Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stopping Gay Marriage One Polygamist at a Time

Just after the raid on the FLDS compound in Texas, the Tribune carried an article comparing the views on polygamy of Congressman Joe Cannon and Republican rivals vying for his seat. Cannon reportedly said that the government should not prosecute polygamists solely because of plural marriage. Conversely, David Leavitt (Michael Leavitt’s younger brother), was quoted saying that “polygamists should be prosecuted, or it will pave the road to same-sex marriage.” He further said if “we allow two consenting women and a consenting man to redefine what our society says is marriage, then we have opened the door for the redefinition of marriage for same-gender marriage. This is a broader scope than just polygamy."

Leavitt is not just blowing political smoke. As Iron County Attorney he prosecuted and got a conviction against Tom Green for bigamy. Green did six years behind bars. To his credit, I suppose, Leavitt is forthright about wanting to lock up polygamist. He says prosecute them plain and simple. You don’t need the pretense of saving children from deluded evil parents; just prosecute the parents outright for polygamy. And how about his rationale -- he wants to jail consenting polygamists because if we don’t, same-gender marriage may gain acceptance. I don’t know about you but I find that reasoning chilling.

Leavitt’s comments make me wonder if the Texas authorities don’t share his views on polygamy and have decided to go after the FLDS as harshly as they can. Perhaps the authorities saw the abuse charge as a gift -- a gift that allowed them to take battle to the entire FLDS community. In retrospect, they may have over played their hand, but time will tell. So is it just me or does it seem that what Texas is really trying to do is stomp the FLDS church out of existence?

20 comments:

Fifthgen said...

There a number of factors to suggest that the great State of Texas is motivated by more than “the best interest of the child.” For example, the scope of the raid, etc., goes far beyond the alleged abuse (at least as far as evidence I have seen). They are not removing only the teenage girls from the ranch - - they are removing all children, of any age, male or female. Second, they have as yet failed to produce either a victim or a perpetrator. Moreover, the good people of Texas allowed, under their statutes, 14 year old young women to be married with parental consent, until the FLDS arrived, at which time the bumped the age up to 16.

Child abuse cannot be tolerated and must be stopped, to be sure. But my guess is that, for the majority of these kids, evidence of actual abuse, or imminent danger of abuse, will be lacking. So why the raid, the removal of the children, the hearing on 400+ children? It is hard to imagine that this action would be tolerated if taken against another group. Say, for example, that the kids in a low-income housing project were removed because of an anonymous call by an unidentified alleged victim, and observations of some pregnant teenage young women and instances of neglect. How would we respond?

But on the issue of gay marriage. I have always been a little bewildered at the mainstream Mormon willingness to jump on the “Let’s-Have-the-Government-Define-Marriage” Bandwagon. That did not work so well for us in the past. I can understand coming down in favor of the traditional nuclear family. I fully support a church declaring what it does and does not consider marriage to be. I even understand the impulse to want a legislative or judicial definition of the family. But I don’t get the lack of appreciation for what a slippery slope that would be. It seems like Mormons, of all people, should be wary of that.

The Cliftens said...

I don't really want to get into the whole Texas thing..it's horrible wrong to take 400 something children away from their families...but on a different note. Why does your daughter get to go to PARIS for her 10th BIRTHDAY??? Isn't Jungle Jim's good enough? :) And...will you adopt me?

Matt Evans said...

The polygamy and gay-marriage comparison doesn't work. There are thousands and thousands of married gay couples people across the United States already. Your local Unitarian Universalist church probably performs a gay marriage every week. The political issue is whether the government should *recognize* gay marriages. No one is prosecuting the gays who get married or the church's who perform the marriages.

Polygamy, on the other hand, is prosecuted even when it's done in a private ceremony.

There's no moral or legal justification for this disparate treatment.

It's embarrassing for an aspiring Utah politician to be ignorant of these distinctions.

Fifthgen said...

Matt Evans: I am not interested in defending Leavitt's statements. I have never been a big Leavitt fan. But, it is not accurate to imply that polygamists are being widely prosecuted. On the contrary, such prosecutions are exceedingly rare, absent other issues like child abuse or welfare fraud. And, as you probably know, there are “thousands and thousands of [polygamists] across the United States”. In my limited experience, polygamists are left alone unless they start marrying young teenage girls to older men or engage in other abuse.

anonk said...

I've been watching Big Love. I admit, I'm addicted. I personally could not engage in poligamy, but it does shed some light on some things. It's one thing if there is abuse going on, and people are "stuck" on a compound. It's another if they choose to participate.
I also think that it's nobody's business what your personal life is like, or what your values are. If you are gay, poligamist, whatever - that is personal-your personal belief. I don't know why people have to go and assert power over others just because they don't agree with things. Just like any religion, I don't care what you believe, what you do, what you look like-I'm going to like you if you are a kind, nice person. I'm not going to judge you because I think it's wrong to be gay or whatnot. It's not my business what you do in your own house, just like it's not your business what I'm doing. That is what is wrong in the world - everyone thinks that they are right, that their way is the 'right' way, the 'correct' way. Who are we to judge what is right or correct?

jupee said...

What troubles me is the idea of polygamy prosecution as bycatch. It's redirected agression, irresponsible and lacks integrity. (What we're really concerned about is stopping gay marriage.) It's my observation that this kind of behavior always victimizes innocent people, confuses the issues and doesn't achieve the objective. And, it may be part of the reason why the FLDS raid went forward in spite of the lack of evidence or justification (at least in terms of the scope of the raid). Not unlike what happened when we invaded Iraq. We said it was about weapons of mass destruction, but it was really about . . . . . . (a reason that didn't justify invading Iraq).

Why do we tolerate this kind of reasoning --even support it? Why is it okay to say it out loud? If it's really about stopping gay marriage, why not aim for the target and prosecute gay marriage?

pb said...

What troubles me is that this community thinks it can get a pass on statutory rape because this is part of their "faith." I do not find the scope of the raid to be excessive when every single child raised in this community, in which statutory rape is openly condoned, is in danger of being the next target. Either we say its okay to have sex with minors and re-define our definition of abuse and neglect, or we remove children from communities that view minors as appropriate sex partners.

Fifthgen said...

pb says: I do not find the scope of the raid to be excessive when every single child raised in this community, in which statutory rape is openly condoned, is in danger of being the next target.

I agree that IF "every single child" were, in fact, "in danger of being the next target," the scope of this particular raid would have been appropriate.

jupee said...

pb: Are you going to respond to fifthgen? Cause I wanna read the answer. Remember they forcibly removed and are keeping 416 children. The ACLU has voiced concerns about human rights violations and whether the fundamental rights of mothers and children are being adequately protected. The Texes executive director of the ACLU said: "As this situation continues to unfold, we are concerned that the constitutional rights that all Americans rely upon and cherish -- that we are secure in our homes, that we may worship as we please and hold our places of worship sacred, and that we may be with our children absent evidence of imminent danger -- have been threatened."

jupee said...

I forgot to write that some of those 416 children are male infants that are being breastfed. I feel for those those anxious babies. You should make a donation to the ACLU as an act of redemption. A big one.

Fifthgen said...

I love being on jupee's and the ACLU's team. It feels like home.

pb said...

jupee & fifthgen: I don't pretend to know the inner workings of the FLDS operation, other than what I've read in the NY Times and SL Trib and heard on the radiowest program that covered the raid generally, as well as the Shortcreek raid. From what I understand from these sources, marriages in the sect are not voluntary, but are proscribed by the prophet. Apparently Warren Jeffs resigned from that position, and I don't think it is clear who has replaced him. But the "placement marriage" vision is still operative. It results in "marriages" that are the equivalent of rape, either because one or more of the participants are statutorily unable to consent, or because they in fact do not consent but have no perceived choice but to comply. There are also widespread violations of consanguinity laws, from what I understand, which may be the reason for the DNA testing that the state is conducting. I acknowledge that in the case of breastfeeding infants, the danger would not appear to be "imminent." Yet it would appear to be nearly assured. I do NOT agree with the ACLU's position that the state must kowtow to this sect because to do otherwise would violate their right to freedom of worship. It is precisely these parents' worship of Warren Jeffs -- or whoever it is now -- that is the problem. The parents will not and do not protect their children from illegal marriages and predatory sex because they elevate "the word of God" above the law. Failure to protect -- whatever the rationale -- is abuse. If an organized group of parents believes and openly states, "I may run a meth lab in my home where my children will be raised because the divine meth law operator in the sky said it should be done," and then acted on this belief, Would the state have the right to take children from these parents, even though the meth lab had not yet been constructed? I guess my answer to that would be yes, because the children are endangered by the parents' belief and demonstrated willingness to act in accordance with it.

Fifthgen said...

Operation of a meth lab in a home poses an immediate risk of harm. On the other hand, there is no way to say when, whom and under what circumstances a male infant will marry. Completely different situations.

pb said...

The hypothetical I posed said that the meth lab had not yet been constructed, i.e., was not yet operational.

Fifthgen said...

pb: I would very surprised to see state authorities, even in Texas, remove children from a home with a hypothetical, yet-to-be-contructed meth lab. Wouldn't you?

pb said...

Yes, probably. I guess those nursing moms should get their babies back. But this just means the state will have to go back in in 12 years and take the children then. I just put myself in the mom's place and I think, How could I let some guy like Warren Jeffs banish my 14 or 15-year-old son so that I would never see him again and just sit around and take that? It's very disturbing to me.

jupee said...

What one parent finds disturbing, another parent touts as good child rearing practice. I am sure there are parents who feel "disturbed" by my parenting just like I'm sure they feel "disturbed" by your parenting. (After all, you work full time and don't send your chidren to church.) But, the point is that unless your child is in imminent danger, others' views do not rule the day. Your opinion shouldn't empower you to call 911 and have my children forcibly interred in foster care. (Is foster care better than care by a mother who believes in Jeffs? The statistics don't make it look better to me, but that's a discussion for another day.) I believe that the right of a parent to raise their children in the way they believe is best (absent imminent harm) is a right worth protecting even if it is imperfect.

pb said...

Thanks for the lecture Jupee. I guess I needed it. But I don't think you understand the source of what is disturbing to me. It's not a particular style of parenting. Its the fact that FLDS mothers allow a person who says he speaks for god to intervene between them and their child, i.e., what I view as not a parenting style but a complete abdication of parental authority. If a mother is able to allow her 14-year-old son (and I'm here talking about the "lost boys") to be lost to her because warren jeffs said that it should be so, is she really even a mother? I speak for myself when I say that I believe the parental bond must supersede obedience to church authority -- but I suspect that I speak for most parents here. I can also say that in child custody law, if a parent does not exhibit the traits that we associate with parents -- i.e., unmitigated advocacy on behalf of the child and a willingness to put the child's needs above our own -- then they lose the parental presumption. If some authority said to you that your son is banished from your home and your community and could not return, would you be sticking around? Would your loyalty remain with the authority, or would your loyalty be to your son?

jupee said...

I understood that to be your point. You're making BIG assumptions about these mothers as a group. If a mother disowned a child at 14 for any reason, I would condemn her. But I don't codemn a mother for entertaining the thought that she might disown a child at 14 (for any reason). With respect to the Texas FLDS, I haven't heard any evidence to support the notion that mothers categorically disown their sons at 14.

I also think that parents exhibit coercive tyranny regularly --believing (rightly or wrongly) that it is best for the child or, at least makes things easier for them. I know I do. I also see examples in my own parenting and in other's parenting (nearly every day) where we do not engage in "unmitigated advocacy on behalf of the child and a willingness to put the child's needs above our own." I daresay its epidemic.

pb said...

I know of no mother or father that would allow an outside authority to tell them who their child is to marry. I know of no mother or father who would allow an outside authority to banish their minor child from their community and who would allow their child to fend for himself on the streets with no adult support of any kind based on WJ's say so at age 14. It is a categorically distinct phenomenon. It is not my assumption, but the doctrine of the FLDS sect, that women and children of the sect are property of the sect. Ex members of the sect (including a father who left because WJ decided that his children were to be re-assigned to a different man) testify to this.