One topic which many libertarians agree on is the subject of gay marriage. To many libertarians, marriage should not be prohibited by the law for same sex couples. Many anarchists and minarchists within the pro-liberty culture also advocate for government to not involve itself within marriage at all.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church) has a peculiar history regarding gay marriage. Once staunch advocates against it in the case of Proposition 8 in California, Mormon leadership has mostly taken to a quiet stance in regards to gay marriage. Mormons have a peculiar history of marriage themselves, with many of the early adherents practicing polygyny, or marriage between one man and multiple women. With this, a recent bill passing through the Utah State Legislature failed to criminalize polygamy as a state felony.
A ban regarding polygamy was lifted in 2013 when the stars of “Sister Wives”, a reality TV series documenting the lives of polygamist housewives, sued the state in regards to the state’s ban on polygamy. The bill’s failure to pass could mean a victory to many liberty-minded people, but overall does not take into regards the larger context of the polygamy problem within Utah.
The LDS Church, the largest faction of the Latter Day Saint movement with around 15 million members, banned the practice of polygamy in 1890 under the leadership of Wilford Woodruff. After this, several fundamentalist groups broke off from the LDS Church, the largest being referred to as the Fundamentalist LDS Church, or FLDS. In February of 2016, the leaders of the FLDS were indicted and arrested for food stamp fraud, which in short revolved around a practice of funding the church through the obtaining of food stamps through the many polygamist families residing in FLDS “colonies”, a method that would supposedly “bleed the beast” of money, the beast being the US and state government. The hope was that through this, law enforcement could obtain evidence of child abuse within the church, of which there has been little credible evidence within courts.
Polygamy within these FLDS colonies has been riddled with problems. Male members are frequently kicked out due to the lack of potential wives coupled with the mandatory marital practices. Child abuse, while not entirely proven, is likely common within these small communities within Utah, Texas, and several other states. Some have suggested the practice would be less harmful if it wasn’t so highly scrutinized by US and state governments, although it’s unclear whether this would stop the abuse associated with FLDS polygamy.
Many conservatives have argued that, with gay marriage’s passing, what keeps people from banning polygamy? I can personally attest as a member of a conservative family and Mormon myself, I have heard and even brought up the point myself at times. The point is fairly put. If we are to allow a former historical abnormality to be practiced, what stops the other historical practice of polygamy from being allowed? (Note: To clarify, I am 100% for no marriage licenses via state or federal government, and support gay marriage, overall.)
So what does the audience say? Is the failing of the anti-polygamy bill in Utah a victory for liberty? Or is it as blow to ethical standards?