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Why Polygamy Should Be Legal

Updated on February 19, 2009

De-Criminalizing Sinful Acts

In Canada, being married to more than one person is illegal. It is in fact, a criminal offence. Section 293 of the Criminal Code prohibits “any form of polygamy [or] entering into a conjugal union with more than one person at the same time.” The maximum penalty is five years in prison.

While I am certainly not an advocate for polygamists, I fail to understand why it is considered a crime. Laws are intended to prevent harm to society at large. So, it is not really the "marriage" that bothers us is it? Isn't it the multiple relationships that we find abhorrent? If it is the behavior of the polygamist that troubles us - that being that he is not monogamous, then we'd better get busy and make adultry a crime too.

Seriously, a married man (or woman) is within his legal rights to cheat on his or her spouse, with or without said spouse's knowledge. A man is permitted to have sex with multiple partners, separately or all at one time without legal consequences. He is legally entitled to live "in sin" with as many "partners" as he chooses (assuming they too choose him). Society in general, does not advocate such behavior, but we don't prosecute partakers. Why then do we make it a crime for a person to "marry" multiple partners? What difference does it really make if the persons involved in the activity have gone through a "ceremony"?

Perhaps the harm to society comes in the sense of the legal rights and benefits of spouses. I may be viewing this in a very simplistic view, but why couldn't we simply not recognize the multiple spouses? Let them get "married" in their religious ceremony, but when it comes to the "state" you can only claim one spouse. Let's just get out of the bedrooms of consenting adults. Let's allow people to choose how they want to live without governement intervention, but let's protect the real interest of society by recognizing only one legal spouse per person. Isn't that really simple? Am I missing something?

There are those who will say that polygamous communities, such as Bountiful BC, are not only engaging in polygamy, but they are forcing children to marry older men. In my mind, that is a completely separate issue. Sexual abuse of a child should not be confused with polygamy. A child cannot legally consent to sexual relations with adults - period. There are child protection laws to deal with that situation, and I would support aggressive prosecution of any person, polygamist or not, who sexaully abuses or interferes with any child.

Difficult to prove? Of course it is. As a former child protection social worker, I can tell you that sexual abuse of a child is never easy to prove - even outside of religious cults.

If Bountiful’s leaders, Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler are found guilty and imprisoned, what will the financial cost be to society? Will imprisoning these two men put an end to the practise? I can't imagine that it will.

So there you have it... just some of the reasons that support the notion of de-criminalizing Polygamy.


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    • Alli Rose profile image

      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      They just decriminalized polygamy in Utah! Woo hoo. Well, woo hoo for those practicing polygamy.

    • profile image

      Someone 4 years ago

      Why is nobody considering multiple partners of same-sex marriages or that same-sex partners may wish such a lifestyle? I think it is the recognition for social acceptance which is the issue... It is "weird" because it is not "normal". People everwhere are cheating on their spouses, or they are permitted by them to knowingly engage in other relationships. When does such relationships turn illegal? Most likely when the public is outraged from the idea of raising children in the "atmosphere of polygamy/andry/etc." Just think of the insecurities such a relationship would create amongst traditional married couples who for them the marriage contract uses property rights to control the sexual behaviour of their potentially adulterous spouse.

    • profile image

      Pete 5 years ago

      I am generally libertarian and believe the government ought to stay out of the matter. But, there is a problem I have with Polygamy.

      Let's say it is found to be Constitutional. And let's also say that over time it gets popular.

      What happens to our society in the long term? Do we really want to start looking like Saudi Arabia in that men with the financial means will have 3,4,5 or 15 wives? You don't need to be a math wiz to know that this will result in a whole lot of men with zero wives.

      And what happens then?

      I think it results in large numbers of frustrated angry men. Men who don't give a crap, who feel they have nothing to live for and start behaving rather badly.

      I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of married men that don't behave this way, as there are, but, it will makes things worse.

    • profile image

      jasonpat21 6 years ago

      I think this thing is still have to illegal in the country because if suits only for a man, what if a woman will mary more than a one man.

    • profile image

      mvuyisi 6 years ago

      i do believe that polgamists are indeed good on the act since it is a man's right to have or marry any women you think suits you in anyway

    • profile image

      Mark 6 years ago

      I find it very ironic that the only thing making polygamy a crime, while polyandry is not, is a legal marriage--or two. I can cohabitate with and have sex with multiple women as long as I am married to one--or none. The only rationale for criminalization I can fathom is that polygamy somehow cheapens marriage( a position that I do not agree with).

    • profile image

      Brianna 6 years ago

      This was the best post I've read in regards to polygamy.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I understand Warren Jeffs doesn't care much for his new home.

    • profile image

      just a thought? 6 years ago

      the real thrust of the polygamy movement doesn't have much to do with a couple 100 fringe mormons. It has more to do with the hundreds of thousands of muslims that are immigrating to Canada. The media are too frightened to discuss this under the islamic umbrella (perhaps rightfully so). Once legalized, you will soon see muslim men with multiple wives everywhere. Each of these in turn will have 4-8 children. They will continue to immigrate more wives via marriage/citizenship means. Within several generations islam will be a majority in canada and sharia law will be enforced. bye bye land of liberty.

    • profile image

      celinda 6 years ago

      I completely agree with the opinions voiced in this article. Discrimination of polygamy is like discrimination of any religious or racial practice. While I do not condone the marriage of children to adult men, there is a difference between plural marriage and sexual abuse. When approached in a good way, polygamy is perfectly acceptable. People should be entitled to their own religious beliefs or their dignity otherwise. Why is polygamy a crime? Because most people don’t do it so therefore it’s weird? A criminal act, even? It is unconstitutional to say a person cannot engage in their own religious practice, at least to an extent. Did we not found this country as a place of harmony and freedom? Polygamy, like gay marriage, will remain a controversial subject but there are some things that people need to think about from both perspectives.

    • profile image

      Janet 6 years ago

      Here is what the Attorney General of Saskatchewan says about polygamy (having multiple spouses)

      "Polygamy is illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code. Further, Saskatchewan’s Marriage Act, 1995 reinforces the federal prohibition through the procedures under that Act in place to prevent a person from being legally married to more than one person at a time. Polygamy is prevented by requiring every person wanting to marry under the Act to obtain a marriage licence and declare their current marital status. A marriage licence will only be issued to persons who declare themselves to have one of the following marital statuses: 1) never married; 2) widowed; 3) divorced; or 4) their previous marriage was annulled. Persons who have had a previous marriage dissolved through divorce or annulment must provide a copy of their Certificate of Divorce or Decree of Nullity of Marriage.

      In Saskatchewan it is possible to enter into a spousal relationship without that relationship being solemnized under The Marriage Act, 1995. The Family Property Act provides framework to deal with situations where spousal relationships overlap in time. This most commonly occurs when two people married under The Marriage Act, 1997 separate without going through the formal divorce procedures for a number of years. The separated spouses may enter into new common law spousal relationships prior to the finalization of the divorce of the previous marriage."

      In other words married peiople can have multiple spouses under the protection of the laws of Saskatchewan. Disgusting.

    • profile image

      Jania 7 years ago

      Alianna, what really ticks people off is when a government like Saskatchewan authorizes polygamy and forces unsuspecting males to become the spouses of women who already have a spouse! Underage marriages can easily be dealt with in criminal law. It is when the governments chioose not to enforce the criminal code of Canada that people lose all respect for provincial governments who force polygamy!

    • profile image

      Alianna 7 years ago

      It's not so much the fact of a man having several wives that set most people off, it's what almost always happens to the young girls. There is NO NEED for a man of 50 to be marring a 13 year old girl. That is what makes polygamists disgusting to most when stories like Bountiful BC Canada hit the news. I don't believe people would care about how many wives a man has but the age of his brides and the fact these young bride have no choice is what makes it wrong. If polygamists had set laws on age (as in higher than 17) it would be a start.

    • profile image

      asdf 7 years ago

      What about two consenting adults who happen to be closely blood-related? Should they be allowed to marry if they want to?

      Btw, good article. As long as it's between consenting adults, it wouldn't really interfere with other ppls' lives. Personally though, I would add that there should be a cap on how many spouses one person can take. Like maybe 4. Imagine 1 person taking on 100 spouses.

    • nightwork4 profile image

      nightwork4 7 years ago from ontario. canada

      this is just another way in which the government has become too entwined in our personal lives. i never understood why we let or want them to decide what we do in our lives that only effect us. i'm not a fan of polygamy but it's not my place to tell others if or who they can marry.

    • profile image

      Jacketed 8 years ago

      The point is that Saskatchewan has a statute that allows family court justices to assist and create the legal basis of marital family property rights for persons who are already married to other(s). If a common law wife or husband is also married to another persons during the sametime..that's called polygamy. If a justice recognizes the common law wife or husband in a FAMILY court case, then they have asisted with and sanctioned a plural conjugal union. That's illegal too.

    • Karen Weir profile image

      Karen Weir 8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Well Fangirl, I do not disagree with what you say, however I don't see how polygamy laws will protect the women who live in polygamist societies. The law doesn't stop the practice - that's really the point.

    • profile image

      Fangirl 8 years ago

      You're quite right--what happens between consenting adults is no one's business. However, that said, all too often polygamy isn't about consenting adults; it's about power, control and sex no matter how you dress it up "religiously." It's about one man having power and control over women and children. Women frequently are not given any real choices. There was an issue a number of years ago of girls not being educated in Bountiful because their roles of wife and mother had already been decided. Further, the man can marry both mother and daughter--incest? That's what makes the practice abhorrent.

      Further, my understanding of of Bountiful is that the older men are chasing the younger men out of the town--many teenage boys have been forced to leave due to trumped up "charges".

      Because of the difficulty in separating exploitation from polygamy it seems to me polygamy needs to remain illegal. The law may be the only recourse some of these women have should they decide to they leave.

    • northernimpressio profile image

      northernimpressio 8 years ago from Thompson, MB

      I have just been watching The Bachelor. That guy is in love with 3 girls..They all know what's going on. He makes up and even spent a night with each of them.. Nobody is panicking about that.. I guess polygamy would be more acceptable than we care to think.

    • profile image

      Jason 8 years ago

      Polygamy Canada Saskatchewan Law Legal Winston Blackmore ..

      All these topics are moot since one province already allows Polygamy?

    • profile image

      Darlene, 8 years ago

      If Saskatchewan Justice officials are "party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction" more than ONE simultaneous spouse or conjugal relationship at a time (this would include making common law or married persons conjugal spouses of already married and not divorced..persons..then these saskatchewan officials are also guilty of polygamy.

    • profile image

      Concerned MD 8 years ago

      Before you decide that polygamy should be legalized, familiarize yourselves with the medical literature on the topic. There is consistent evidence in the medical literature that polygyny, the practice of a man having multiple wives, is associated with the development of depression, anxiety, somatization disorder, and psychiatric hospitalizations for suicidal ideation in the wives of polygynous marriages. Additionally, polygamy is associated with poor mental health outcomes for children. Review the literature on polygyny written by Alean Al - Krenawi via the google scholar program, then reach a conclusion on your feelings regarding legalizing polgyny.

    • profile image

      Sammy 8 years ago

      To quote another Hubpage, "It is children who end up being the victim of polygamy."

      Read the article, "How polygamy leads to slavery", for a different perspective.

    • Karen Weir profile image

      Karen Weir 8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      I don't think its discrimination Dale. Since polygamy is illegal, the subsequent spouses are not legally spouses. It protects the original which is considered legal.

    • profile image

      Dale 8 years ago

      According to that Saskatchewan Section 51 Family Property Act, the subsequent spouse would not get property or other spousal considerations equal to the "first-in" spouse.

      Isn't that discrimination? How can the first spouse have more rights than the second same time spouse?

    • profile image

      Observer 8 years ago

      You state: " Let them get "married" in their religious ceremony, but when it comes to the "state" you can only claim one spouse."

      This is not at all true in Saskatchewan. The rest of Canada, yes it is true.

      There are several cases in Saskatchewan where the Queens Bench Justices have "created subsequent spouses" using Section 51 of the FAMILY Property Act.

      Don Morgan says the law is "just there to recognize that sometimes people move on without getting a divorce". When he says "move on" Don Morgan means to get another (or more ) legal spouses.

      For certain 2 women who were married claimed to have subsequent spouses and the judges made the "spousal unions" legal despite knowing the women had existing spouses and were not divorced at the time.

      Could it be that the Sk Government wants persons to be able to "object on religious grounds" to Federal anti-polygamy laws so that immigration will see Saskatchewan first as a destination for Polygamists from all over the globe? In order to protect ALL the Saskatchewan legislation ( there are a lot) that allows multiple same time conjugal unions Saskatchewan needs to have legislation that allows persons and government sanctioned officials (such as marrriage commissioners, ministers and even judges) to opt in or out of performing or sanctioning gay marriages and performing , assisting with and providing consent for plural conjugal unions. Canada and Saskatchewan already have in place Criminal Code and Human Rights legislation that protect persons from discrimination. Saskatchewan wants to "add" provincial legislation that allows the province to control who, what, when and where "conscientious" or "religious" or "individual" objections to following the federal criminal code can occur. In effect, they wish to create their own criminal code. That way, when they transgress Federal law in the courts, there is no scrutiny. For example, who is scrutinizing the Queens Bench judges that Provide consent, are party to consent, assist with and provide access to..multiple conjugal unions?

      Canad's Federal Criminal Code states:

      Every one who:(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into(i) any form of polygamy, or(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (i) or (ii), is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. Where an accused is charged with an offence under this section, no averment or proof of the method by which the alleged relationship was entered into, agreed to or consented to is necessary in the indictment or on the trial of the accused, nor is it necessary on the trial to prove that the persons who are alleged to have entered into the relationship had or intended to have sexual intercourse.

      Look at 1 (C) ... It is readily apparent that Saskatchewan judges who have "assisted with, provided consent for, sanctioned and been LEGAL party to" creating same time conjugal unions need serious police scrutiny.

      However, if marriage commissioners (regulated by the crown) and judges (regulated by another crown) can "object to" and ignore Federal laws, then Saskatchewan Justice can also do so with impunity. Read.. they can't successfully be sued for their past, present and intended future actions because they will be protected by Saskatchewan legislation that allows them to ignore Federal Criminal Code laws.

      Saskatchewan Legislation in many statutes claims similar to this from the FAMILY act:

      “Rights of new spouse51 Where a person becomes the spouse of a person who has a spouse, the rightspursuant to this Act of the subsequent spouse are subject to the rights pursuant tothis Act of the prior spouse.”Saskatchewan judges use this section of their spousal property law to argue that married people can also have any number of other spouses at the same time.If this is an immigration plan for boosting Saskatchewans seems strange. If it is just arrogant incompetence..there seems to be a lot of that in Saskatchewan Justices' past and present.

    • Karen Weir profile image

      Karen Weir 8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Thanks for that info Observer. It would appear that SK agrees with me.

      I'm curious about the "real" motives that are hidden from the public though?

    • profile image

      Observer 8 years ago

      A little scrutiny of Saskatchewan Justice is recommended.

      Don Morgan allows Polygamy. Section 51 of the Saskatchewan Family Property Act has been used by Saskatchewan Queens Bench judges to create Polygamous marital unions for a decade. Then the government sues and wins against Orville to force him to perform same sex marriage. In a reversal (again from Morgan) now the Saskatchewan Justice department wants to make marriage commissioners’ independent of the laws against discrimination? Could it be Saskatchewan is posturing to increase immigration to Saskatchewan by having full fledged communities of Polygamists move to their province? Winston Blackmore and other Polygamists have been arguing that the Federal law against Polygamy discriminates against their religious beliefs so coincidently now Saskatchewan wants legislation to allow religious objections to be recognized in legislation.

      There are federal criminal code laws respecting Polygamy and religious discrimination. They protect Canadians. Saskatchewan ignores them with a little legal wrangling. The real motives are hidden from the simple public.

    • Karen Weir profile image

      Karen Weir 8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Uh, yeah Jason, it is a legal matter. My position is that it shouldn't be a legal matter because it is a moral issue.

    • profile image

      Jason 8 years ago

      This is not a matter of de-criminalizing morality. it is a legal matter.

    • Karen Weir profile image

      Karen Weir 8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      I'm not a law expert, but I do not believe that SK law permits or forces polygamy on anyone. Polygamy is a criminal offence. It is my understanding that the SK law is, of course, open to interpretation, but its intent is to protect unsuspecting subsequent spouses.

      My argument is that the practice should be de-criminalized. Legislating morality is just silly imho.

    • profile image

      CassyN 8 years ago

      I am not sure about this but if one criminal law can be legally ignored by Saskatchewan residents then I think they couold mostly all be ignored.

      I think any person could argue that they would have no idea which laws to live by if the government themselves ignore SOME federal laws?

      It makes sense that this would be a good legal argument a person could use if they break a federal law in Saskatchewan?

    • profile image

      Rielly 8 years ago

      How does this section 51 allow polygamy? If anyone claimed to be the spouse of a person who already had a spouse they would either have a void conjugal union ( as in it didn't happen) or they would be charged under canadas criminal code with polygamy or Polyandry? WOuldn't the polygamists rights include the right to spend five years in prison?

      Rights of new spouse51 Where a person becomes the spouse of a person who has a spouse, the rightspursuant to this Act of the subsequent spouse are subject to the rights pursuant tothis Act of the prior spouse.”

    • profile image

      Succinct 9 years ago

      Saskatchewan Canada allows Polygamy and even forces Polygamy upon non consenting people. Google Saskatchewan Polygamy and section 51 of their Family Property Act, which defines marriage and spousal matters in all the provincial legislation. The case law ins now set in Tami Thurlow case so the rest of Canada will have to follow.

      It should be interesting to see what other Federal criminal code laws the individual provinces can ignore!

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 9 years ago

      very nice article very hot topic

    • sean.rutger profile image

      sean.rutger 9 years ago from USA

      I agree. Thoreau wrote "government governs best when governs least," and I've subscribed to that notion ever since the first time I read it. As far as polygamy goes, your argument against its criminality is technically correct, and I agree with the underlying notion that informed it. That is, whatever happens between consenting adults is nobody else's business. Good luck getting that law changed. If you succeed, I might move my family to Canada for some expansion! (j/k)


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