Tag Archives: United States

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The perfect accompaniment to my previous post about the criminalization of poly households.

 

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Polygamy Around the World

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Polygamy worldwideIn the Present

Polygamy is legal in 50 countries around the world.  Most of these countries exist in Africa, southeast Asia, and the Middle East.  They are represented by dark blue on the map to the right.  Another 15 African countries accept polygamy as part of their culture and it continues to exist even if it has been outlawed.  This phenomena is due to differences in customary law (history and culture) and civil law.  South Africa is an example of this.  In some cases, civil law is reflective of colonization and not the temperature of the people.

An interesting note – some countries make the legality of polygyny contingent upon the first wife’s approval.

In the Past

Regional differences accounted for the disparate popularity of polygyny and polyandry.

Historically, in regions where resources were scarce sharing one wife was very common.  This was seen as a practical solution.  The costs of maintaining a family were distributed amongst several men and the number of offspring was limited.  On the other hand, some matriarchal societies chose polyandry not out of economic necessity but because it reflected their cultural beliefs. And still other regions chose polyandry because men largely outnumbered women in their societies.

Polygany was seen as an extravagant display of wealth or blessings.  If a man was important or wealthy, then he was more likely to have many wives.

In Religion

Jewish law forbids polyandry but not polygyny.

Muslim law forbids polyandry but not polygyny.

Christianity (with the exception of Mormon Fundamentalism) forbids both polyandry and polygyny, strongly advocating for monogamous relationships.

Hindu text looks favorably upon polyandry but does not advocate in one way or the other.

Buddhist text advises followers against committing sexual misconduct but leaves it up to them to decide exactly what constitutes misconduct.

Paganism openly accepts all forms of polygamy/polyamory.

Recent Headlines

In Canada …

British Columbia Upholds Ban on Polygamy

In USA …

Letters to the Editor About TLC’s Sister Wives

In Turkey …

Adviser Faces Criminal Charges

In South Africa …

South African President Faces Criticism for Fathering a Child Outside of his Three Wives

The Criminalization of Poly Households in America

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Bigamy laws throughout the United States Misde...

Bigamy is a misdemeanor (yellow); felony (red). All cohabitation is outlawed (dark red).

Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states as indicated by the map to the right. The law does not distinguish between polygamy and bigamy.  By law, you are guilty of both if you marry OR cohabit with more than one person that you claim as a spouse.  A ceremony is NOT required to prove either the 1st marriage or those that follow.  A marriage license is also NOT required.  Law enforcement simply has to prove marital intent.  They may use common law marriage standards, cohabitation, or any other activities to prove their case for polygamy.

In some cases poly people/families are at risk for related infractions as well.  For example, they can be charged with adultery, fornication, and cohabitation.

BIGAMY (A misdemeanor)

These states have minimal criminalization (akin to driving without a license).  They characterize bigamy as a misdemeanor and require all those convicted to pay a fine.

  • Hawaii ***30 days in jail***
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island *** $1,000 fine***
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

ADULTERY ONLY

If you are poly in the following states and the relationship falls apart you may be at risk for violating laws against adultery.  The ramifications of these violations vary from one state to another.  For some states adultery is grounds for divorce only.  In other states, the “cheating” spouse forfeits all rights to the marital property.  And still in other states the spouse that was “cheated on” can file criminal charges against their ex.  This is obviously only a problem if the poly relationship falls apart.

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland ***Results in a $10 fine and is grounds for divorce***
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont

ADULTERY & FORNICATION

In the following states, poly people can be charged with adultery and fornication.  Both are treated as misdemeanors.

  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Illinois ***must be “open and notorious”***
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota

COHABITATION

These states have laws against cohabitation.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

ADULTERY (A felony) & COMMON LAW MARRIAGE

In these states, common law marriage is recognized and adultery is not only illegal but a felony.

  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire ***Recognizes common-law marriages, but only for inheritance purposes after death***
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas ***Recognizes common law marriage if registered by County Clerk***
  • Utah
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin

THE AS-GOOD-AS-IT-GETS STATES

These states have NO laws against adultery, cohabitation, or fornication.  And they do not recognize common law marriages, although 4 of the 5 treat polygamy as a felony.

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

To summarize, if you are active in the poly lifestyle you are at risk for legal action either by the state or your partners.  Aside from the obvious consequences – spending time in jail, fines, and criminal records, there are other things to consider.  A conviction that mandates jail time can also result in a loss of employment and/or benefits.  It can also result in the loss of child custody.  In some states felony convictions are automatic grounds for losing a number of rights and privileges, including voting rights, student loans, etc.  The criminalization of this lifestyle attempts to push adults, children, and families into the shadows, making them fearful, ashamed, and ultimately vulnerable to discrimination, persecution, and generally unfair treatment.  And for what? Where’s the harm?