This story in PJMedia last weekend got me to thinking about the whole topic of plural marriage – not the arranged, non-consensual type practiced in parts of the Middle East and Africa, but the consensual, between-consenting-adults type practiced in the Western nations. The PJMedia article focused on a bill passed in Utah outlawing bigamy; here’s an excerpt:
Another family — one man and his three wives — has vowed to never leave Utah.
“My concern is all this is going to do is drive the good polygamous people who don’t have those abuses more into hiding,” Meri Brown, a plural wife, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “and it’s going to make the people who do have those abuses just be able to do them even more.”
“It also classifies all polygamists as second-class citizens,” added her husband, Kody Brown.
Kody Brown is legally married not just to Meri, but to another woman, Robyn. He is “spiritually married” to Meri, and Janelle and Christine, who have all taken his last name.
But here’s the part that jumps out at me:
HB99 would change the definition of bigamy to include people who “purport” to marry two or more people and live with them. Currently, only one or the other provision is required to be a bigamist.
Bigamy would still be a third-degree felony under HB99. But the penalty of up to five years in prison could go up to as much as 15 years if the bigamy is associated with another crime like abuse, fraud or smuggling.
Prosecutors in Utah have not prosecuted many cases of bigamy unless some kind of abuse or other crime can be included in the criminal charges.
OK, I have a couple of questions for the Utah legislature:
- Aren’t abuse, fraud and smuggling already crimes that carry potential prison sentences?
- That being the case, why is it necessary to increase penalties because of a supposed marital relationship?
Frankly, I can’t see how people’s household arrangements are the government’s business. This is one of the reasons I’d like to see government out of the marriage business altogether; the very idea that a consenting, competent adult needs the government’s permission to marry another consenting, competent adult is anathema to the concept of individual liberty.
So this Kody Brown is “spiritually” married to three women. (Better him than me; Mrs. Animal is all I can handle and then some.) There should only be one factor that matters here:
Are all four of them competent, consenting adults who entered into this arrangement of their own free will?
If so, it’s nobody else’s furshlugginer business how they choose to live. It’s most especially not the business of some snoop from the state of Utah, or any other level of government.
The second half of this argument is, of course, the collection of welfare benefits by wives who are not “legally” married. Well, I have two possible solutions to that: End the calculation of government-sanctioned benefits by married couple and apportion any government largess by household, or (better still) end the government distribution of charity altogether. It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize you if you downloaded kids you can’t afford.
There is a basic concept at point here: Liberty. Liberty is the natural condition of human beings, wherein they live and act as they please, unfettered by government interference, as long as they cause no physical or fiscal harm to anyone else. I can’t see how the polygamist Brown is hurting anyone else by having three wives, “spiritual” or otherwise, as long as no “abuse, fraud or smuggling” or any other illegal shenanigans is going on.
It’s a shame that the state of Utah doesn’t seem to get that.