Court strikes down polygamy cohab law

…and rightwingers freak out, saying they knew it would happen after sodomy and gay marriage were legalized.

To which I say, yeah, and that’s good. Marriage equality means marriage equality.

(Actually, the decision is only about the right of polygamous groups to live together, not marry, but one thing at a time).

So what say you? Is there a logical argument for gay marriage as a right that can also exclude polygamous marriage? On the other hand, is this just the next step in legalizing human-dog marriage like the rightwingers are freaking out about?

Utah is unique in having a law that bans living “the polygamous lifestyle”. That is, even if you’re not trying to be legally married to more than one person, you can’t live as if you are. It does not surprise me that this was struck down, but really doesn’t have anything to do with actual polygamy-- the state sanctioned union of more than two people.

This law banned “pretend polygamy”, and it should have been struck down.

So, it seems pretty clear to me that same-sex marriage is a constitutional or human right based on love and commitment, then it has to extend to polygamous marriages. (If it’s a legislative policy choice, then maybe not).

But this case is really about a law that criminalizes certain forms of adultery based on the (often religious) viewpoint the motivates it. That strikes me as problematic, even without Lawrence. But it seems largely unsupportable after it.

But it also has nothing to do with the government recognition of either same-sex or polygamous marriages.

Pretty much the situation/explanation that I heard on CNN Radio this morning. I don’t see it as a precedent for anything concerning gay rights.

The argument for gay marriage that excludes polygamous marriage is the crayon argument.

Give me a crayon and a copy of the marriage statutes, and by going through, crossing out the words

and replacing them with

we’re done. Same-sex marriage is instituted. There’s no reason why a mutual relationship between two people of the same sex needs to be treated differently from a mutual relationship between two people of different sexes.

Polygamy comes in many different forms, and a contractual relationship among three people necessarily carries complications different from those inherent to a relationship between two people (when Lisa leaves the relationship between her, Bob, and Suzanne, if the kids are biologically Bob’s and Lisa’s, does Suzanne get visitation rights, and is Suzanne liable for child support? If Bob dies, and Lisa and Suzanne are heterosexual, is the relationship dissolved? If Bob is in a coma, and Lisa wants the plug pulled and Suzanne doesn’t, who decides? Are Bob and Lisa both eligible for coverage under Suzanne’s generous health plan, given its spousal coverage? What happens if Lisa also wants to marry Eric, but Bob and Suzanne don’t? Is it possible for Lisa to be married to Eric, Suzanne, and Bob, and for Bob to be married to Lisa and Suzanne but not Eric? etc.)

That’s not to say that polygamy should stay against the law forever. But it’s tremendously complicated compared to SSM, and it may be that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for polygamist folk. There may need to be some sort of cafeteria plan.

Does anyone have a link to the actual text that was struck down? Given that they aren’t talking about marriage licenses, how do they legally define the difference between polygamous cohabitators and roommates with benefits?

Eh. Polygamy has been the norm through most of human existence. This is not rocket science, and rights are not determined by what a you can do with a crayon.

WAG, but even for common law marriages, you aren’t married until you hold yourselves to be married. In other words, you could live with the same person for 50 years, have a dozen kids, and have a bunch of shared property, but you aren’t married until and unless you hold yourself to be married.

It looks like in many of these cases, there’s one “official” spouse, and though there are probably multiple wives in reality, there’s no proof of additional marriages that a prosecutor could act on. If they bragged about it in public, in full view of multiple witnesses, that’d be a different matter.

Not much to it:

You’re not wrong; there would have to be some development. But, broadly speaking, I am not aware of many (if any) polygamous societies that practice group marriage. The type of polygamy typically at issue is the discrimination in the issuance of a marriage license based on the current martial status of one of the applicants (i.e., my ability to marry more than one person at the same time). Your “crayon” approach would solve it by just eliminating prohibition on marrying for those currently married to a spouse still living. It’s actually easier than changing “man and woman” to “spousal applicants.”

John Mace has provided the statute. But to answer your question specifically, my understanding is that the state interpreted the “cohabit” element to include “holding yourself out as married” (as opposed to either roommates or even other committed sexual relationships while married).

From a legal standpoint, it is considerably simpler when the husband has all the rights and the wives have none, isn’t it?

I believe you are right based on a source I dug up years ago for another thread on this subject. I was actually surprised not to see mention of “polygamous lifestyle” in the statute, because that’s what I remember it being about.

It may just be as a matter of prosecutorial discretion. But a literal reading of the statute would, obviously, criminalize shacking up with someone while still married. But it’s very clear that it’s not used that way. It’s used (to the extent that it’s ever used) against “polygamous lifestyle” arrangements, and specifically is phrased that way to be able to reach those who not to claim to be legally (or “civily”) married, but represent themselves as religiously married.

Although, as I read it, it would not be a crime if you didn’t have a civil marriage wtih any of your wives.

This. Sure polygamy has been the historical norm - but not in a form that would be either politically acceptable or just. So, if we aren’t going to make it like that, what form should modern polygamy to take?

That is a lot more complicated question than in same sex marriage where the answer is “what straights have”. Two person marriage has already been though the process of reform, unlike polygamy; same sex couples aren’t after all asking for old-style marriage where one member of the couple basically owned the other.

Nor was monogamous marriage law, until recently.

It’s no different from corporate law-- many people come together for a common purpose.

Surely no one can be denied their civil rights merely because giving them their civil rights would be complicated.

:dubious: Which is what I said?

That’s easy to say, but what are the specifics? Left Hand of Dorkness already mentioned some of the questions that need to be answered.

The first time I encountered this idea was in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. This may be of some assistance:

The problem with that is the marriage law is all about not having a cafeteria plan but a set of defaults.

Indeed, and it took many decades for us to figure out how to change monogamous law to make it just.

Right, because when you want a corporation, you just go down and file for a corporate license, and presto changeo, everything is automatically set up for you in a one-size-fits-all arrangement, right? Setting up a corporation doesn’t require a custom contract for that purpose any more than a monogamous marriage does, right?

The comparison to corporate law is apt: polygamous marriages are complicated.

Uh, did you read what I wrote? Perhaps you’ve forgotten:

To clarify: polygamous marriage should be legal. But it’s going to take awhile to figure out how to make it work, and it won’t take awhile to figure out how to make SSM work Falchion’s remarkable claim that it’d be easier than SSM notwithstanding–seriously, Falchion, care to explain how current case law would answer the three hardest of the hypotheticals in my previous post?). It’d be unjust to delay SSM until we get a handle on MM.