polygamy in utah and "private conduct"

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Polygamous Judge to Fight for Job in Court (Salon.com/AP Wire, Nov. 2, 2005)

As problematic as I find Morman polygyny to be, this article's interesting for a couple of reasons. The judge's lawyer apparently defended his polygamous practices by pointing out that "[t]here is no allegation that it's affecting his performance on the bench. It really is truly only about his private conduct." Hm, private conduct? Like, between two men and two women, in the privacy of their own homes? Or what about Bill Clinton's right to engage in a little extramarital lascivousness (admittedly, the White House wasn't the the most private place to do that)? Or is the right to "private conduct" limited to conservative Christian men who simply want a few more women in the household (all of whom, in this case, were sisters).

Secondly, I find this concerning for polyamorous families with multipartner households. The judge didn't attempt to legally marry his second and third wives -- instead, he did so through a church ceremony of "sealing." In states where bigamy is illegal, could this logic equally apply to plural households where two partners were legally married, and additional partners were added through some kind of religious ceremony, like a handfasting? While I may have my concerns about how polygyny is practiced in the Mormon tradition (given the gender dynamics), I'm still pretty committed to the rights of consenting adults to define their own domestic arrangements.

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2 Comments

I'd be concerned about issues of consent- the Mormons who still practice polygamy haven't really shown themselves to be terribly interested in the consent of the wives.

according to France's unemployment minister, polygamy is one of the culprits in the recent riots as "overly large polygamous families sometimes lead to anti-social behaviour among youths who lacked a father figure".

my guess would be that poverty has more to do with their recent problems than polygamy.

and i'd even to be inclined to say that youths who belong to polygamous families probably have more of a support network than the latch-key youths of an overworked nuclear family.

it's amazing how predictably, during a time of national crisis, leaders draw ridiculous causalities by playing right to the prejudices of the populace.

What do you think?

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