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|Gay parallels to 'Sister Wives' family’s challenge of Utah bigamy law?|
|Written by Bo Shell|
|Wednesday, 13 July 2011 11:04|
Gay marriage opponents have long used the ridiculous argument that allowing gay marriage opens up the legal system to all kinds of marriages — including polygamous marriages in which one man is married to several women.
Today marks a strange twist in that logic as the lawyer for Kody Brown and his four wives, stars of TLC's polygamy reality series “Sister Wives,” announced that the Browns plans to sue the state of Utah over its bigamy law, which goes beyond criminalizing multiple marriage licenses and actually prohibits married people from purporting to marry another person, or live with another person in a marriage-like way.
Here's how the ALCU sums it up:
“The law, therefore, applies not just to individuals who have obtained multiple marriage licenses, but also to those who are legally married to only one person, while also engaging in other marriage-like relationships that are not recognized by the state.”
Let's be clear. We're not talking about demanding the recognition of polygamist marriages. We're talking about a dude who's legally married to one person, but wants to live his life as if he is married to four with the understanding that the other three marriages are not legally recognized.
The Browns' lawyer, Jonathan Turley, released this on his blog regarding his representation of the family:
“We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs.”
Now, the guys over at Queerty are quickly drawing parallels to gay marriage, asking, “If queers support marriage equality, shouldn’t they also support marriage equality for adult women who want to marry men with more than one wife?”
Queerty says no, and I tend to agree.
I understand that marriage isn't a universal desire among LGBT people, and the polygamist battle for marriage isn't a fight that gay people as a community should take on.
I believe legally recognizing polygamist marriage has some odd implications that go beyond two boys or two ladies saying “I do.” And besides, the polygamists are totally on our side as we fight for marriage equality today. Not.
But none of that matters right now because the Browns aren't currently seeking the right to marry.
There are elements of the Browns' case that might have bigger implications down the road and eventually lead to greater similarities between the gay marriage and polygamist marriage fights, but that's not what they're asking for.
This is comparing old gay apples to polygamist oranges.
Rather than running for the hills in fear that I might prove anti-gay activists right, I'll stand firm in my belief that the Browns, saying nothing of marriage equality, are beginning a fight that should draw immediate empathy from gay folks: the right to do whatever they chose in their own homes in private, consensual matters that don't involve the government.
We already won this battle in our own way in 2003 when Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas overturned all of America's sodomy laws. It's ruling said consensual sexual conduct was protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, invalidating laws that criminalized sex between consenting adults, regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status.
Before that ruling, it was totally OK for cops to arrest you for having gay sex in the privacy of your own home, and right now, it's totally legal for cops in Utah to arrest Brown and families like his, not for having multiple illegal marriages, but for having unrecognized marriage-like activities with his four wives.
Sure, our battle was specifically over sex, but that should make it that much easier for the Browns considering the bigamy laws are simply against cohabitation with spiritual wives and pretending you're married.
The Browns have moved from Utah to Nevada, where the laws are less strict, but they're going after their home state — where officials had begun a bigamy investigation — challenging the bigamy law in a very public way. I applaud their efforts and believe whole-heartedly that we gay folks can squarely empathize with the justice they're seeking.
While I agree that fighting for polygamist marriage isn't our fight, the Browns are fighting for something our community should understand: the need for their families and their sex lives to be left alone, as strange as we may see it.
Top photo: Kody Brown and his four wives, stars of TLC's polygamy reality series “Sister Wives” (publicity photo)
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