Is Big Love-style polygyny actually illegal?

Bill’s three wives were all adults when he married them, Nikki & Margie don’t publically claim to be married to him, he never got three marriage licences, and there’s isn’t any abuse or welfare fraud going on. Most prosecutions of polygynists seem to focus on those issues. Legally speaking isn’t Bill just cheating on his wife and supporting his mistresses? Is adultery illegal in Utah? If so is the law actually enforced? Are laws making it illegal for unmarried people to have sex still enforcable after Lawrence vs Texas?

As I understand it, most prosecutions of polygamists focus on the things you mention because those are easier to prove.

A famous Dutch painter, Anton Heijboer lived with several girlfriends (he wasn’t married to any of them) at the same time from 1960 untill his death in 1990 or so. He was known in the Netherlands as " the painter with the four wives". All women were adults and the whole arrangement was voluntarily on all sides, and as far as I know the police never interfered.

Even assuming it is, could the state pursue the case if nobody was willing to file charges?

I’m thinking that the Dutch laws and/or law enforcement policies on the topic are probably somewhat more relaxed than those of the United States, right?

Well, the UCMJ outlaws adultery. For those military members stationed in Utah, then it’s illegal for them to commit adultery.

Not really. Bigamy laws exist to protect unsuspecting spouses, so a real bigamy case where anyone was harmed would be seriously prosecuted. However, in the Netherlands marriage is optional, not " the logical next step" and many people live together and have kids ouside of marriage. In those cases, no bigamy in the legal sense is going on.

The following is a bit off-topic, with apologies to the OP. I’ve noticed differences between the USA and the Netherlands in matters of marriage, fidelity, divorce etc.
Deceiving your parner, legally or sexually, is morally condemned here as anywhere else, although I feel perhaps not with the same moral outrage as in the US. It is regarded as problematic, rather then evil. My own personal pet-theory on that difference is that marriage in the US means a social-economical union with financial interdependence. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, people who divorce will never hit rock-bottom, financially, due to the good social security. So there’s just less at stake and that makes the attitudes a bit more relaxed.

That makes sense, but when I said that perhaps Dutch laws and/or enforcement policies were more relaxed than those in the US, I meant with regard to the kind of polygamy spoken of in the OP, where nobody is being deceived. My impression is that in the Netherlands, and probably some other non-US countries, there seems to be more of an attitude that if it isn’t hurting anybody, why bother prosecuting?

As regards the OP, I believe that in Utah, at least, they dealt with the issue of Big Love-style polygamy by passing laws that allow them to prosecute anybody having sex with more than one partner and living with them in a marital-type situation. I forget all the details, but I’ll look for a cite.

The 7th Marquess of Bath, Alexander George Thynn, has had ‘wifelets’ for many years now. He is married to French actress Anna Gael, but keeps a number of wifelets on his estate to each of whom he has given a cottage.

They all seems happy enough, and there’s only one marriage certificate, so no laws are being broken.

There is nothing illegal going on with the situation in Big Love.

As stated in other posts, what’s going on at Juniper Creek is illegal because it involved underage girls. There would also be legal action if, as happens in real life with may of these guys, the unofficial wives claimed welfare benefits to which they were not entitled.

The major issue in Big Love is the public scandal that will occur once the word gets out.


They probably could (there’s no statutory complaining spouse rule that I can find, anyway), but would the state file charges? Chief Justice Durham says no:

State v. Holm, 2006 UT 31; 2006 Utah LEXIS 91 (2006) (Durham, C.J., dissent)

Not much.

Tom Green was convicted of polygamy (bigamy, actually). I couldn’t find an article that described how the conviction was possible-- did he actully claim to be legally married to all his wives? (For anyone who watches Big Love, the picture in that article should look very familiar.)

He wouldn’t have to:

Cohabitation is enough in Utah, apparently.

Interesting case, State v. Green 2004 UT 76 (Utah 2004).

I thought so. I had heard, but couldn’t confirm, that there were places where you can be convicted of living a “polygamist lifestyle” even if you aren’t technically a polygamist. Would the decision in *Lawrence *make that unconstitutional, or would that decision make a likely challenge to the Utah statute successful?

Difficult to say:

I think that’s incorrect, although perhaps Bill’s setting up separate households is an attempt to get around the definition of “cohabit.” Just what does that mean, anyway? I don’t have time to look it up right now, as I’m already late for school and shouldn’t even be typing this.

I’ve always been puzzled by the whole issue of welfare fraud – if they’re not legally married to the “husband,” how is it fraud? Is it just that they claim they don’t know who the father is and they don’t know where to find him, because if they said that their “husband” was the father of their children, the state would make him pay child support and pay back the welfare benefits?

If that were the only issue, I don’t think they’d be so frightened of the state trooper father of the daughter’s friend.

Good point, although they may be concerned because the guy might have special training on how to spot polygamists-- not that you’d need any special training to see what’s going on in Bill’s household(s). As Barb said, Nickie might just as well carry a sign around saying “I am a polygmaist”, and with all the comings and goings of the kooks from “The Compound”, you’d have to be an idiot not to see what’s going on.

Oh. That Tom Green.