New Utah Law Makes Polygamy as Illegal as Parking in Wrong Place

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.
June 2, 2020Updated: June 3, 2020

When Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed SB102 into law on March 28, he all but ended Utah’s compliance with the first condition Congress put on the state’s admission to the federal union, making polygamy illegal under the state’s constitution.

From the moment in 1896 that President Grover Cleveland signed the congressional act admitting Utah to the union as the 45th state until the governor’s signature, polygamy—the practice of one man having multiple wives—was a felony punishable by years in jail. To the present day, Utah’s constitution says polygamy is “forever forbidden.”

Under SB102, polygamy remains illegal, although the practice is now considered an infraction on par with a parking ticket rather than a criminal act, unless the man involved is also guilty of human trafficking, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or fraud.

Herbert’s decision to go along with the nearly unanimous support of SB102 among state legislators got little national attention because the rest of the country was in the second week of the national lockdown amid the pandemic.

Utah decriminalizing polygamy is still a background issue, with America now convulsed by riots instigated in dozens of cities by radical left-wing anarchist groups such as Antifa seeking to exploit the tragic May 25 death of George Floyd after being improperly restrained by a Minneapolis policeman.

But the issue isn’t being ignored among defenders of traditional monogamous marriage, and not only because many of them predicted in the decade prior to its legalization that homosexual marriage would revive demands for re-legalization of polygamy.

“Oh my goodness, it’s the phrase, ‘Well, what do you know, who saw this coming?’” said Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at the Colorado-based evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, when asked by The Epoch Times on June 2 about Utah’s action.

“I and others made that argument on college campus stages all through the 2000s and would be booed and hissed about it, as like, ‘how ridiculous,’” Stanton said.

“But it’s wholly rational. There are now serious people arguing for polyamory [multiple women with multiple men], there are serious people arguing for polygamy.”

Stanton noted that Utah’s polygamy advocates “use the same language” as gay rights advocates who argue that “love is love … so if you’re going to use that and that’s going to be your banner, then you’ve got to be consistent with that, and the polygamy people just made that case.”

Defenders of traditional monogamy like Stanton argue that recent history and social science leave no doubt that the one-man/one-wife family structure is best for everybody involved, but especially for women and children.

Stanton pointed to a landmark study published by the Royal Society in 2012 entitled “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” by professor Joseph Heinrich of the University of British Columbia, anthropologist Robert Boyd of UCLA, and environmental scientist Peter J. Richerson of the University of California at Davis.

In their study summary, the authors noted that “the anthropological record indicates that approximately 85 percent of human societies have permitted men to have more than one wife (polygynous marriage), and both empirical and evolutionary considerations suggest that large absolute differences in wealth should favor more polygynous marriages.”

But in fact, they wrote, “monogamous marriage has spread across Europe, and more recently across the globe, even as absolute wealth differences have expanded.”

Based on the results of their study, the authors concluded that monogamy has become so widespread due to multiple factors associated with “suppressing intrasexual competition and reducing the size of the pool of unmarried men.”

Those factors result in reduced “crime rates, including rape, murder, assault, robbery, and fraud, as well as decreasing personal abuses. By assuaging the competition for younger brides, normative monogamy decreases (i) the spousal age gap, (ii) fertility, and (iii) gender inequality.”

In addition, the authors said that “by shifting male efforts from seeking wives to paternal investment, normative monogamy increases savings, child investment, and economic productivity.”

“By increasing the relatedness within households, normative monogamy reduces intra-household conflict, leading to lower rates of child neglect, abuse, accidental death, and homicide.”

Dr. Patrick Fagan, founder and president of the Marriage and Family Research Institute (MARRI), told The Epoch Times that decriminalization “is definitely not made in the public interest, nor in the interest of the child.”

Fagan, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Family and Social Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said how vigorously authorities should enforce laws against polygamy “is a prudential question. Decriminalization is not.”

He described Utah’s action as “a subversive act against a culture formed on marriage and family that, done deliberately at the highest levels of government, is also a crime against the truth of ‘for the good of the child, the next generation.’ It is a treacherous act to enshrine it in law.”

A spokesman for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) did not respond to an email request from The Epoch Times for comment on SB102. Some of Romney’s ancestors lived for a time in a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico. A spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Lee has not taken a position on the bill.

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