Report: "More wives, fewer penalties? Utah debates partial decriminalization of polygamy."

Utah Senate Bill 102 would treat polygamy among consenting adults as an infraction penalized less severely than many traffic offenses.

“Catholic teaching does not recognize polygamy as a valid relationship,” Hill, an official of the Catholic diocese, said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism teaches that “conjugal love between husband and wife is part of God’s plan for humanity.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, is the predominant religion in Utah. Its leaders supported the practice of polygamy in the 19th century, but ordered an end to plural marriages in the late 1800s, under heavy pressure from the federal government.

Some breakaway groups still continue the practice of plural marriage. An estimated 30,000 people live in polygamous communities in the state.

A lot of the apostles have been sealed to multiple women, so while they don’t practice polygamy in this life, they quietly sanction it in the next life.


I’m surprised our society still objects to polygamy. If same-sex marriages, gender fluidity, no-fault divorce and remarriage, and sex out of wedlock, are all cool, why not this? What’s the rationale? Is it just that corporations don’t want to have to cover more than one spouse at a time as part of their employee benefit plans?


Obergefell pretty much destroyed any legal argument against the right of the government to impose restrictions on the definition of marriage. Plural marriage will be legal within a few Presidential electoral cycles. I am thinking 3 at most.


I’ve wondered this myself. The only thing that makes sense, is that if a man is “married” to several women, somehow this oppresses them. Or you could turn it on its head and say that if a woman has several husbands, she is oppressed as well. Modern secular society is so determined that no social group (other than white, straight, conservative Christian males) will ever be “oppressed”, that it’s easy to find it when you’re looking for it.

Please note, and understand, that I am not defending or advocating the “oppression” of anyone.

I don’t know about you but if this kind of stuff becomes legal nationwide, I won’t marry. I’m sick of this crap.

Mostly because the legal/government concept of marriage is built around an exclusive contract between two people. You can change it, and I agree with other posters that it will change, but it’ll basically mean throwing out a lot of case law. It’ll be a painful change especially for the first who go down that path.

That would be your choice and your choice alone.

I hate to discuss the rituals or traditions of other religious groups, but I believe in the idea of two people uniting together as one in matrimony.
That God for the Catholic Church, the one True Church!

Polygamy is really difficult legally because our laws, which include the laws of inheritance and benefits, are not set up for multiple spouses. This was one legal argument in favor of gay marriage, because having to create a whole separate body of law of partnerships would have been a big hassle and it was easier to just let same-sex couples use the existing laws for marriage.

Having said that, it might be okay if this is really only about decriminalization of polygamy between people over 18. Decriminalization simply means we won’t spend money on prosecuting people or throwing them in jail. If you have a law that’s already not being enforced, then it’s de facto decriminalized. I doubt the law is being enforced - as someone else said, people are likely engaging in multiple religious, non-legal “marriages”. I think Utah was probably also concerned because of the folks who moved to Mexico to continue plural marriage and some of their wives and kids just ended up shot by the drug lords down there. These people might like to come home and be free to continue whatever they are doing in a safer country.

The problem is that once you decriminalize these practices, then polys might want to get their plural marriages recognized under the law. Setting aside Catholicism and morals, this would create a lot of legal hassles for the reason I said above (our legal system isn’t set up to handle multiple spouses) and also would cause problems for other states who didn’t want to recognize plural marriage, which I’m guessing would be most of them because even most non-Christians and non-believers don’t like the idea of someone being married to multiple spouses. States generally have to recognize marriages performed by other states, which causes a problem every time one or more states decide to expand the definition of marriage. I also don’t think Utah wants to be known as the place where polys flock in order to marry multiple people.

Finally, there has historically been a concern that allowing poly marriages results in older, wealthy, powerful men taking all the young and pretty women, leaving some men (usually younger and lacking in power or economic clout) without wives and perhaps also resulting in unhealthy marital dynamics. Poly marriage tends to carry a bad association with cult leaders and people living on the fringes. Utah doesn’t really like that image.

For all these reasons, if this bill passes it will probably be pretty weak and will leave poly marriage as some kind of legal offense so there’s no question of the state having to recognize these marriages. And the bill might not pass at all.


It might be officially decriminalized, like I said, I doubt it is going to be legalized because of the huge economic burdens. Money talks. A lot of corporations were against gay marriage, not because they cared so much about Christian morals, but to save on having to pay benefits to a whole new class of spouses.

Plus if a person wants to live in a sexual relationship with three other people and have his/her minister say they’re all married, s/he can do that right now all day long anywhere and unless one of the people is underage or otherwise vulnerable, the law will likely do nothing. So it’s already de facto decriminalized.
The law is not going to recognize it though.

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Was a time when marriage was thought to be around the natural union of man+woman. Truly, if it can evolve to accommodate man+man, then why not man+woman+woman? The majority no longer see man+woman as the unique mix of parties. I cannot see that 2 needs to be seen as the unique number of parties.

Correct. And at some point someone will do the work to argue for that.

Please, re read @Tis_Bearself again. From a legal perspective marriage is a legal contract between two people. The biggest reason that gay marriage became legal rather than a legal partnership…which many Christians would had preferred if they had a choice between the two options, is because so many laws already exist around marriage and for a partnership to have become law would have required writing up partnership laws to match marriage laws. It was much easier to just have gays be married rather than partnered. The laws were already in place.

I realize it’s very difficult for Christians to mentally separate legal marriage from religious marriage. To you, it’s one and the same but it isn’t the same for secular law. It would be much easier if we were like France that separates civil marriage from religious marriage. They are two separate ceremonies there. Maybe the religious wouldn’t feel as threatened if we operated the same? Or, maybe not? At least you would be able to openly say that the gay men were not married in the presence of God or religiously married.


I’m sure this will be seen to discriminate against those for whom polygamy is the natural form of marriage.

What has religion to do with this point in the discussion. I asked why “2 parties” is pivotal to marriage but sexual complementarity is not. You’ve mentioned legal inconvenience.

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Gosh, I’m not a lawyer! One thing I heard and don’t know if it’s true or not but two people legally contracted is a marriage but three or more is a corporation! If that’s true it probably brings up all kinds of new legal issues!

I haven’t read the article yet. Is it only discussing marriage of one man with multiple wives or does it include one woman with multiple husbands. I have a feeling the LDS would have a problem with THAT!

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Those guys must be hardcore.

One of their wives will always be on her time of the month, lots of mother-in-laws, a gang of women instead of one telling him off for snoring, working a ton of overtime to buy gifts for them and whichever wife sits in the front seat of the car the others will impale him for favouritism. Ironically he will still have the same lack of sex?

Don’t get upset it’s just a fun reply based on my life if I had multiple wives. :slight_smile:

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Mormon men can be sealed to as many women as they want. I don’t know of any instances where a woman can be sealed to more than two men.


The bill is actually dealing with a bigamy statute, which would apply equally in both cases. I think pretty much all states criminalize bigamy.

However, the special issue in Utah is that unlike other states, they do have about 30,000 people practicing polygamy who are apparently afraid of getting busted for a felony over it.

I’m a little confused how the laws work in Utah. Even if this new law passed, polygamy would still be an infraction of the law albeit a minor one; if it’s an infraction of the law then the state isn’t going to be issuing multiple marriage licenses or letting somebody list two spouses on his tax returns. And in other states, unless you have multiple marriage licenses or are trying to claim multiple spouses on your taxes, I doubt they’re going to prosecute you for moving in with a bunch of consenting adults and having whatever non-civil ritual you want to make you “married”.

Presumably these polygamists are standing up without a license in front of some non-civil clergy person or witnesses and calling themselves “married” to multiple people. That must be enough to trigger legal enforcement in Utah for them to get so antsy about this bill.

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Polygamy vs bigamy…yeah, that’s gonna be interesting.

Sister Wives was meant to make polygamy acceptable. We will probably try it.

Television is re-writing social norms. Fantasy is prologue to reality. What happens when it turns out that nobody actually lives Leave It to Beaver now, either? Too late, by then.

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