Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

June 29, 2013

More fallout from the Supreme Court's DOMA decision

Emblem by Angi Becker Stevens

With the Supreme Court's rulings for gay marriage now three days old, floods of reactions and analyses are filling the media. One hot topic is whether this opens the way to multi-partner marriages.

Among polyfolks, activist Anita Wagner Illig found herself inundated with media requests after U.S. News & World Report interviewed her two days before the court announced its decisions:

...Until recently, [Illig] noted, "the polyamory community has expressed little desire for legal marriage," but now more options seem possible in the future. "We polyamorists are grateful to our [LGBT] brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail," Illig said.

Illig believes there is indeed a "slippery slope" toward legal recognition for polygamy if the court rules in favor of nationwide same-sex marriage, an argument typically invoked by anti-gay marriage advocates. "A favorable outcome for marriage equality is a favorable outcome for multi-partner marriage, because the opposition cannot argue lack of precedent for legalizing marriage for other forms of non-traditional relationships," she said.

But Illig concedes, "there will be quite a lot of retooling of the legal system necessary to establish marriage equality for marriages of more than two people. A marriage of two people of the same sex requires a lot less in terms of adapting today's systems, such as Social Security, for example, to accommodate it."...

See the whole article: Polyamory Advocate: Gay Marriage 'Blazing the Marriage Equality Trail' (June 24, 2013).

Her quotes were widely picked up by conservative media, for instance the Washington Times, owned by the Sun Myung Moon religious cult: Polygamists hope Supreme Court rulings will pave way to decriminalization; the UK's Daily Mail: Polygamists welcome Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, predicting relationships with multiple people will be next; and at the Christian Institute. Posts Anita, "The conservative print and online media have me on their radar now for sure. [My] website hits are smokin'." She turned down an invitation from Glenn Beck, but did an interview with USA Today. The paper ended up not using it and instead stuck with an actual polygamist for its article yesterday:

Polygamists find promise in Supreme Court decisions

Molly Vorwerck

Polygamists view the Supreme Court's repeal of DOMA and Prop 8 as a step towards wider social -- and in turn, legal -- acceptance of polygamy. Legal scholars, on the other hand, are not as optimistic.

Wednesday's landmark Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage have ushered in optimism for more than just the gay and lesbian community: Polygamists are also reading hope into the fine print.

...Anne Wilde, a Mormon fundamentalist and founder of the polygamist rights organization Principle Rights Coalition, is hopeful that these decisions represent movement towards the decriminalization of polygamy.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," she says. "As consenting adults, we have a right to form our families as we see fit as long as there are no other crimes involved."

Despite their contrasting opinions on other issues, advocates both for and against polygamy view these two rulings as instrumental in opening the floodgates for plural marriages.

Tim Wildmon, president of the Christian-values centered American Family Association, says that striking down the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman delegitimizes the moral argument against polygamy.

"It opens up Pandora's Box in how you define marriage in this country," he says."Why not have three men and two women marry if they love each other? Why limit it to two people?"

But the trajectory towards legalizing polygamy is not so simple, legal scholars say.

David Cohen, a professor at Drexel University who specializes in family law, says that the lack of mainstream acceptance for polygamy does not bode well for its legalization.

"There is no political movement in this country that is anywhere near making the same gains for polygamy that have been made for gay marriage," he says.

Judith Areen, law professor at Georgetown University, says that the outcomes of these two cases are more telling of state's rights than the potential for polygamy....

Unlike others in his field, Mark Goldfeder, a law professor at Emory University, thinks that the two rulings had significant impact on the future of polygamy in the United States. Goldfeder, who specializes in the intersection of law and religion, says that the courts will need to find other justifications to keep anti-polygamy statutes in place.

"It's one hundred percent likely that these polygamist cases will come, but they will no longer turn on whether a relationship is immoral," Goldfeder says. "The court will look at whether these relationships cause third party harm."

Whole article (June 28, 2013).

The most immediate polygamy/polyamory case in the pipeline that could be affected is the "Sister Wives" challenge to Utah's anti-cohabitation law, which makes polygamy, or even living in a multiple relationship with no claim of marriage, a crime. The case is likely headed to the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and then possibly the Supreme Court. The Brown family's lead attorney is the renowned constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley of Georgetown Law School. Regarding the effect of a positive gay-marriage ruling, National Public Radio talked to him last March:

TURLEY: Really, what [the Sister Wives] case reflects is where the gay and lesbian community was almost exactly 10 years ago, before the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. That was the ruling where the Supreme Court said you could not criminalize homosexuality. The polygamists are a decade behind that. And when we talk about polygamists, you have to remember that cohabitation statutes really apply to a vast array of plural families that are often ignored.... [Yes, he's been informed about us.]

...You cannot defend a new civil liberty by denying it to others. I think that there is a grander, more magnificent trend that you can see in the law, and that is this right to be left alone. People have a right to establish their families as long as they don't harm others.

Read or listen to the whole interview (March 28, 2013).

The Salt Lake Tribune's polygamy-beat reporters have published several articles, most recently Utah polygamists celebrate, but will rulings help them? (June 26), and Internet brims with polygamy comments after DOMA ruling (June 27).


Conservatives everywhere are expressing mixes of outrage and I-told-you-so's. In the Moonie Washington Times, editor emeritus Wesley Pruden tells us, "Justice Kennedy's... nose for the law detects the hint of orange blossoms when the rest of us only smell the sewer." In head-shaking marvelment over Deborah Anapol's book Polyamory in the 21st Century, he says Anapol "calls herself one of the founders of the polyamory movement, which is sort of like a bowel movement without the inconvenience." Does this guy have a scat fetish?

I can't tell whether this writer at The Daily Caller is an actual get-the-government-out-of-marriage guy or a traditionalist bewailing the end of everything.

On the other hand, this columnist in USA Today last March presents the perfect type specimen of the now-all-good-people-must-recognize-polygamy snark.

And much more.

(Courtesy Cyanide and Happiness)


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Blogger The City Mouse in the Country said...

Love the cartoon. :)

June 29, 2013 9:47 PM  

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