Polygamy activists have spoken of their hopes that the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings on gay marriage could lead to a breakthrough for their cause too.
The top court in the U.S. yesterday ruled that the federal government must recognise same-sex marriages, and allowed judges to overrule a ban on gay marriage in California.
And some polygamists predict that the decisions will ‘blaze the marriage equality trail’, saying that ‘the nuclear family is not the majority any more’.
During the ongoing debate over gay marriage in the past few years, the topic of polygamy has often been raised by critics who claim that extending marriage to homosexuals will eventually result in marriages involving multiple people.
Decision: The Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage could have an impact on campaigners for polygamy
After yesterday’s rulings, conservative talk-show host Bryan Fischer said: ‘The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable. Matter of time.’
Ken Klukowski, from the Family Research Council, also predicted that the Supreme Court decisions would open the door for polygamous marriage, pointing out that activists in Utah had already launched a challenge to the ban on multi-partner marriages.
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However, now it is not only opponents of polygamy who have raised the possibility of its legalisation, but supporters too.
‘I was very glad,’ polygamist Anne Wilde told Buzzfeed in the aftermath of the rulings. ‘The nuclear family, with a dad and a mom and two or three kids, is not the majority anymore.’
She added that many people in polygamous relationships were not in fact seeking the right to marry, but wanted to ensure that they were safe from prosecution.
Victory: Conservatives have long predicted that polygamous marriage will follow in the wake of same-sex marriage
Joe Darger, a man from Utah who has three wives, said the court ‘has taken a step in correcting some inequality, and that’s certainly something that’s going to trickle down and impact us’.
Anita Wagner Illig, a leading polygamy activist as head of the group Practical Polyamory, told U.S. News & World Report that gay-rights campaigners had set a welcome precedent.
‘We polyamorists are grateful to our brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail,’ she said.
‘I would absolutely want to seek multi-partner marriage – it would eliminate a common challenge polyamorists face when two [people] are legally married and others in their group relationships aren’t part of that marriage.’
However, she also admitted that a marriage involving more than two people would involve creating unprecedented legal provisions in a way that marriage between two people of the same sex does not.
Polygamy has become more prominent in popular culture recently thanks to the likes of TLC reality show Sister Wives, which features the Brown family in which one husband is married to four wives.
Their lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said of polygamists: ‘They’re very modern. The women believe in divorce. They live in cities. They have jobs. But they are treated as felons.’
The Browns, who are fundamentalist Mormons, are currently suing Utah’s state government in an attempt to overturn the law against bigamy.