Those of you who've always been curious to see what it's like to be a sister-wife, now is your big chance. A federal circuit court ruling has made polygamy in Utah practically legal! Okay, you still CANNOT get more than one marriage license. That's still illegal. This ruling just makes it a whole lot easier for families to practice polygamy. But before you decide this heralds the End of Civilization as We Know It, let's talk about why this may actually be great news.
First of all, the basics: What federal district judge Clark Waddoups did was strike down Utah's anti-polygamy law as unconstitutional. The law made it illegal to cohabitate with more than one woman. Most families who practice polygamy will perform religious marriages that aren't legally binding. Then the new wife will move in with her husband's family. So Utah's law against cohabitating with more than one woman was a way of closing up this loophole. So:
LEGAL: Having a "spiritual" marriage to more than one person.
ILLEGAL: Obtaining a marriage license to marry more than one person.
Now, why is this a potentially good thing? First of all, polygamy has gotten a lot of press over child abuse and statutory rape scandals. I think -- and this is just my opinion -- that the more open people are about living in polygamist families, the easier it will be to spot abuse cases. (Not a miracle solution, but a positive step forward.) Despite the widely publicized cases, abuse is apparently not actually rampant in polygamist families, by the way.
Secondly, I don't think polygamy is necessarily that terrible. Call me crazy, but if it's what floats your boat I have no problem with it. It's definitely NOT for me. But there are some advantages to the practice. At its best, polygamist families are about mothers providing each other with extra support, whether it's in housekeeping or childcare. My only concerns are that girls get married off too young, and that some women may not feel like they have a choice in the matter if this is how they're raised. Also, what do you do with the extra young men? I don't see how the math works out for polygamy. But like I said, if it works for you, who am I to tell you it's wrong?
So there you go -- polygamy is kinda-sorta legal in Utah now. We've come a long way from the days when Mormons fled to Mexico in order to keep practicing (Mitt Romney's ancestors). Utah's biggest open secret is less of a secret, now.
How do you feel about polygamy being semi-legal?
Image via Nathan Bittinger/Flickr