Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sister Wives, Gay Civil Rights? WTF?

I have plenty of anger toward the LDS re: its role in Prop 8 as well as its positions on many other social issues. I may eventually vent that anger in other posts but to be clear, this post is not an anti-LDS rant. The Mainstream Mormon Church disavowed polygamy many decades ago. 

The family featured on TLC's RealityTV show Sister Wives is suing the state of Utah. Their suit alleges that Utah was aware of their polygamous lifestyle but only began investigating them when the popularity of their show reignited a cycle of bad press about Mormonism and polygamy.

Whoop-de-f'ing-doo. Why do I care what a family -- albeit a family whose daughters are clearly being groomed to follow a polygamous lifestyle -- does with their personal lives? Here's why: the core of their legal argument is the 2003 SCOTUS ruling on Lawrence v Texas, the landmark case wherein the court ruled that sodomy laws violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process. Simply put, the family's position is that they are not in violation of Utah law because there is only one legal marriage, with the other marriages being spiritual marriages. The family views the need for one legal marriage as a point of civil law with which they are happy to comply. Gee, I wish I had their problems.

But the thing I must keep in mind is that whether I agree with their interpretation of Scripture or not, this is a deeply religious family and their beliefs should be respected. I think Utah is in an indefensible position with regard to regulation of polyamory between consenting adults who are not attempting any type of fraud and who specifically refuse to receive any public aid for their children; this family is quite wealthy so the financial issue is moot. This lawsuit is not being filed by people like the FLDS: this is not a case of incestuous child-rape masquerading as religious freedom like in Hildale & Colorado City.

And yet... these polygamists propose to use a SCOTUS ruling about my sexual freedom and civil rights in order to extend their heterosexual privilege. One could point out -- quite correctly -- that the Sister Wives family is not trying to alter a legal definition of marriage, and that nobody in Lawrence v Texas was either, so the case law is applicable to them as well. It makes logical sense, I suppose, but it still just doesn't sit well with me.

I am not asking for the right to marry multiple husbands; my religious beliefs do not permit such a thing. My religious beliefs do, however, recognize my right to a spiritual marriage with another man; it's called ἀδελφοποίησις (adelphopoiesis) and it was an accepted practice of the early Christian church. All I am asking for is some reciprocity from polygamists regarding my religious freedom: if you want me to advocate for your right to marry lots of women, then how about offering to help me secure my right to marry just one man. Really, is that asking too much?

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