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 Post subject: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:03 am 
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Here's what I don't get. Polygamy is "illegal".

But how can you legally marry someone else if you are already legally married to another? Is it the prevention of the second marriage that makes it illegal? Something like, you are at the courts and they say "Sorry, we can't sign your marriage certificate to this person because you are already married. It's illegal for us to do that". Or can you sign the papers, get married a second/third time and THEN it breaks the law? And you get arrested?


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:24 am 
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graffitipassion wrote:
Here's what I don't get. Polygamy is "illegal".

But how can you legally marry someone else if you are already legally married to another? Is it the prevention of the second marriage that makes it illegal? Something like, you are at the courts and they say "Sorry, we can't sign your marriage certificate to this person because you are already married. It's illegal for us to do that". Or can you sign the papers, get married a second/third time and THEN it breaks the law? And you get arrested?


I don't know how thoroughly states check marriages. I think you just have to state that you are not already married.

Some states (Utah) consider cohabiting with multiple partners polygamy even if there is only one actual marriage. I believe this is also the case in states that recognize common law marriages.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:28 am 
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I don't know if anyone gets arrested, your second marriage is just never valid until you end the first legally.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:32 am 
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lavawitch wrote:
Some states (Utah) consider cohabiting with multiple partners polygamy even if there is only one actual marriage. I believe this is also the case in states that recognize common law marriages.


But if this is the case, it irritates me highly. Someone can have a second wife/husband (without a marriage certificate) living a mile away, and that's okay. Because people would just think "oh, it's a mistress..". But if that person moves IN (still without the certificate)...it becomes illegal? Just seems so, so stupid.


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:55 am 
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graffitipassion wrote:
lavawitch wrote:
Some states (Utah) consider cohabiting with multiple partners polygamy even if there is only one actual marriage. I believe this is also the case in states that recognize common law marriages.


But if this is the case, it irritates me highly. Someone can have a second wife/husband (without a marriage certificate) living a mile away, and that's okay. Because people would just think "oh, it's a mistress..". But if that person moves IN (still without the certificate)...it becomes illegal? Just seems so, so stupid.


This is the case in Utah. This is why most polygamists have separate trailers or houses on the same property: to skirt the law.

Not that I'm an expert on this or anything. Chalk it up to morbid curiosity.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:19 am 
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Fee wrote:
I don't know if anyone gets arrested, your second marriage is just never valid until you end the first legally.


In most places, your marriage isn't valid, but you're still a bigamist. The attempting to get married is the crime.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:21 am 
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It's so weird that that's illegal.

Maybe not weird. Just stupid.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:59 am 
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graffitipassion wrote:
lavawitch wrote:
Some states (Utah) consider cohabiting with multiple partners polygamy even if there is only one actual marriage. I believe this is also the case in states that recognize common law marriages.


But if this is the case, it irritates me highly. Someone can have a second wife/husband (without a marriage certificate) living a mile away, and that's okay. Because people would just think "oh, it's a mistress..". But if that person moves IN (still without the certificate)...it becomes illegal? Just seems so, so stupid.

Isn't adultery illegal too?


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:59 am 
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graffitipassion wrote:
Here's what I don't get. Polygamy is "illegal".

But how can you legally marry someone else if you are already legally married to another? Is it the prevention of the second marriage that makes it illegal? Something like, you are at the courts and they say "Sorry, we can't sign your marriage certificate to this person because you are already married. It's illegal for us to do that". Or can you sign the papers, get married a second/third time and THEN it breaks the law? And you get arrested?


Polygamy is illegal throughout the US. But there is a distinction between a Church wedding (which is religious and doesn't create the state sanctioned relationship civil marriage does) and the process of recognition of such marriage by the state. You can get married by a priest if you're a same sex couple its just that the state won't recognize the union and give you the legal protections (right to inherit, tax deductions, presumption that kids you have are fathered by your husband w/o you having to prove it).

And the crime of bigamy is holding a woman out as being your wife (or a man as being your husband) when you are legally married to another woman (or man) - you don't necessarily have to try to get your marriage legally recognized. You could have 2 church weddings (but not have the second legally recognized) or just cohabit and tell your neighbors that you're married, while you're still married to another person.

Many activists working for Mormon women are pushing to get polygamy legalized or at least provide some legal recognition for the relationship, because currently most Morman women and men in polygamous marriages know they are doing something illegal and their fear keeps them isolated and unwilling to get help, because they are afraid of being punished.

Its also interesting that many of the women in polygamous marriages get WIC and other goverment assistance as if they were single mothers (their "husband's" income is excluded from the calculations).

I think the activists make a good point and there should be at least some legally recognized status for these women and men, so we aren't isolating them from society. Its a little like the argument for legalizing prostitution - just so sex workers can freely report crimes w/o the fear of repercussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 10:29 am 
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abbierae wrote:
It's so weird that that's illegal.

Maybe not weird. Just stupid.


Maybe I'm wrong but I think it was originally put in place to protect women who would have no recourse if there husband decided to leave them and get married to another person prior to divorcing them. At which point, the woman doesn't get things like alimony and what not if her income depended on her husband. So again, maybe I'm wrong but I'm thinking it was put in place for the instance not where a man is married and living with more than 1 wife but more that a man would leave his wife without divorcing her.

Of course now days, women are more independent and it would be less of an issue but still in that case, I think polygamy shouldn't be allowed unless the existing spouse is ok with the second (or third or fourth) marriage.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:39 pm 
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linanil wrote:
abbierae wrote:
It's so weird that that's illegal.

Maybe not weird. Just stupid.


Maybe I'm wrong but I think it was originally put in place to protect women who would have no recourse if there husband decided to leave them and get married to another person prior to divorcing them. At which point, the woman doesn't get things like alimony and what not if her income depended on her husband. So again, maybe I'm wrong but I'm thinking it was put in place for the instance not where a man is married and living with more than 1 wife but more that a man would leave his wife without divorcing her.

Of course now days, women are more independent and it would be less of an issue but still in that case, I think polygamy shouldn't be allowed unless the existing spouse is ok with the second (or third or fourth) marriage.


Right. It seems like all you would have to do to avoid that situation is obtain consent from the existing spouse.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:29 pm 
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There are some scholars who argue that life for women in Utah before statehood was not really bad. The second/third wives were often sent back east to obtain either medical or legal education because the men were needed to do pioneery stuff in Utah.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 10:06 pm 
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Okay, so in some states (or in the US) just calling someone your wife who isn't your legal wife is illegal? Or does it need to be more obvious...like they are living with you, bearing children with your, AND you are calling them your wife?


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 10:22 pm 
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graffitipassion wrote:
Okay, so in some states (or in the US) just calling someone your wife who isn't your legal wife is illegal? Or does it need to be more obvious...like they are living with you, bearing children with your, AND you are calling them your wife?


I think it gets confused because there are things such as common law marriage in which if you are living with someone and call them your spouse, then they become your common law spouse.

And as for just making polygamy so that the existing spouse(s) consent seems like it would take time and effort for the various states to come up with and really no state other than Utah would really have an investment in it. So if Utah wanted to, I think they could legalize polygamy but I think also that the Mormon church wants to say "ooohhhh we don't do THAT" because even though people do, they seem to want to keep it hidden.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:00 pm 
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linanil wrote:
graffitipassion wrote:
Okay, so in some states (or in the US) just calling someone your wife who isn't your legal wife is illegal? Or does it need to be more obvious...like they are living with you, bearing children with your, AND you are calling them your wife?


I think it gets confused because there are things such as common law marriage in which if you are living with someone and call them your spouse, then they become your common law spouse.


The key issue is whether you have a legally recognized marital relationship with another person.

If you're married to one person and holding yourself out as being married to another, then you've committed bigamy.

But if you're not married to anyone, holding yourself out as being married isn't a crime, And in some states cohabiting for a period of years will give you a status as a common law spouse. Some states like California don't have that though, and you could live with somone for years and never be entitled to any legal protection (like Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke who were together for 14 years)


linanil wrote:
So if Utah wanted to, I think they could legalize polygamy but I think also that the Mormon church wants to say "ooohhhh we don't do THAT" because even though people do, they seem to want to keep it hidden.


The problem is that every other state would have to recognize polygamous marriages if you could have a marriage that gave the second/third/fourth wife (etc) full legal benefits. Polygamous marriage isn't carved out under DOMA like same sex marriage is.

Partly because of a desire not to have polygamous marriages recognized throughout the US, the federal government stopped the territory of Utah entering the Union in 1896 unless they agreed to outlaw polygamy. That was challenged in Reynolds vs the US in 1878.

The official position of the Mormon church is that they don't practice polygamy and only "outlaw" branches of the church still do. So there isn't a big group pushing to have it legalized.

I think that giving secondary wives a legal status that isn't marriage would avoid a lot of the hassle that making polygamy legal would.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:09 pm 
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This is very interesting. Like, is it enough to be living with someone other than your spouse? Is it enough to say to the neighbours that your current partner is your spouse? Or is it only illegal if you use your false marital status for something, like insurance?

ETA I didn't realise this was such an old thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:19 pm 
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Haha, I read like six posts before realizing it was old too!

Anyway, since this thread was started there's a show on TLC called Sister Wives that is about a polygamist family, and after the first season aired they had to leave Utah because the sheriff's department started investigating them. They moved to Las Vegas to avoid the possibility of jail or having their kids taken away. I think Utah is probably more strict on polygamy because of pressure from the LDS community.

They're a nice family, not child bride supporting fundies, so in general i'm not bothered by it EXCEPT that it's still bringing a lot of children into the world. I'm only caught up through Netflix, but after the 4th wife had her first baby with the husband (she has three kids from a previous marriage and I think she's about 30-32), she offered to be a surrogate for the 1st wife, who only has one child. My first thought was 'JFC, ADOPT', but then I realized that it would probably be near impossible to adopt a child into a polygamist family because no adoption agency would do that.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:36 pm 
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I love me some Sister Wives. I feel bad for how they're treated by the LDS community. There's an awful lot of hypocrisy there.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:10 pm 
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It's all hypocrisy. Mormons saying that polygamy is wrong is saying that the guy who founded their religion was wrong, and he is supposed to be a prophet of god. So if you believe he's the prophet of god and you also believe he was wrong about polygamy, then you're saying that god is wrong. I go cross-eyed just thinking about it. I don't believe in god at all, but I think if you're going to subscribe to such a specific subset of Christianity you probably shouldn't be saying the founder was full of shiitake.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:16 pm 
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amonik wrote:
This is very interesting. Like, is it enough to be living with someone other than your spouse? Is it enough to say to the neighbours that your current partner is your spouse? Or is it only illegal if you use your false marital status for something, like insurance?

ETA I didn't realise this was such an old thread.


I'm one of these people! As in, I'm legally married to someone else for the past 11 years but live with/have children with someone I've been with for 8.5 years. I actually use my husband's last name because that's what I put when I applied for a new passport 10 years ago. There is nothing illegal about this; however, when we had children my partner had to fill out paternity papers "claiming" the children, and there is some archaic law that without the paternity papers, my husband would be considered the father of my children by the state. Also, I often refer to my partner as my husband to strangers just because it's easier. Confusing eh.


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
graffitipassion wrote:
Here's what I don't get. Polygamy is "illegal".

But how can you legally marry someone else if you are already legally married to another? Is it the prevention of the second marriage that makes it illegal? Something like, you are at the courts and they say "Sorry, we can't sign your marriage certificate to this person because you are already married. It's illegal for us to do that". Or can you sign the papers, get married a second/third time and THEN it breaks the law? And you get arrested?


Polygamy is illegal throughout the US. But there is a distinction between a Church wedding (which is religious and doesn't create the state sanctioned relationship civil marriage does) and the process of recognition of such marriage by the state. You can get married by a priest if you're a same sex couple its just that the state won't recognize the union and give you the legal protections (right to inherit, tax deductions, presumption that kids you have are fathered by your husband w/o you having to prove it).


It is slightly more complicated than that because clergy are not allowed to officiate at weddings which are not legally sanctioned (as far as I know this is true in every state, but certainly in the states in which I have conducted weddings or thought about conducting weddings). I know a couple rabbis who were arrested for "marrying" gay couples in NY before it was the law. It's considered fraud. So, even though this should totally be true in theory, "church" and "legal" weddings are not overlapping circles as in a venn diagram, the "church" circle is entirely within the "legal" circle, if nobody is breaking the law. You can officiate at something that you very strongly do not call a wedding or a marriage, but it has to be really explicit that it is not creating a marriage and most clergypeople I know won't do it if there is any gray area. I do know a lot of people who will get a town hall civil wedding and then do their "church" wedding because they have some principle against the association between the two, but for 99.9% of "church" weddings, it is a single act which creates both the spiritual union and the legal one. (Did you know that a ceremony of some kind is actually required to enact a marriage in the state of NJ, and I imagine other states as well?)

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And the crime of bigamy is holding a woman out as being your wife (or a man as being your husband) when you are legally married to another woman (or man) - you don't necessarily have to try to get your marriage legally recognized. You could have 2 church weddings (but not have the second legally recognized) or just cohabit and tell your neighbors that you're married, while you're still married to another person.


And if the states don't check, you could have two "legal" weddings. Generally they just ask if you're already married on the marriage license, I don't know that there is actually any research done into whether you're lying or not. I think bigamy laws were originally about not committing fraud - marrying another woman who doesn't know that you're already married, either because you abandoned your first wife or you are somehow leading double lives. The anti-Mormon polygamy stuff is slightly different, at least partially because they are not seeking legal marriages and pretending not to already be married, they're having "spiritual marriages" (which, as I wrote above, are already illegal for clergypeople to officiate) and building family units which the state disapproves of for various reasons.

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Many activists working for Mormon women are pushing to get polygamy legalized or at least provide some legal recognition for the relationship, because currently most Morman women and men in polygamous marriages know they are doing something illegal and their fear keeps them isolated and unwilling to get help, because they are afraid of being punished.

Its also interesting that many of the women in polygamous marriages get WIC and other goverment assistance as if they were single mothers (their "husband's" income is excluded from the calculations).

I think the activists make a good point and there should be at least some legally recognized status for these women and men, so we aren't isolating them from society. Its a little like the argument for legalizing prostitution - just so sex workers can freely report crimes w/o the fear of repercussion.


Yeah, I think this is really the only good argument for legal recognition of polygamous marriage. Those families are a) committing a lot of fraud and b) covering up a lot of abuse because people are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their children or being kicked out of their communities.


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:10 pm 
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Ariann wrote:
Yeah, I think this is really the only good argument for legal recognition of polygamous marriage. Those families are a) committing a lot of fraud and b) covering up a lot of abuse because people are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their children or being kicked out of their communities.


That is a good argument for legal recognition, but I disagree that it's the only good one. Legal recognition of multiple partners would also benefit committed polyamorous individuals in a number of other cases--acquiring health insurance for a partner through one's employer (often only spouses are eligible for employer-sponsored insurance), ensuring hospital visitation rights, acquiring a visa for more than one partner when relocating to or from the US on a work visa, and lease application approval (my husband and I had to provide a marriage certificate to prove our status when we applied for our most recent apartment!) immediately come to mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:44 pm 
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I don't think there should ever be a time where employers provide insurance coverage for non-married couples, there would be so much fraud because how would you prove that you're in a relationship? Not that some people don't go through with getting married just for insurance purposes. I think even if polygamy were legal, that could get really dicey. Now that I think about it, are the kids on Sister Wives covered? I know before they moved, one of the moms was working a regular 9-5 job so her kids could be covered, but in the third season it doesn't appear that any of them are working at all.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:57 pm 
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I'm happy my boyfriend's employer provides insurance for domestic partners. I imagine a lot of same-sex couples are glad of similar arrangements too.

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 Post subject: Re: Confused about the law and polygamy
PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:13 pm 
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But that's still a legal status, yes? I meant the idea that you can bring someone in and say, "This is my partner, give them insurance!" without any kind of proof that you're even together. Of course, we should all have insurance in the first place without having to get married.

Also I think the laws that keep boyfriends/girlfriends/partners out of hospital rooms are stupid no matter what.

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