You knew it was coming. A judge in Utah has ruled that the state’s ban on polygamy — dictated by the federal government in the 1860s — infringes on the free exercise of religion, as well as upon sexual privacy.
The suit came from a guy by the name of Kody Brown, who is the star of a reality TV show “Sister Wives.” I’ve never seen it. I prefer my reality shows to feature some toothless guy getting a raccoon out of an abandoned car in the backwoods of Tennessee or a cadre of second-hand store folk bidding on unopened storage lockers.
Anyway, this dude Kody Brown is a member of a throwback Mormon sect that encourages polygamy.
He’s got several “wives” and the state of Utah won’t give him the correct number of marriage certificates. So he sued.
You can find an excellent rundown on the thought process of this ruling from Steve Chapman here.
Good Monday morning reading. It concludes this way:
“In 1860, approving a law to ban plural marriage in U.S. territories, a House committee labeled Mormonism an ‘odious and execrable heresy.’ The Supreme Court later pronounced polygamy ‘contrary to the spirit of Christianity.’ They evaded the issue of religious liberty by invoking their own — supposedly superior — religious convictions.
“The policy certainly can’t be justified as a neutral attempt to uphold the interests of women and children.
” ‘Encouraging adulterous cohabitation over religious cohabitation that resembles marriage in all but State recognition,’ concluded the judge, ‘seems counterproductive to the goal of strengthening or protecting the institution of marriage.’
“There may be crimes that in practice are sometimes associated with polygamy, but the way to address those is by prosecuting the crimes — as is the custom with non-polygamists. In any case, the judge noted, ‘there has been no allegation of child or spousal abuse by members of the Brown family.’
“Sexual freedom does not always produce results that are universally admired. But if we can tolerate Hugh Hefner’s proclivities, we can tolerate Kody Brown’s.”
PS: Stay tuned for the reality show that features a man in a plural marriage with four other men. I can see it now. They have a business that involves buying only the best storage lockers for their retro boutique San Francisco store. Watch out, “Duck Dynasty.”