Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Legal Status of Polygamy

The Washington Post reports on efforts by polgyamists to change society's view of them, in order to increase acceptance:

Valerie and others among the estimated 40,000 men, women and children in polygamous communities are part of a new movement to decriminalize bigamy. Consciously taking tactics from the gay-rights movement, polygamists have reframed their struggle, choosing in interviews to de-emphasize their religious beliefs and focus on their desire to live "in freedom," according to Anne Wilde, director of community relations for Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy group based in Salt Lake.

I think this is the best strategy for them. I don't think it will have the same result, though. Polygamists are a much smaller minority than gays. Most people nowadays know someone who is gay, and this has lessened the prejudiced view of gays. But there are very few polygamists, and they tend to be isolated in certain areas. Without exposure to polygamists, I think people will continue to hold negative views about them.

It will be interesting to see if any polygamists decide to appeal to the courts for help, as did gay people with some success (albeit with a large backlash). If they do, courts which looked favorably on gay marriage and/or civil unions will have to do some nimble reasoning to avoid applying the same principles to polygamy.

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