanted to know: what is the current status of the case?

    What did the federal judge say on his motion regarding the Browns? Will polygamy finally be legalized? I am anxious to find out the answer because either the media or underground sources aren’t linking the current updates or I’m just left in the dark without knowing whether it is legal to or not.

    I am a Christian who believes in polygyny, more specifically; though I do not have a wife or more than one wife, I am determined to have more than one despite its criminality within the American laws set forth.

    Let me know! By the way, tell the Browns though I may not agree with their faith, I do agree that polygamy on their part is not “a cult” at all. It’s a blessing to see Kody Brown have four wives and still love them all. I hope they all get through the most difficult times and see polygamy decriminalized!

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