Polygamy the Next Big Rights Movement?

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Religion, Society on

Update: I should probably have made it a little clearer that I do not support polygamy people like Warren Jeffs, who force people into it. If polygamy is to be accepted, it must be a consensual relationship between adults.

Ever since a series of articles and news stories flooded the media earlier this year about fugitive polygamy cult leader Warren Jeffs, I’ve noticed an increasing number of articles about polygamy and those seeking to have it supported by society (U.S. society, anyway). I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then I noticed this article tonight.

CNN has an story about a recent polygamy rally in Utah. The main idea is that children of polygamists were speaking out to have their lifestyle supported by the Utah government, and how they are living happy and free lives. One quote in particular caught my attention:

We are not brainwashed, mistreated, neglected, malnourished, illiterate, defective or dysfunctional,” 17-year-old Jessica said. “My brothers and sisters are freethinking, independent people: some who have chosen this lifestyle, while others have branched out to a diversity of religions.

This appears to be a defense either directly or indirectly related to the flood of media attention on Jeffs. For those who don’t know, Warren Jeffs is currently on the run from authorities for committing statutory rape and conspiracy to commit such an act. Jeffs is the self-appointed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the major religious sect in the U.S. practicing polygamy. Major polygamist communities tend to be clustered out west, especially in Hildale, Utah.

I believe that the attention on Jeffs has definitely brought about some more negative feelings toward something that has been already viewed highly immoral by many. This rally seems to be the polygamists’ and their childrens’ way of trying to reach out to the community around them. However, this may only be the start. One rotton apple can spoil it for the bunch, as they say. I forsee more functions of this type in the future, as polygamists try to get their lifestyle accepted, especially in places like Utah, where it’s illegal.

It definitely has some parallels to the on-going gay-rights movement. A group of people trying to get their lifestyle accepted amongst a sea of people who may or may not accept it. It would definitely be an uphill battle, perhaps moreso than gay rights. This one may be man and women, but here we have multiple woman or multiple men, depending on exactly what type is practiced. I can definitely see how even some in the gay community would be averse to this, a double-whammy, whereas gays only have to battle against heterosexuals for the most part.

Whatever the eventual outcome, these movements seem to go in waves, with the major actions separated by about 40 years or so (yes, I counted). The women civil rights movement in the 20s, the black civil rights movement in the 60s, and now the gay civil rights movement in the 2000s. Will the polygamists have to wait until the 2040’s for their movement? Only time will tell, but I’m guessing they will be the next major social rights movement. I can’t really think of another group that might be up for rallying for their civil rights, so the polygamists naturally seem to be the next (you can correct me in the comments if you wish). So, where am I on this? Well, I can hardly support the gay right movement without supporting their lifestyle, at least from afar. Neither I’d get involved in, but neither I particularly have problems accepting as a way people can live.

What are your views? I invite you to comment, but remember, no attacks.


R F Hall •

You have compared gay marriage to polygamous marriage, suggesting that both are lifestyle choices that should be supported by society. There is a big difference: in gay marriage, only consenting partners participate, whereas in polygamy women, and often very young women, are required to participate against their will and their own interests. Also, gay marriages rarely result in children, but polygamous marriages result in numerous children who are kept in isolation from the larger culture and told that God has authored polygamy. Gay marriage would allow for greater freedom of its proponents, whereas polygamous marriage results in less freedom for the wives. They are not allowed to choose their own husbands, they are forced to share their husbands with other women, some of whom they may not even know, and they are required to raise their children to live with the same polygamous values. These values not only hold the male as higher than the female, they also hold certain men as higher than all the other men. Young men are dispelled from the community in order to reduce competition for the women, who are considered the belongings of the most powerful men and expected to produce as many children as possible. If polygamy is the next big social movement, we are all in serious danger.


Thanks for commenting. For once, something that isn’t a bot trying to spam.

When I speak of polygamy being the next rights movement, I do not speak of the type practiced by Warren Jeffs and like-minded people. Surely, there are people out there that wish to be married to more than one man or women (all who consent)? They just don’t make themselves known, like the FCJCLDS people do. Perhaps it is because of this group that they do not speak of, for fear of ridicule. However, I think they’re out there, even if a small number.

Unless there is some other group currently fighting for civil rights, I think they could be the next, if they speak up.

Anonymous •

How many people that have been married for years haven’t thought about if the grass would be greener on the other side of the fence? I think polygamy is a great theory that doesn’t work. I’m not morman, I’m not part of any organized religion at all, but I want to put out a hypothetical (albeit extreme) situation, since what is legal for Mormans would have to be legal for all. This is my view of a world where polygamy is an accepted practice.

Say I want a wife, and my husband wants a husband. We’re in a world where gay marriage has already been widely accepted, since this is the earlier civil rights movement. If polygamy were legal, that would be ok, right? Maybe even fun for a bit. But then expand that on a larger scale. Our spouses wouldn’t be happy confined to just us, so they would have others, and so forth, and before you know it you aren’t dealing with a marriage anymore, you’re dealing with a community of people that are “married” that didn’t really choose each other (surely my husband’s husband won’t consult me when he chooses a wife).

Then you get children involved, and people do what people do and get jealous and divorced and remarried. How do you determine responsibility? Is my husband’s husband’s wife’s child my financial responsibility? If I have 3 husbands and 3 wives and I have a child, are they all responsible? If I divorce one does he have to pay child support, or do we get a paternity test? And how much of our assets does he get when he leaves the “marriage.” And what about my wives? Am I responsible for the children they have? What if the divorcing party makes 500k/yr and leaves people that make $20k? How many people do they have to support? And I haven’t gone any further than twice removed from my current marriage. Imagine a society where this goes on and on. Who cleans up the fallout? Who takes care the children that are unsupported and confused and the court dockets clogged with divorces so complicated they would make the worst-case scenario today seem like nothing. It begs the question why get married at all? What is the definition of the word? Can you ever really cheat on anyone if you can marry as many people as you want, or is it just pre-marital sex?

I don’t think gay marriage can be compared to polygamy at all because gay marriage is still based on a family unit, and doesn’t really raise any serious issues beyond gender. Polygamy is a socio-economic time bomb, and I haven’t even started on topics like disease, and decisions about medical care (think Terry Schiavo – but with 10 partners to make a claim), and all the boring little things like tax law.

I think people are really forgetting that marriage is more than a romantic or child-rearing relationship, it is an extremely complicated financial contract. Some states call gay marriage a civil union, and really all marriage is. If we legalize polygamy, the entire system is flipped upside down, and then all the sudden the fun is over, the grass isn’t greener and my neighbors’ tax dollars are paying for my mess.