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. yll

    @Capone (1) gonna play devil's advocate for a bit:

    "Bigamy is illegal and should be because anyone entering into a marriage has the right to know if they are the only spouse" -i agree with the latter half of the statement, but whether or not that should be a matter of law is essentially arbitrary. not to mention, if all involved adults are aware of the situation, and accepting of it, short of being used for some elaborate legal/financial scam i don't see the problem.

    (2) "Incest should be illegal because there are actual medical reasons for it." -if your justification is purely medical, then that only applies if they have children, and depending on the degree of consanguinity, may only become obvious if it happens for multiple generations (we don't stop older women from having kids, or parents with heritable genetic disorders, if it's rate of birth defects you're worried about). unless you're referring to the psychological conditioning that keeps relatives from being attracted to one another, to which point you can argue if for whatever reason incestuous couples didn't have that imprinting, why is it anyone else's business? referring to consensual adults here obviously, not child molestation cases.

    "Although adultery is not illegal, it usually involved one spouse having an extramarital affair without the other spouse being aware of it. That makes it wrong. Bottom line – your philosophical and/or religious ideology is not sufficient reason to make anything illegal." -ahh! but there's the crutch. when are things wrong enough to warrant legal declarations? most people believe incest is wrong. most people believe polygamy is wrong. and so on. if your "line" for whether something needs to be illegal is based on harm to others, polygamy probably should be legal, incest is sort of a gray area depending on reproduction, while the old classics like pedophilia and bestiality stay illegal, but then adultery should arguably be illegal as well.

    December 16, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  2. CosmicC

    I don't see a problem with plural marriage as long as, A) it can go both ways and B) all parties agree to certain protections for all others.

    December 16, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. samb

    Santorum has been surfing the net for beastiality to be prepared for the next challenge to his sense of right and wrong!

    December 16, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. mark

    I agree 100 percent gay marriage should be abolished it should not be allowed in United States.not only does it confuse the children what causes more gays because children don't know the right from have to know something's wrong when your partner has the same plumbing.

    December 16, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. Leigh

    This ruling throws out the "cohabitation" part of the ruling. Nowhere does it state that multiple marriage licenses will be legal. So Ricky Baby can just put that foam back in his...errr...mouth where it belongs. Happily, he doesn't have the power to tell two (or more) consenting adults that they can't live together if they wish.

    Maybe somebody should enlighten Rick that the US is not, never was, and never will be, a theocracy.

    December 16, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. God

    The party of personal freedom not believing in people making their own personal choice? Wait what?

    December 16, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. Randomthoughts

    I'm going to marry my dog. I see a tax break and vet bills being covered, how do I get my dog into a tux?

    December 16, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Carl

    Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

    December 16, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Rosslaw

    I hear Anne Romney has been sweating bullets ever since this decision came out (so to speak).

    December 16, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. Craig

    "Throughout history, marriage has been future-oriented, focused on the next generation and the best interests of children.'

    Ummm, sure. That's why the King of France would marry off his daughter to the Prince of Wherever, because he was concerned about the future, firmly believing that the marriage would prevent a future war. That really worked well until...oh, let's say 1914...when every ruler in Europe was related multiple ways to every other ruler in Europe. Clearly marriages designed to help the future. As I recall, that little thing called The War to end all Wars certainly made the future bright for millions. See, marriage is all about the future and kids...providing enough kids to populate the next battlefield.

    Too bad this ruling isn't being handled as truth. In fact, the change the judge made simply dumps the provision for co-habitation, which was hardly ever prosecuted anyway. It didn't change a single thing about's still only legal to be married to one person. Lots of noise, but no facts to back it up. Santorum is just as Stupid as he ever was.

    December 16, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Kenneth Newman

    Rick Santorum is FAR more scarier than any marriage involving multiple wives, which is WHY Obama is president and Rick is commenting on any subject that will get him some attention.

    December 16, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. mojo

    Nobody cares what Santorum has to say. He passed the last exit to relevancy 2 years ago.
    The Family Research Council is primarily a gay bashing organization that promotes itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,”. Perkins is a nut case.

    December 16, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. Mormons just don't know whether to laugh or cry

    They're all set to raise another $40 million dollars to influence a political decision to redefine marriage and then they realized this time they want to. But if they're for it – then they're redefining marriage, so that means they were wrong before. But they want to marry a bunch of women. But they hate gays... But they... But...


    December 16, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. Bill Klinton

    What are these "critics" complaining about? It's still illegal to be married to two or more people. Cohabitation doesn't mean you're married. Is Utah the last state to have it legalized? They've been living in the stone age.

    December 16, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Polygamy is still illegal. The judge ruled cohabitation was too prohibitive, not polygamy.

    December 16, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  16. Bob

    Remove all legal and financial incentives to marriage and let theology dictate for you what you feel is OK to call yourself. Marriage does not equal committment and non-marriage is not necessarily unstable. No tax breaks, no special treatment for being " married " and only those who wish to call it marriage due to religious beliefs will do so. You don't even have to be married to split up ( see " palimony ). And, oh, news flash...people already do anything they please in their own home. The only law should be against sharing it on twitter, facebook, or youtube!

    December 16, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. nwcommenter

    Polygamy is no relationship.. it's using people for one's selfishness.

    December 16, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. phazon

    The scriptures are completely correct. In the last days people will be saying what's good is bad and what's bad is good. Perfect example is I don't see any problem with it for so and so reasons. One does not need more than one wife to suit house duties or raising children. This is purely selfish and that is one of the many reasons why it is wrong.

    December 16, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. John Paul

    The real problem is when they have 10 wives, fifty children and then expect the taxpayers to support them via welfare.

    December 16, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Peace

    Even with juresprudence that allow polygomy, marrying two sisters is forbidden

    December 16, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Dan

    If you read the ruling, Ricky's assertion that polygamy is legal in Utah is pure nonsense. The ultra right sure loves this ruling though because it gives them the fire and brimstone it needs in its badly losing cultural war against America.

    December 16, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Diane Thompson

    Mark Twain had it right. Once you see a Mormon man and his wives you realize that a statue should be erected to honor him for having the nerve to marry so many homely women. Talk about lack of self these women have severe issues.

    December 16, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Jake

    About time liberties are restored. People should be able to whatever they want. Claims that this hurts children is unsubstantiated and is a desperate grab for the religious.

    December 16, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  24. Truth

    "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."

    Sorry, it always has meant nothing... The commitment means more than the paper it's written on, the contract, that in all societies is so easily broken. GET OVER IT. MARRIAGE, as a thing MEANS NOTHING.

    A marriage license doesn't guarantee a good home for a child any more than a preacher's collar guarantees an upstanding citizen. Don't be stupid.

    December 16, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. lynn

    Unless the man is a millionaire, no way an he support 17++ children. Taxpayers pay for his play-pen.

    December 16, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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