Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

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Sister Wives and Sincere Marriages

My wife loves the show Sister Wives – so by default I have picked up an affinity for the disappointingly undramatic reality show about a Mormon Fundamentalist family that is living a modern polygamist scenario. As soon as I saw this show and the hostility it generates in Utah, I thought to myself “I wonder how long it will take before this becomes muddled with gay marriage rights?” Well this last week U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled against Utah’s laws prohibiting “Cohabitation” – stating it was in incompatible with the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


Is this a victory for people wanting to practice polygamy? No, not really…because it is still illegal to be married to more than one person in all 50 states. Does it take a swing at the DOMA? No, the recent decision doesn’t really move in that direction either. It does beg the question “Who has the right to legitimize marriages?” Both sides of the culture war surrounding same sex marriage for some bizarre reason continue to argue that the government has the right and the final say so to legitimate and/or bar marriages…why? Historically this hasn’t been the case, and I don’t think it should now.


This recent case and the national focus around the Brown family highlight the hypocrisy and silliness around the marriage debates. Judge Waddoups argued against the punitive Utah laws asking what difference exists between a polygamous marriage between a man and three women or a man fornicating with three separate partners of his choice. Jerrold Jensen, Attorney General for Utah argued a large distinction existed because the polygamous family was perpetuating the image of a marriage.


So, what the state of Utah is arguing is that someone in a committed marriage with three people presents a greater threat to society than a man having three casual, uncommitted relationships which could begin families and create children…that makes a lot of sense.


I have to hand it to the Brown family, though I think polygamy sounds like a form of strange torture and am somewhat morally opposed to the idea, they have sincerity in their marriage. Maybe more marriages would work and have a fruitful commitment if they were based on ethical, moral, and religious convictions than a state license. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, but as long as we see the state as the justification and origin of our “cohabitation” we can also blame the state for our moral short comings. Maybe we could take a lesson from the Brown family?

What do you think?

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