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Polygamists Exploit Same-Sex Precedents

The last thing in the world same-sex “marriage” advocates want to talk about is polygamy. If you ever tell them marriage recognition for same-sex relationships requires recognition of polygamy as well, the usual response is, “we’re not talking about polygamy.” Nor will they, even if you want them to.

Polygamy exposes the weakness of the same-sex “marriage” debate like nothing else. By refusing to openly support polygamy, in addition to same-sex “marriage”, advocates admit that they really don’t want “marriage equality” like they say they do. They just want their recognition. They are apparently content to allow other sexual minorities to wallow in their ostracism. Which, given their own history, is ironic.

They dislike discussing polygamy because it is impossible to make a legal distinction between polygamy and homosexuality with respect to legal status. They realize public opinion does not support polygamy. Therefore, if the public comes to understand that same-sex “marriage” will create precedent that will pave the way for the recognition of other, less popular relationships involving loving, consenting adults, they are less likely to win the debate.

Therefore, they would rather ignore a discussion about legal and social precedent and focus on the fact that most gay people are decent people and good neighbors. As true as that may be, it is a hollow foundation on which to build public policy.

For the past 20 years, the same-sex “marriage” advocates have been fairly successful in divorcing homosexuality from polygamy. The sympathies generated for same-sex “marriage” have not been extended to polygamists, despite the fact that there is no rational. legal reason to distinguish them.

That is why the lawsuit filed by polygamist Jonathan Turley, whose family is featured on the reality show Sister Wives, could end up being very significant in the on-going discussion over same-sex “marriage.”

Turley’s lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws. His arguments rely heavily on the 2003 Supreme Court Case Lawrence v. Texas which was a landmark case striking down anti-sodomy laws. Subsequently, Lawrence v. Texas has been cited heavily in cases finding a legal right to same-sex “marriage”. In that case, the Supreme Court said:

The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the [Constitution's] due process clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government.

Simply substitute the word “homosexual” for the word “polygamous” and nothing about this argument changes. Once you stand on the principle of “government cannot care what people do sexually, as long as it involves adults” you have to be prepared for where that road will lead. If you didn’t contemplate the possibilities in advance, that’s just poor planning. 

This lawsuit and its arguments are not surprising. Even those in the gay community knew that their work for same-sex “marriage” would be used by those in polygamous or even incestuous relationships. The parallels are impossible to ignore. They just hoped it wouldn’t be this soon.


Joseph Backholm is the director of Preserve Marriage Washington.  He is the Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the state associate for Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Alliance Defense Fund. The FPIW advocates for family friendly public policy throughout Washington State. Prior to joining FPIW, he worked as staff counsel in the Washington State Senate. Joseph received his Bachelors from the University of Washington and his law degree from Seattle University. Joseph is married and has three daughters.