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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. “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.

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. 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.

  10. “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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. “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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. “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.

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