December 16th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
9 years ago

Utah polygamy ruling criticized

(CNN) - Some social conservatives are blasting Utah's ruling striking down part of that state's law banning polygamy.

The suit was brought by the stars of the television reality series "Sister Wives," and a federal judge's ruling Friday throws out the law's section prohibiting "cohabitation," saying it violates constitutional guarantees of due process and religious freedom.

Judge strikes down part of Utah polygamy law in 'Sister Wives' case

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum - who a decade ago came under fire for comments indicating polygamy would become legal if courts banned anti-sodomy laws - responded to the ruling over the weekend.

"Sometimes I hate it when what I predict comes true," the former U.S. senator tweeted Sunday.

The Family Research Council, led by prominent social conservative Tony Perkins, also weighed the Utah statute, warning of "serious consequences of redefining marriage."

"Throughout history, marriage has been future-oriented, focused on the next generation and the best interests of children. The reality is that society needs children, and children need a mom and a dad," Perkins said Monday.

"However, redefining marriage to fulfill the desires of same-sex couples or polygamists only moves society away from this vital public interest and creates social chaos."

In striking down the section of the law Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups used a 2003 Supreme Court landmark gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled that anti sodomy laws were unconstitutional.

During that Supreme Court ruling a decade ago, Santorum told the Associated Press that bans on sodomy would open the doors to a "right to polygamy" and other sexual acts.

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum said in 2003.

But Waddoups' ruling keeps in place the ban on bigamy "in the literal sense - the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses for the purpose of entering into more than one purportedly legal marriage."

Some religious groups also criticized the ruling.

"This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life," said Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children. Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing."

CNN's Bill Mears and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

soundoff (254 Responses)
  1. cumulus

    Meet my brother and my cousin, my mom and my aunt, shheeooot, I'm my own grandpa! The children will suffer needlessly, all because their Mom has no self worth, sad people like that are allowed to procreate.

    December 16, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC


    Guess I don't understand the problem. If women are willing to knowingly enter into a polygamous marriage and are of legal age, what does it matter?
    You can get a better understanding by reading Santorum's quotes. He fears the slippery slope, but fails to realize that slope can tip in either direction. Naturally, Santorum would prefer to see it tip towards himself, instead of away. Me? I would prefer to see it tip away from Santorum because where ever it leads to, it is not likely to affect me. On the other hand, if the slope is tipped towards Santorum, then it will go where ever he decides to take, it is verly likely to affect me directly.

    December 16, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. nhguy

    so what would you call a mother that has three or four kids from three or four different fathers? how is this different?

    let them procreate – i just do not want to use tax dollars to support them or their kids.

    December 16, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. bob

    Hey Polygamy is a christian value(mormons are christains). I love how these people are comparing mormonism and gays. I love it how everyone is for religous freedom as long as only their religous beliefs are the ones that are free.

    Christians and conservatives really need to ask how they want to define marriage. If they use under god in any of their defenses then they have to accept polygamy as that is a christian value. At the same time, every jew, buddist, muslim, hindu, shikh, etc need to have their marriages nulled as they won't be "under god"

    Children do need two loving parents. I am not opposed to them being gay or straight. Polygamy should be banned simple because you don't have two parents.

    December 16, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  5. cumulus

    Family that plays together stays together . They all need help! Yikes

    December 16, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "How do YOU know what my wife needs and doesn't need? Keep your nose out of our relationship. We are mature adults that can make our own decisions."

    Haha...YOU'RE the one who shared it in the first place...and in doing so, YOUR commentary revealed quite enough for me to figure it out.

    "(I've never watched the program nor plan to)"

    Translation: "I don't care to inform myself about the reality of this particular situation as my presumptions, assumptions and prejudices are all I need. If I watched it, it might contradict all I presume to already know, and we can't have that. I get enough headaches already trying to keep up with Sesame Street when my kid is watching it."

    December 16, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "gays , multi wives....whats nexts"

    Teatrolls marrying their guns.

    December 16, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    The fact that one of the people saying " I told you so" is Rick Santorum should give people pause. This is a man who thinks that the belief that every kids should have access to a college education is the belief of a snob. Its interesting that a man who spends so much time blabbing about freedom is extremely reluctant to actually allow people to follow their own definitions of freedom. I don't have to agree with the ruling to recognize that this helps to bring polygamy out of the shadows and into the light, where people can determine for themselves if its a healthy lifestyle or not.

    December 16, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine


    what next!? marriage with your dog!!uccchhh u just watch.......

    Unless the dog can sign the marriage license, it won't happen. Seen many dogs running around a la Brian Griffin with opposable thumbs, an Utne Reader tucked under one leg and holding a Martini glass? Besides, since a dog is property, how could it give legal consent?

    December 16, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. stewart

    quick what is the difference between Rick Santorum and the taleban? both want to push their beliefs on everyone else

    December 16, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "let them procreate – i just do not want to use tax dollars to support them or their kids."

    Good news: households with more than 2 breadwinners tend not to need your freekin help.

    December 16, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Nick

    Well, if you allow homosexuals to "marry" then why not polygamy or other forms of "marriage"? This was foreseen by many – once you challenge the societal norm it's logical that other norms will also be challenged. In the end people will be able to "marry" their hamster, though I'm not sure how well divorce will work.

    December 16, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Ol' Yeller

    Just an observation, but anybody who has to make their monikor – 'straight'... is probably very fearful they are not...
    Like the guys who will NEVER wear a pink shirt. Here to tell you folks, there are only two kinds of fellers who can wear a pink shirt- those who know they are, and those who know they ain't.
    All the rest just ain't too sure about the whole dealio.

    Lots of folks on here are really having problems with this whole 'freedom' thing being extended to those whose lifestyles are different than their own.
    Live and let Live ya'll... Live and let Live...

    December 16, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Rasouli

    Here is how this works..The four woman pair of and the two pairs marry each other in same sex marriages. The one guy then Adopts all of 'his' children from the four now married women.
    As he does not draw a paycheck and is, as I understand it , unemployed, he files for Welfare for himself and the adopted kids. The Women appear to be employed, and so they can establish two homes and the guy can pay them through the welfare for Child Care services, while he looks for a job in ObamAmerika with a 17% unemployment environment.. I could go on ,... but this is a pretty good deal. IN fact does marriage require 2 people be party to the Act? Can't the 4 women marry each other legally>?

    December 16, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. 4sanity

    I predict "Rick Santorum is irrelevant now and in the future." Sometimes I hate it when what I predict comes true.

    December 16, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "You can get a better understanding by reading Santorum's quotes. He fears the slippery slope"

    Yes, and that slippery slope = good looking dudes will hog all the wimminz, leaving men who are ugly, either because of their beliefs/misogyny or physiology (or both), without enough desperate wimminz to choose from. At least if they can keep it on a one-to-one ratio, they have a chance of finding wimminz who are willing to put up with their BS.

    December 16, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. Enough

    Are you surprised by the ruling...after all they let homosexuals marry so their are no boundaries now. You reap what you sow!

    December 16, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Seth

    Plural marriage is arguably a more traditional form of marriage than monogamous coupling, and cohabitation itself is heavily supported throughout history (widows joining other households and the like). Anti-polygamy laws were instituted as a way for secular authorities to alter the most fundamentalist LDS groups' methods of controlling their "flocks". Plural marriages involving child brides, choiceless arranged marriages and a range of other ills ultimately created the need for public intervention, and where the state could not otherwise intervene in the beliefs of these sects they could control the basic arrangement of the household. As with many laws, the cohabitation law, once useful in improving human rights, has likely reached end of life. A more nuanced law which places concern for the freedom and well being of those who choose to live in these arrangements should be sought.

    December 16, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  19. mason

    It's a welfare racket e.g. Colorado City

    December 16, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Ace

    If people are of legal age and choose to consent to a relationship why should anyone else be involved?

    December 16, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. skione13

    If a group of men and woman on equal footing want to enter into a polygamous marriage who are we to stop them. The problem is they are not usually on equal footing. The woman are raised in a cult like setting with little or no exposure to the outside world and end up thinking this is the only way.

    December 16, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Lila

    The drama would be in the courts during divorce. Lawyers would have to divide assets, debt and child custody four ways. It would be a complete mess. At least four adults would be on the hook for child support instead of the usual two or the taxpayers.

    December 16, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    " In the end people will be able to "marry" their hamster"

    You guys really need to work on being able to differentiate between (a) the issue of what the gov't may recognize under our laws and (b) the issue of what people should have the freedom to do privately. The gov't is never going to recognize any type of marriage that does not meet the basic requirements of a contractual relationship. Moreover, for equal treatment reasons, the gov't is never going to allow people to stack marriages in order to get multiple marriage deductions on their taxes.

    I really don't give a crap if some loon wants to pretend he's married to a hamster, as long as he's not abusing the poor thing. That's never be acknowledged by the state as a recognized contractual relationship. Nor should we care, beyond the issue of one tax deduction and necessary adjustments to probate law, if responsible adults can manage to make a polygamous relationship work like any other respectful, loving relationship and in a manner that doesn't involve the abuses that historically got it banned in the first place. Why would you? Because your morals are better than everyone else's? Because you're jealous of someone having more tang around the house than you could ever handle yourself?

    December 16, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. Bamada

    No one can legally marry more than one person even if they wanted so the only way people can be charged for polygamy is when they commit bigamy. Most married people commit adultery, which is no more morally wrong as a spiritual marriage found in the LDS community. So why would so many people be against a married couple who have other people living with them who are not their legal spouse?

    December 16, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. Joe

    NO one is saying these people are legally married just that cohabitation is not illegal.

    December 16, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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