The accidental bigamist?

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8 Responses

  1. Anon says:

    Do you have to have even one spouse? Aren’t you in violation of the provision if you are unmarried and knowingly cohabitating with a married person?

  2. Matt says:

    It’s pretty well established, isn’t it, that polygamy in fact continued in a much more secret way among the leaders of the Morman church for at least a few more years. Not that they secretly continue it now or anyting like that, but that they didn’t just all give it up right with the official declaration. I’m certainly not some scholar of this subject but that was always my understanding.

  3. Kaimi says:

    Oooh – good catch, anon.

  4. Kaimi says:


    Yes. The 1890 declaration was not strictly enforced for 14 years. This led to a threat from the Senate not to seat Utah’s senator. Around that same time (and possibly in response to that threat) the church issued another official statement, along the lines of “we really mean it, no polygamy.” A few leaders who openly ignored _that_ statement were then excommunicated.

    One added wrinkle — some church members outside the United States continued to practice plural marriage for a few decades more, until further action by church leaders in the 1920s and 1930s clarified that even non-U.S. church members were prohibited from practicing plural marriage.

  5. Sarah says:

    I love irony.

    Kaimi, what if the spouses are married but separated? I was under the impression that in such a state neither spouse could do anything classified as “adultery,” but mostly because of the “if you start sleeping with your wife again, you’re no longer separated” thing and not because I’ve taken a family law course.

    Anyway, it seems like being “legally separated” from one’s spouse would fix the problem. And, really, so would just not formally marrying anyone… I guess that’s why they waited till they could prove the stuff with underage girls before arresting Jeffs?

  6. Shocked Catholic says:

    This sounds terrible.

    It seems that the mere performing of a religious ceremony is what turns the cohabitation into “purporting to,” because you haven’t “purported to” live as a married couple until you go through the religious ceremony that signals marital commitment to your community. This doesn’t seem to be a generally applicable law at all — it is targeted to suppress religious practice in the absence of conduct that is otherwise illegal (e.g., the girls are above the age of consent, they are cohabiting consensually, Jeffs did not seek out multiple marriage licenses from the state, etc.)

    Why isn’t specifically targeting religious minorities an Equal Protection enforcement problem? You’re telling me an Equal Protection enforcement claim would fail?

  7. Nate Oman says:

    It is worth pointing out that Jeff’s is not wanted for bigamy. Rather, he is wanted as an accomplice to a rape charge. He presided over the marriage of another polygamist to an underage girl who subsequently became pregant.

  8. Dan Richards says:

    Actually, Shocked Catholic, specifically targeting religious minorities is no longer an option (even if the text of the offending law doesn’t directly refer to the minority). In a 1993 case, the Supreme Court held that a Florida town had impermissibly targeted practicioners of Santeria (an Afro-Carribean religion) when the town enacted laws against animal sacrifice. The circumstances surrounding the enactment of the laws left no doubt that the city council had Santeria squarely in its sights, and was specifically trying to prevent the practice of Santeria in the town. I think most of the Mormon polygamy cases would have played out differently if they had had to square with the Florida case (which came a century too late).