Polygamy, the practice of having multiple spouses, has been a contentious and controversial topic for centuries. Its legality continues to be debated in the United States and worldwide. Let’s see why is polygamy illegal in the US!
Marriage is a fundamental institution in society, and its legal regulation has been a subject of discussion and debate for centuries. In most societies, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman; however, some cultures and religions allow for polygamy, which is having more than one spouse simultaneously.
The concept of polygamy has been a controversial topic for a long time, and it is still illegal in many countries, including the United States. This article will delve into why is polygamy illegal and some laws regarding the concept.
What is polygamy?
Before knowing why is polygamy illegal, there must be an understanding of the concept of polygamy. It has more than one spouse at one time. This can include having multiple wives (polygyny) or multiple husbands (polyandry), although polygyny is more common.
Polygamy is found in many cultures and religions worldwide. Still, it is illegal in most countries, including the U.S. Some people practice polygamy as a religious or cultural tradition, while others see it as a personal choice or lifestyle.
History of polygamy
Let’s know the history of polygamy before knowing why polygamy is illegal. Polygamy has a complex history in the United States. In the country’s early days, polygamy was practiced by some religious groups, such as the Mormons, who believed it to be a religious principle. However, it was not widely accepted by society, and there were conflicts and legal challenges. In 1862, the U.S. passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which made polygamy a criminal offense.
In the late 19th century, the U.S. government actively pursued and persecuted polygamous communities, particularly those associated with the Mormon Church. As a result, many Mormons abandoned the practice of polygamy, and the church was officially banned in 1890.
In the 20th century, many individuals and communities continued to practice polygamy. However, they faced legal challenges and social stigma. In recent years, there have been court cases brought by polygamous communities seeking legal recognition, but these efforts have not been successful.
Overall, polygamy has been a contentious issue in the U.S. since the country’s earliest days and remains so today. It is currently illegal in all states and territories and is not widely accepted by society.
How does polygamy work?
Polygamy involves having multiple partners in a relationship, typically with one being married to more than one spouse. This practice is most commonly seen in polygamy, where a man has multiple wives, but it can also take the form of polyandry, where a woman has multiple husbands.
In polygamous relationships, each spouse has a unique and separate relationship with the person they are married to. This can involve separate living arrangements, separate finances, and separate social lives. The partners in a polygamous relationship may also have separate duties and responsibilities, such as caring for children, managing household finances, and maintaining social relationships.
However, the exact workings of polygamy can vary greatly depending on cultural, religious, and personal beliefs and values. In some cultures and religions, polygamy is a deeply ingrained part of the tradition and is practiced as a religious obligation. In other cases, it may be a personal choice based on individual beliefs and values.
Regardless of its form, polygamy can be a complex and challenging lifestyle and requires a high level of communication and cooperation between partners. It is essential for individuals involved in polygamous relationships to be aware of the legal and social consequences of their choices and to seek support and resources as needed.
Why is polygamy illegal?
“Polygamy violates the dignity of women. It is inadmissible discrimination against women. Consequently, it should be abolished wherever it continues to exist,” says the U.N. Human Rights Committee Comment 28.
Legal and constitutional reasons
The legality of polygamy is a complex issue debated in the United States for many years. There are several legal and constitutional reasons why polygamy is illegal in the country. These reasons are rooted in the principles of marriage, equality under the law, and the separation of church-states.
Bigamy is marrying someone while already being legally married to another person. It is a criminal offense in the U.S. and is considered fraudulent. The laws against bigamy are in place to protect the sanctity of marriage and to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of marriage are not diluted by having multiple partners. The bigamy laws serve as a legal barrier to practicing polygamy, as it is not possible to have multiple spouses at the same time in the eyes of the law.
Bigamy is a severe crime, and individuals who engage in it can face criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. The punishment for bigamy varies from state to state, but it is generally considered a felony. In addition, individuals who engage in bigamy can face social stigma and may find it difficult to obtain employment or housing.
Equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S.
The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all citizens are treated equally under the law. It states that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This means that the government cannot discriminate against individuals based on their race, gender, religion, or other factors.
The equal protection clause is relevant to the issue of polygamy because it ensures that all citizens have the same rights and responsibilities under the law. If polygamy were illegal, some individuals could have multiple spouses while others would not. This would create a situation where some citizens have different rights than others, and it would be a violation of the equal protection clause.
The equal rights protection clause promotes fairness and justice by ensuring that all citizens are treated equally under the law. It is an important principle that helps to maintain a level playing field and to prevent discrimination based on arbitrary characteristics.
Separation of church and state
The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of the U.S. constitutional system. It means that the government cannot endorse or enforce any particular religious doctrine and that religious beliefs are a private matter for individuals to decide for themselves. This principle is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of religion.
The separation of church and state is relevant to the issue of polygamy because polygamy is often associated with certain religious beliefs. Allowing polygamy as a legal practice could be seen as the government endorsing a specific religious viewpoint, violating the principle of separation of church and state.
The separation of church and state is intended to protect religion’s freedom and prevent the government from interfering in religious beliefs. It helps to ensure that individuals are free to practice their religion without fear of government persecution.
Social and cultural reasons
In addition to legal and constitutional reasons, there are also social and cultural reasons why polygamy is illegal in the U.S.
Impact on women and children
The effect of polygamy on women and children is a significant concern and one of the reasons why it is illegal in the United States.
In polygamous marriages, women often have limited control over their lives, as they are frequently subjected to the authority of the male head of the household. They may face exploitation and abuse, including physical and emotional violence and economic insecurity. Children in polygamous families may also be at a higher risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation and may have difficulty accessing education and other resources.
Polygamy can also perpetuate gender inequalities and restrict the opportunities available to women and girls. For example, they may have limited access to education and employment, limiting their ability to support themselves and their families.
Conflict with traditional societal norms and values
Polygamy often conflicts with traditional societal norms and values in the United States, which values the idea of having one committed and exclusive relationship. This norm is deeply ingrained in American society and is reflected in various laws and policies, such as the requirement for individuals to obtain a marriage license before marriage.
The practice of polygamy can be seen as a challenge to these traditional norms and values, as it involves having multiple spouses and potentially undermines the idea of a committed and exclusive relationship. This can lead to social stigma and discrimination against those who practice polygamy and their families.
Furthermore, polygamy can also create tension within communities and society as a whole, as it can be seen as a threat to the traditional institution of marriage and the family structure. This can lead to resistance and opposition to the practice, even among those who may not have personal objections.
Current legal challenges
Despite its illegal status, there have been recent legal challenges to the ban on polygamy in the United States. Some argue that the ban on polygamy infringes on their religious freedom and the freedom of association, as it criminalizes individuals for engaging in a central practice of their religious beliefs.
Ongoing court cases
To my knowledge, cut off in 2021, there have been several ongoing court cases related to the legality of polygamy in the United States. These cases challenge the constitutionality of laws that criminalize polygamy and the practice of cohabitation with multiple partners.
One notable case is the Brown V. Human case, which was filed in 2022 and challenged Utah’s bigamy law on the grounds of religious freedom. The case argued that the law infringed on the religious beliefs of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) who practice polygamy as a part of their faith.
Another ongoing case is the United States V. Blackmore case, which was filed in 2018 and involved a Canadian polygamous leader charged with practicing polygamy in the U.S. and Canada. The case is significant because it is one of the first to involve a high-profile polygamous leader and has drawn attention to the ongoing debate about the legality of polygamy in North America.
These ongoing cases highlight the continuous debate about the legality of polygamy and the constitutionality of laws that criminalize the practice. These cases may have significant implications for the future of polygamy in the U.S. and the ongoing debate about its legality.
Polygamous communities seeking legal recognition
Some polygamous communities in the United States are seeking legal recognition for their practice of polygamy. They argue that the ban on polygamy infringes on their religious freedom and freedom of association and that they should be able to practice polygamy without fear of criminalization.
These communities seek various forms of legal recognition, such as obtaining marriage licenses for multiple partners or recognizing polyamorous relationships in civil law. They argue that polygamy is central to their religious belief and should be protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
However, their efforts to seek legal recognition for polygamy have faced significant opposition and legal challenges. Opponents argue that the ban on polygamy serves a compelling government interest in protecting the well-being of women and children and promoting social stability and order.
Despite these challenges, some polygamous communities continue to seek legal recognition for their practice and advocate for changes to laws and policies that criminalize polygamy. The outcome of these efforts is uncertain, but they highlight the ongoing debate about the legality of polygamy in the United States and the conflicting interests and values at play.
Consequences of polygamy
People ask why is polygamy illegal. The answer is that polygamy can have various consequences for both the individuals involved in the practice and society. Following are a few consequences that will wipe the question of why is polygamy illegal out of your mind.
Consequences for individual
Emotional and psychological stress
Emotional and psychological stress can be a significant consequence of polygamy for individuals, particularly women in polyamorous relationships. Women in these relationships may feel marginalized or oppressed, resulting in feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and a lack of fulfillment.
The dynamic within a polyamorous relationship can also be complex and challenging to navigate, resulting in additional stress and emotional strain for those involved. In some cases, women may feel pressure to accept the arrangement to maintain the relationship, which can further exacerbate feelings of oppression and marginalization.
Moreover, the lack of societal acceptance of polygamy can also contribute to emotional and psychological stress for individuals involved in the practice. This may result in feelings of shame, stigma, and discrimination, which can further impact their emotional well-being.
Lack of financial stability
A lack of financial stability is another significant consequence of polygamy for individuals, particularly women. In polygamous relationships, resources may be distributed unevenly among partners, resulting in financial insecurity for some individuals.
In addition, polygamous families often have large numbers of children, which can strain resources and make it difficult for individuals to provide for themselves and their families. The lack of financial stability can also have long-term consequences, such as difficulties securing employment and building wealth.
Moreover, polygamy’s social stigma and discrimination can make it difficult for individuals to access financial resources and opportunities, such as loans or education. This can further exacerbate financial instability and insecurity for individuals involved in polygamous relationships.
Children born into polygamous families
Children born into polygamous families can also face several consequences due to their upbringing. Some of these consequences include the following:
Limited educational opportunities
Children in polygamous families may not have access to quality education or educational resources, which can limit their future opportunities and success.
Psychological and emotional stress
Children in polygamous families may experience stress and emotional difficulties due to the dynamic within the family, which can include competition for attention and resources among multiple partners.
Social stigma and discrimination
Children born into polygamous families may face social stigma and discrimination from their peers and the wider community, which can have a lasting impact on their self-esteem and well-being.
Legal and financial difficulties
Children born into polygamous families may also face legal and financial difficulties due to their background, including inheritance and property rights issues.
Consequences for society
The strain on Resources and Social Services
The strain on resources and social services is another significant consequence of polygamy. Large polygamous families often require significant resources, including housing, healthcare, education, and financial support, which can strain local communities and social services.
In addition, polygamous families may also strain local infrastructure and services, such as schools, healthcare facilities, and social services, as they may have more children and require more resources. This can result in increased costs for local communities and reduced access to resources for other individuals and families.
Furthermore, polygamous families may also strain government services, such as welfare programs, as they may require additional support to meet their needs. This can result in increased costs for taxpayers and reduced access to resources for other individuals and families.
Conflicts with Traditional Societal Norms and Values
Conflicts with traditional societal norms and values are also a significant consequence of polygamy. Many societies hold traditional views on relationships and marriage, which typically involve monogamous relationships between two partners. Polygamy, on the other hand, involves multiple partners, which can conflict with these traditional societal norms and values.
This conflict can result in social stigma and discrimination against individuals involved in polygamous relationships, which can have a lasting impact on their social and emotional well-being. It can also lead to legal and financial difficulties for individuals involved in polygamous relationships, as they may not have the same rights and protections as those in monogamous relationships.
In addition, the practice of polygamy can also create tension and conflict within communities, as it may challenge traditional gender roles and power dynamics. This can result in additional stress and emotional difficulties for individuals involved in polygamous relationships.
Social Stigma and Discrimination
Social stigma and discrimination are significant consequences of polygamy. Polygamy goes against the traditional societal norms of monogamy and is often viewed with suspicion and stigma. This can result in discrimination against individuals involved in polygamous relationships, including in areas such as employment, housing, and access to services.
Individuals in polygamous relationships may face social stigma from their peers and the wider community, which can have a lasting impact on their self-esteem and well-being. They may also face discrimination from authorities and institutions, such as the legal system and healthcare providers, which can limit their access to resources and protections.
In addition, children born into polygamous families may also face social stigma and discrimination, which can have a lasting impact on their self-esteem and well-being. This can result in reduced opportunities for these children in education and employment and contribute to poverty and disadvantage.
Countries where polygamy is legal
In Iran, polygamy is legal for men as long as they have obtained permission from their first wives and can financially provide for all their spouses.
Polygamy is legal in Iraq, but there are restrictions in place, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives.
Polygamy is legal in Morocco but is heavily regulated. A man must prove he can provide for all his wives and obtain written consent from each of them.
Polygamy is legal in Nigeria but is heavily regulated. A man must obtain the written consent of his first wife and prove he can provide for all his wives.
Polygamy is legal in Senegal but is subject to restrictions, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives.
United Arab Emirates
Polygamy is legal in the UAE but is heavily regulated. A man must prove he can provide for all his wives and obtain written consent from each of them.
Polygamy is legal in Yemen, but there are restrictions in place, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives.
Polygamy is legal in Jordan, but there are restrictions in place, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives.
Polygamy is legal in Mali but is subject to restrictions, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives.
Polygamy is legal in Saudi Arabia, but there are restrictions in place, such as a requirement for the man to obtain written consent from his first wife and to prove he can provide for all his wives
In most countries, polygamy is legal due to cultural and religious traditions allowing multiple spouses. In many cases, it is seen as a way to support families, provide for children, and symbolize wealth and status. However, polygamy can also lead to social, economic, and legal consequences, particularly for women and children in polygamous relationships. Read below to know why polygamy is illegal in the U.S.
Laws of polygamy in the U.S.
In the United States, polygamy is illegal in all 50 states and is a criminal offense. It is considered a form of bigamy, which is marrying someone while already legally married to another person. Bigamy is a felony in the United States and is punishable by imprisonment and fines.
The legality of polygamy in the United States is based on a long history of legal precedent, as well as the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal treatment under the law for all citizens. The courts have consistently held that the right to marriage is a fundamental right and that laws prohibiting polygamy are necessary to protect the institution of marriage and to ensure equal treatment for all individuals.
In addition to the criminal penalties for bigamy, individuals who engage in polygamous relationships may face various social and cultural consequences, including discrimination and ostracism. In some cases, polygamous communities may face challenges from law enforcement and government agencies, who view the practice as threatening public safety and social stability.
Despite the legal and cultural barriers, some individuals and communities in the United States continue to practice polygamy and advocate for its legalization. In recent years, there have been ongoing court cases and legal challenges to the laws prohibiting polygamy, but so far, the ban on polygamy has been upheld as constitutional. You might have got why polygamy is illegal in the U.S. now.
“Why is polygamy illegal” is a complex question to answer. The legality of polygamy remains a controversial and complex issue in the United States and worldwide. While some countries allow the practice based on cultural, religious, or personal beliefs, others have banned it due to legal, constitutional, and social restrictions.
Polygamy can have significant emotional, psychological, and financial impacts on individuals involved in such relationships and the children born into these families. The legal and social implications of polygamy continue to be debated and will likely remain a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future.