Never tell a gay activist that the fight for same-sex marriage is the equivalent as the fight for plural marriage; she’ll bite your mushroom head off. But in hearing about how Utah law enforcement are investigating the family of Kody Brown and his four wives — Robyn, Meri, Janelle and Christine, who star on TLC’s Sister Wives with their collective 16 children — because polygamy is banned there, it has me thinking: What if two gay men starred as a married couple in a reality show set in Utah?
Utah’s state constitution bans all recognition of same-sex marriage, thanks to 2004’s voter-approved amendment. That’s how Utah also banned polygamous marriages (though we needn’t really get into the whole Mormon Church aspect of it all).
But if the state doesn’t recognize plural marriage, what’s it matter if private citizens use the word “marriage” to refer to themselves and their sister wives? Privately passing off your relationship as something it’s not is not illegal. Neither is one man, legally married to one woman, having sex and raising children with three other women concurrently.
If Utah’s officials can go after unions that are polygamous in-name-only, and not recognized by the state because the constitution forbids it, then couldn’t they also go after same-sex “marriages,” which are also banned under the state constitution? That is, if two gay men appear on a reality show and call themselves “married,” are they at risk of a statewide investigation and possible prosecution?
And given that polygamy is illegal in all 50 states — despite some efforts in Utah to challenge the laws — anyone claiming to be in a plural marriage is, possibly, also at risk of crackdown. So what about states with constitutional bans to same-sex marriage? Thirty states have constitutional bans; a total of 42 states ban it either through state constitutions or state law.
If two gay men or women in Arkansas or Alaska or Georgia or Ohio or Virginia, then, pass themselves off as married, will the po-po be knocking on their door?
Calling yourselves “married” is not illegal. Trying to scam the government into providing benefits for multiple spouses? Yeah, that is.
Below, the cast appears on Joy Behar’s programming discussing the legality of their relationship. As Kody says, it’s a “lifestyle choice,” not a legal marriage (except to first wife Meri), and “it’s really tough to prosecute love on that issue, I think.” He married his other three wives in religious ceremonies.
And a Today segment, where they also discuss the legality: