Polygamy Case May Test Limits of Canadian Same-Sex Marriage Law

Article excerpt

A landmark court case will test whether Canada's decision to legalize same-sex marriage also justifies the practice of polygamy.

The defense lawyer for a British Columbia man who openly admits to having multiple wives will argue that Canada's decision to legalize same-sex marriage broadens the definition of marriage to include multiple spouses.

Blair Suffredine, lawyer for Winston Blackmore, who prosecutors claim has 20 wives, said in January that he will argue in court that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects polygamy under the principles of equality and religious freedom.

When the Canadian parliament made same-sex marriage legal in 2005, members of the Conservative Party argued that changing the definition of marriage would open the door to court challenges from people who want polygamous unions legalized.

Canadian evangelical Christians also opposed making same-sex marriage legal on the grounds that it could permit immigrants from countries where polygamy is legal to maintain multiple spouses in Canada. Some Muslim countries allow polygamy.

Legal specialists say it would be hard to cite same-sex marriage laws to defend polygamy in the U.S., in part because same-sex unions are not constitutionally approved across the country.

In the U.S., polygamists who belong to fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sects have been prosecuted for sexual crimes involving minors--not for polygamy itself. …