As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, a federal district court has ruled that the Utah anti-polygamy statute is in part unconstitutional, in effect decriminalizing polygamy. Here is the decision if you would like to read it, although I’ll warn you it is 91 pages of dense legalese. The court basically follows the dissent of Chief Justice Christine Durham in the 2006 Holm case, which I’ve considered to be the right approach, so I applaud this decision.
Even if you don’t read the whole thing, I would suggest you at least skim through the Historical Background section starting at p. 9, which is kind of fun for Mormon studies geeks. Some of the names you’ll see cited in the footnotes include Sally Gordon, Richard Bushman, Todd Compton, Don Bradley (with his name misspelled as Bradly; d’oh!), Brian Hales, Newell Bringhurst, Craig Foster, Carmon Hardy, Nate Oman, Terryl Givens, Christine Talbot, Richard Anderson, Scott Faulring, Ron Walker, Rick Turley, Glen Leonard, Kathleen Flake, Edwin Firmage, and Rex Sears. Note 18 on page 16 cites the FARMS Review, which I’m guessing is the first time that journal has ever been cited in a legal opinion!
My name does not appear in this opinion. But it will be patently obvious to all right-thinking ‘Nacclers that the court’s decision is thoroughly grounded in my BCC blog post of October 9, 2011, “Meet the Dargers.” How so, you ask?
At page 14 the court writes: “With this interpretive framework in mind, it is perhaps a bitter irony of the history at issue here that it is possible to view the LDS Church as playing the role of both victim and violator in the saga of religious polygamy in Utah (and America).” Clearly they were thinking of this from my blog post:
As was often portrayed on Big Love, we mainstream Mormons seem to think that if we’re publicly mean to polygamists, we’ll get a PR boost and people will finally figure out that we don’t practice polygamy. There were times that the Darger children were not treated well by Mormons. And that makes me want to puke. Whatever (in my opinion very marginal) PR gain we might gain from mistreating polygamists doesn’t make it worth it for us to abandon our commitment to treating our fellow man as Jesus Christ would have us do. (The Darger kids could be friends with my kids; the last thing teenagers in polygamous families want to do is push polygamy. Like any teenagers, they just want to be accepted. I’d invite the family over for a barbecue without the slightest concern. Our people are over-defensive vis-a-vis polygamists in my view.)
As for the holding in the case, at my blog post I gave a link to a clip where Bill O’Reilly interviews polygamists and “tries to goad them into wanting legalization of polygamy, but they wisely don’t take the bait. All they want is decriminalization, which I’m on record as supporting. In this day and age for polygamy simpliciter to be a felony is just plain stooopid.”
I’m pleased to announce that (pending appeals, at least) the law is no longer stooopid on this point.