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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tell me again why we can't outlaw polygamy?

I didn't really want to write again about the polygamy/gay marriage debate - that ground has been adequately covered here, here and here. However, I would like to raise a point arising from the ongoing trial of Warren Jeffs in Utah. The Jeffs case is, to me, a clear example of why the Canadian state is fully justified in prohibiting polygamy, in spite of the so-called destabilizing precedent set by the legalization of gay marriage.

Jeffs is the "prophet" of North America's largest polygamist sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which operates in Utah. He is currently standing trial there on two counts of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl by her 19-year-old cousin.

The cousin, Allan Steed, testified yesterday. Steed's story:

Mr. Steed wept on the stand as he talked about how he loved his wife, who CanWest News Service is identifying as Jane Doe to protect her privacy. He denied ever having raped her and that the first time that they had intercourse-- which Doe said was the first time she was raped -- Doe initiated sex.

"I came home. I was putting in long hours at my job and I was really, really tired," the sturdily-built, soft-spoken Mr. Steed said. "I went to sleep in my work clothes
and as the night progressed, she woke me up and asked me if I cared about her
and I said I loved her. She rolled up close to me and asked me to scratch her
back and one thing led to another."

He said he found himself "guided to her" and they had sex.
He testified that he had been counselled by Doe's stepfather to "take it slowly" with the 14-year-old. One of the few conversations he and his "wife" -- they were not legally married -- had about sex was in relation to having children. Mr. Steed said Doe told him she wanted to wait to have children.

"She said maybe a couple of weeks, couple of months or maybe five years," Mr. Steed said.

"So you took the earliest date," prosecutor Craig Barlow said.

"Wouldn't you?" Mr. Steed replied. "Of course I did. I wanted to have a child. I wanted her to know I loved her. I didn't want her frightened."

The girl has told a different story:

Doe testified that Mr. Steed had undressed her and then himself, laid her on the bed and had sex with her. While she sobbed and begged him to stop, she said Mr. Steed told her "The prophet [Rulon Jeffs, Warren's father] wants us to do this."

Asked by the prosecutor if he recalled Doe bleeding after intercourse, Mr. Steed said he could not. Under cross-examination, Mr. Steed said he could not recall if she cried.

Mr. Barlow asked Mr. Steed if it was his idea of going slowly to have sex within three weeks of his marriage to a 14-year-old who had never been kissed before, never dated, had no idea how babies were created and had told him several times that she hated him and didn't want him touching her.

He said that it had seemed much longer than that to him.

Mr. Steed admitted that a few days or weeks earlier he had exposed his genitals one night in a park. "In my own clumsy way, I tried to make her feel more comfortable to help move things along [sexually]," he said.


Mr. Barlow asked if that was his idea of "courting" his wife.

"I felt like sometime we had to learn to get familiar with each other," Mr. Steed

Mr. Steed also admitted under cross-examination that he does not believe that state laws setting out the legal age are binding on him or the FLDS; he believes only God's law applies and that God guides the hand of the prophet in arranging marriages.

So, what is the official line on plural marriage from the FLDS?

Mr. Steed, who currently doesn't have a wife, agreed that he believes in the FLDS teaching that without several wives he can't get into the highest realm of heaven, and that it is up to Mr. Jeffs to arrange those marriages.

Mr. Steed said that he believed Mr. Jeffs to be infallible and would never ask him
to do anything wrong.

"I believe the Lord would take his life first."

The gay marriage argument goes something like this: once we allow changes to the traditional definition of marriage and allow homosexuals to marry, there is no longer any justification for limiting marriage to two people, since we no longer limit it to a man and a woman. I say that's nonsense.

The state should tread lightly when trying to limit behaviour between consenting adults, but it also has a duty to prohibit activities that cause harm to other people. In the case of polygamy, the harm is done to the women (or in this case girls) who are involved in plural marriage, and young men who cannot marry because of a shortage of available wives and who are expelled from the community. This is all done in the name of the prophet's interpretation of scripture, but I defy anyone to make a convincing case that the women are free to choose this lifestyle even if they claim they consent to it. Ditto for the young men who are ostracized by their families and communities.

I don't care what anyone says - it is nonsensical to make a case that civil marriage (which isn't the same thing as a church's religious sacrament of marriage) between consenting adult homosexuals causes harm to anyone. It is also equally nonsensical to claim that there is no justification for the state to intervene and prevent plural marriage because two gay adults are allowed to marry. Try to make that case to Jane Doe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you have made NO argument against a 30yo man and 2 30yo women .... jsut against 14yos..

also no argument against polyandry has been made..

Gay marriage yes means polyandry yes means polygamy yes (between ADULTS)