As gay marriage has gained acceptance across the country, its opponents have often claimed that the inevitable next steps would be recognition of bigamy, polygamy, bestiality and incest. So when a judge struck down part of Utah’s anti-polygamy law last week, those critics were quick to say they told us so.
But that’s not what happened at all. On the contrary, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups makes it clear that neither fundamentalist Mormons nor anyone else has an inherent right to multiple marriages. The state of Utah can continue to limit one marriage license to two people, under the same rules it has always followed, just as every other state does.
But the problem with Utah’s law is that it didn’t just outlaw polygamy, which is the practice of claiming more than one legal spouse at a time. It also prohibited cohabitation by unmarried people with multiple sexual partners.
Although reality-TV star Kody Brown and his four female mates like to call themselves married, the only official marriage is between Brown and his wife, Meri.
But if all five want to live together, that’s their business, as Waddoups wisely concluded. Consenting adults should be able to engage in personal relationships without fear of arrest or criminal charges. That’s a far cry from the state legitimizing such relationships by providing marriage licenses for them or conferring on them any of the perks of marriage, such as joint tax returns or spousal benefits.