Three polygamists in British Columbia are to go to trial at the Supreme Court of Canada for marrying off three 12 and one 13 year old child brides. One of the accused is the leader of a Bountiful Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints faction, which is a Mormon spin off church. The main issue seems to be ‘shipping underaged girls across the border’ to Texas. And the reason I am writing about this is, these marriages first came to light at the Supreme Court trial on determining the constitutionality of outlawing polygamy.
Full disclosure: I am very pro-polyamory. I have done a number of posts about polyamory (and here amongs many others) but that doesn’t mean I am pro-swinging or pro-polygamy — especially with child brides. But let’s take an objective look at this trial from an intellectual point of view. That said, Winston Blackmore and James Oler were charged in 2009 with ‘practicing polygamy’ and that too, is something to discuss.
Let’s start with the definitions:
Polygamy: having more than one wife or husband at the same time –and it is legal in 57 of the 200 nations of the world.
Polyandry: having more than one husband at the same time — is illegal everywhere but widely practiced in rural Tibet.
Polygyny: having more one wife at the same time is the ‘more accepted’ form of polygamy and by extension is legal in 57 of the current nation states of the world.
Conjugal: relating to a marriage or relationship
Polyamory: having more than one lover, of any sex, Let’s talk about sex and the Law in Canada. Polyamory is illegal in Canada. Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that 5 years in prison is the penalty for more than 2 adults living together in ‘a group conjugal situation’. So having a relationship with several people is illegal in Canada. Worse, the law states that you don’t even have to be having sex with the people to be breaking the law. And then to go totally over the top, is fact the law states that anyone present at a ceremony (or wedding) binding those in a relationship with more than one person ALSO commits polygamy can be sentenced to up to 5 years in jail. Fucking nuts. Here’s the actual line relating to this:
Now on November 23, 2011, the BC Supreme Court ruled that Section 293 doesn’t apply to ‘unformalized polyamorous relationships’ but does still put an outright ban on formally declaring your love and commitment to your partners as an indictable criminal offence punishable by 5 years in jail. Still, the current wording of Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada is desperately in need of change.
Should practicing polyamory be illegal? Absolutely not. Polyamory causes no harm, though the court system seems to think — and this has been legally argued — that one guy having more than one girl would cause havoc because there’s less girls to go around. But this is mildly retarded because there is no reason 2 guys or even 5 guys could be in a committed relationship with 1 girl. Things will probably balance out based on the number of available partners. And also…what if all the guys are gay? Honestly, there is a certain amount of freedom that people deserve and 1st among those is keeping the government out of our bedrooms. As long as everyone is consenting, it should be legal and it’s nobody else’s damn business. So definitely and most certainly, polyamory shouldn’t be illegal.
Should practicing polygamy be illegal? This is a trickier question. Being free to love anyone you want is one thing. But marrying multiple others would require more complex shifts in how the law, hospitals and taxes all react to multiple spouses. For example, if someone with 3 spouses is left brain dead from an accident, who gets to decide if the life support should be withdrawn? But considering that mankind has already created the most complex tax codes imaginable, I am certain that these technical issues can be resolved.
My main concerns with polygamy and more specifically, polygyny is girls being forced to marry guys they don’t want to marry. This probably occurs most frequently under religious contexts and then there is great potential for the marriage to be about power and frought with power imbalances. In the case with Blackmore and Oler, the girls were 12 or 13 and shipped from BC down to Texas to marry a man with 80+ wives. That just seems problematic as far as power goes. And it certainly doesn’t see to be about marrying someone you love. Not if you never met them. :/
So the main issue that people see is the age difference between the girls and the husband. Personally, when I was 12 I was completely able to tell if I wanted to kiss someone or not. And I am also perfectly certain that some judge or policeman would utterly unqualified and unable to make that determination for me. No, I think it is completely ageist to say that because a person is younger, they can’t decide to get married or know who they love. When I think about it, you could argue that people could get married at 4 years old or something but…really, when I was 4 I had little concept of what that meant and don’t think I had an desires that way at all. So I wouldn’t have gotten married that young…but then again, when I was in 6, I did have a big crush on a girl named Christine. I even gave her a Valentine’s day card telling her that I loved her. I even thought that when I grew up I wanted to marry her. By the time I was 12…if given the opportunity to marry a 45 year old woman with 81 other husbands, I would have been absolutely sure to say, “No damn way!”
Massive disparities between the number of males to females is a warning sign that not everything is right. 10 to 1 is so unlikely …that one guy or girl could be so awesome to attract that many lovers willing to marry and share them…it just seems off. Of course, this could work if everyone is lovers with each other — or at least some of the others. Then it becomes a network… a loving family of people who have taken the time to legally commit to one another.
Honestly, as long as all the people in the marriage are entering into it with open eyes and knowing exactly what the situation is, I don’t have a problem with it and since there is no harm being done to anyone and everyone is doing what they want, who am I to say that what they are doing is wrong. It is only the case of people being forced and coerced to do things they don’t want, in which there should be laws in place to protect against that…as it is still illegal to rape, kidnap or abuse people, but marrying people…that doesn’t need to be lumped into the same category of illegal. So should polygamy be illegal? No, so long as everyone is honestly consenting and willing.
The case of Blackmore and Oler, Bountiful Polygamists
In the case of Blackmore and Oler, Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints aka Mormons, I want to say that girls marrying a man with multiple wives is fine…but I can’t. The girls were sent from Bountiful BC down to Texas by their parents. They married out of duty, not love. The man they married had over 80 other wives. The wives were not in love with each other (and this is biggie because 80 girls cannot be satisfied sexually by one man. The wives would have to truly love and have sexual relations with each other…and I believe Mormons frown on that!). Finally, the age difference of a 12 year old girl with a 45 year old male…I won’t say that’s in any way impossible, but considering all the other factors, this really seems not right.
The girls are probably be coerced and controlled. The imbalances here don’t add up. But do they warrant a life sentence for child molestation? I don’t the intent is that malicious. But the girls should probably be helped in some way and given a real, true choice and say in the matter. Informed choice after seeing the living conditions, speaking with the other wives and most of all, one that isn’t profoundly influenced by the pressures of a tightly knit religious community.
The final words of this I will leave to Warren Jeffs, the Texan Latter Day Saints leader who got the aforementioned life sentence. This is what he said on the day he married his 13 year old wife: