Former polygamist women critical of plural marriage ruling

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As Kristyn Decker woke up early Saturday morning, she thought she was going to have a good day. Then her phone beeped.

Decker said the message she received alerted her to Friday’s landmark ruling in which U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups struck down parts of Utah’s law against cohabitation. The decision effectively decriminalized polygamy, and while it didn’t particularly surprise Decker, it did disappoint her.

"I think it’s going to open the door for more polygamy, more welfare," Decker said of Waddoups’ ruling.

And that’s exactly the opposite thing Decker wants to see happen.

Decker spent five decades as a member of the polygamous Apostolic United Brethren, which was linked to the Kody Brown family, who filed the lawsuit leading to Waddoups’ ruling and star in TV’s "Sister Wives."

Written By: Jim Dalrymple II
continue to source article at sltrib.com

15 COMMENTS

  1. Kristyn Decker conveniently fails to point out that it’s the religiosity that often accompanies polygamous relationships which fosters the abuse of the women and children that she refers to – not polygamy itself. Just one more example of a person attacking what “appears” to her to be a problem, instead of thinking it through, identifying and attacking the real problem. :-(

  2. I’m not against consenting adults forming any kind of relationship – as long as it really is consensual, egalitarian, and children are not forced into it or harmed by it. The problem with polygamy as practiced by these groups is that all too often young teenage girls are forced into marriage with MUCH older men and become virtual slaves, objects of contempt and jealousy by older wives. The competition for attention from the husband is cutthroat. The women have numerous children who are often neglected and abused – witness the shockingly high number of child deaths in these communities. Boys and young men are often driven out of the community because older men don’t want the competition for the available women. The lives of the men seem to revolve around sex and power – they’re nothing but petty sultans lording it over their harems. Because it’s virtually impossible for a single man to make enough money to support his harem, the women are forced into scamming the welfare system to make ends meet. It’s a vicious, sleazy society that has been exposed by several women who have escaped from it – and yet, in the stories that I’ve read, rarely do the women blame the religion itself for the suffering they endured. They’ve been raised from infancy to believe that God has designed women to serve and obey men and give birth to as many children as their bodies can produce. When they escape it’s usually to get away from physical and sexual abuse, not because they’ve seen through the religious bullshit.

  3. Again, religion is being used as a tool to get and maintain power over people. People’s minds and therefore their bodies are being “chained” to an abusive situation. However, one cannot say that religion always leads to an abusive situation. There are statutory rape laws on the books now that are supposed to protect underage adolescents and children. Why aren’t they being enforced in these polygamy cases?

  4. I have actually been considering posting a discussion topic on polygamy on this website, but now this article is out I guess I can express my thoughts here. I’ve often heard arguments against gay marriage along the lines of “if gay marriage is legalized so will polygamy”. I know this is a really stupid argument, but I admit I don’t see anything wrong with polygamy, so long as all parties are consenting adults who are happy with the arrangement. I suppose legally there could be problems formulating a marriage contract with more than one person, but I fail to find a good moral argument against it. As others have pointed out, any abuse or coercion that does occur happens because of the isolation and the religious indoctrination in these communities, not from polygamy per se. It’s not like forced marriages and child abuse are suddenly going to become legal. There are other religious communities (ex: the Lev Tahor) who are also very isolated and who have been accused of child abuse, and no one fails to notice the role religion plays in these cases.

    But then, maybe I’ve missed something obvious. It’s not an issue I’ve given a whole lot of thought to.

    • In reply to #4 by Boomerang Nebula:

      I have actually been considering posting a discussion topic on polygamy on this website, but now this article is out I guess I can express my thoughts here. I’ve often heard arguments against gay marriage along the lines of “if gay marriage is legalized so will polygamy”. I know this is a really s…

      The slippery slope argument is usually just faulty reasoning and I think it is in this case as well. But one can be for gay marriage and still have doubts about polygamy. I used to think the same way, if consenting adults want to marry more than one spouse it’s not my business. But there is at least anecdotal evidence that polygamy and child abuse tend to go together. Of course anecdotal evidence isn’t all that convincing, I don’t know if there are any actual good statistics but I suspect there are.

      But just from what I’ve read about the history of the Mormon church, legalizing polygamy quite probably will result in more men having “child brides” who are too young to really even give informed consent.

      • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:not to mention that pre-teenage children can be forced into marriage by many socially-acceptable religions, much to the detriment of the “brides”. Didn’t an eight-year-old girl recently die as a result of being forced to fulfill her “wifely duties”? Give me a break — the bastard she was “married” to murdered her with his penis.

        In reply to #4 by Boomerang Nebula:

        I have actually been considering posting a discussion topic on polygamy on this website, but now this article is out I guess I can express my thoughts here. I’ve often heard arguments against gay marriage along the lines of “if gay marriage is legalized so will…

  5. BC Canada has a small polygamous community called “Bountiful”. The courts here have decided that the general harm caused by polygamy is greater than the harm (infringing individual freedom) caused by banning polygamy. See this newspaper article for some details. A reference case’s main findings were:

    • Women in polygamist relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and sexual abuse

    • Women in polygamist relationships have higher levels of depression and other mental health issues

    • Women in polygamous relationships face more severe economic hardships

    • Children in polygamous relationships experience higher infant mortality, and suffer more emotional, behavioural and physical problems. They also have lower educational achievement and are at a higher risk of physical and psychological abuse and neglect.

    Other researchers have found that polygamous societies tend to oppress women more because the competition for wives makes men make laws and customs that allow them to protect their ownership of their wives over the rights of women.

    • In reply to #6 by canadian_right:

      BC Canada has a small polygamous community called “Bountiful”. The courts here have decided that the general harm caused by polygamy is greater than the harm (infringing individual freedom) caused by banning polygamy. See this newspaper article for some details. A reference case’s main findings were…

      The things about how bad it is for women to me aren’t an argument for making it illegal. We’ve been down that road too often with things like drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc. All those things have very bad consequences for many of the people who indulge in them. The problem is that making them illegal doesn’t stop the people from doing them and the illegality ends up making more not less problems, for example because people who have problems with the behavior are less likely to seek help if it’s illegal. I could see the same arguments here actually, making polygamy illegal might make it less likely a woman in such a marriage would seek help.

      But for me the line here is innocent victims. The things about how it effects consenting adults who engage in it is one thing, but when it starts harming children then I think you can make a case that society has a legitimate interest in criminalizing it. I read a history of the Mormon church and various fringe cults (many of them in Canada) and it was appalling how common it was for these big daddies to end up “marrying” their 9 year old nieces and even daughters.

    • In reply to #6 by canadian_right:

      BC Canada has a small polygamous community called “Bountiful”.

      On the other hand, this is a community where a woman is expected to marry into wealth; and bring nothing to the marriage beyond their ability to raise children. Because that whole list of things CANNOT HAPPEN if the woman pulls in a $50k income, and has the clout to negotiate a better deal. I’d argue that the root of the abuse here was raising women to expect to be victims, not polygamy itself.

      And it’s perfectly fair to say that you can’t imagine any successful businesswoman wanting to be part of such a relationship, and you might be correct, but a personal limit of imagination is not an argument for banning something.

  6. The only question a sane person needs to ask about polygamy is where are all the extra ladies coming from?

    Nowhere. Case closed.

    I think we can all imagine a society where most of the population will never have the chance to marry or have a family. India and Pakistan are having a dry run for all to see and it doesn’t look good for the ladies!

    • In reply to #10 by alaskansee:

      The only question a sane person needs to ask about polygamy is where are all the extra ladies coming from? Nowhere. Case closed.

      I must be insane then because I need to ask more questions. Your argument doesn’t close the case as far as I’m concerned. All it does is make a good argument that society should not encourage people to be polygamous. I agree with that absolutely. But there are a lot of things that I think society should encourage people not to do that I don’t think should be made illegal.

      You could make a similar “case closed” argument about all the obvious harm that alcohol, smoking, or gambling do. But in those cases I think making the activities illegal doesn’t do much to stop them and makes things worse because it sets up an illegal underground market. You could argue for reasons of personal liberty and just plain utility that polygamy might be the same kind of thing.

      I happen to think it isn’t the same kind of thing for reasons I’ve mentioned above but I don’t think just saying “X is bad for society” automatically makes the case that “X should be illegal”.

    • In reply to #10 by alaskansee:

      The only question a sane person needs to ask about polygamy is where are all the extra ladies coming from?

      Nowhere. Case closed.

      Why does it have to be the ladies? Not like there couldn’t be multiple men married to one woman.

  7. But again, all the abuse of women and children in polygamous communities stems from their religion and their isolation, not from polygamy itself. And not all people in polygamous relationships live in seclusion and abuse their wives and children (ex: the Browns). And a few years ago I did hear a woman in an interview mention an incident that happened as a child (something that happened outside the home and had nothing to do with her family) that she didn’t want to report to police because she knew the police would come to her home and might arrest her parents; though I guess this could be solved just by decriminalizing it instead of making it legal.

    As to having left over men, I don’t think that is a good argument, and even if it were that would only be a problem if lots of people suddenly decide to live a polygamous lifestyle.

    The same discussion could be had about consensual/adult incest. The fact that I find marrying a relative absolutely revolting is not a good argument either. And if people with known genetic disorders are allowed to marry…I just can’t find a good argument against it.

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