US family cites gay ruling to challenge bigamy law
Mon, 25 Jul 2011
A polygamous family has filed a lawsuit challenging an American state’s criminalisation of bigamy, citing a leading homosexual ruling from the Supreme Court.
One commentator responded to the news by describing the lawsuit as “a political gift” to groups in favour of retaining the traditional definition of marriage.
Traditional marriage supporters have warned that attempts to redefine marriage to allow same-sex unions would result in calls to legalise polygamy.
Now Kody Brown and his four ‘wives’ have filed a federal challenge against a law which criminalises bigamy in the American state of Utah.
The Browns’ lawyer claims the case is about privacy – following the principles of cases, like the 2003 Supreme Court case when judges ruled that homosexual acts in private were protected by the US constitution.
Mr Brown is only legally married to one of his ‘wives’. But like most polygamists in Utah he ‘married’ the other three women in religious ceremonies with the couples considering themselves to be “spiritually married”.
According to Utah’s bigamy statute: “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”
Bigamy is a criminal offence in Utah and can be punished with a jail term of up to five years.
Attorney Jonathan Turley, who represents the Browns, claims: “What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs”.
But Utah Attorney General spokesman Paul Murphy has confirmed that the state will be defending the law.
Earlier this year Britain’s Equalities Office revealed that it would “formally look” at redefining marriage so that homosexual couples can get the same certificate as married people.
But Neil Addison, a prominent barrister, warned that any attempt to redefine marriage could have unintended consequences for society.
Commenting on the issue in March he said: “Today in British Columbia, a fundamentalist Mormon polygamist is defending himself on bigamy charges by arguing that the bigamy law is discriminatory.
“It is quite possible that he will win, in which case Canada will have legalised same-sex marriage and polygamy.
“David Cameron has said that he regards marriage as fundamental to society but he and the Government need to recognise once they open the Pandora’s box of trying to redefine marriage they will end up destroying it.”