Polygamy in the Monogamous World: Multicultural Challenges for Western Law and Policy

By Martha Bailey; Amy J. Kaufman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Plural Unions

On the cover of the March 2009 issue of People magazine, usually the territory of pop stars and actors, stand five children—four girls and a boy—staring at the camera. The girls wear loose-fitting, pastel dresses, and their hair is swept up and braided. The boy wears jeans and a denim shirt. The headline reads, “Texas Polygamy Sect—The Children of the Cult: Exclusive One Year Later inside the Compound.” In an eight-page spread, the story described how the recently reunited families were faring after their compound was raided by the Texas authorities on allegations of child abuse. While the headline might say “polygamy,” there isn’t one direct mention of it in the story or by those interviewed. Pictures show mothers with their children, mothers posing together, and children going to school, playing in the gravel pit, and doing chores, but there is not one picture of a man. One of the wives gets the last word of the story: “This is the place where we can trust each other. It’s everywhere else that’s unreal.”1

On January 8, 2009, the cover page of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper was dominated by a picture of a group of people laughing—one man, six young women, and a few babies—with a mountain backdrop. The headline read, “Polygamy charges in Bountiful.”2 Bountiful, British Columbia, is Canada’s only Fundamentalist Latterday Saints (FLDS) community. The picture, which was taken before the arrests, was of Winston Blackmore, one of the two religious leaders in the community who had been charged under Canada’s criminal law prohibiting polygamy. The young women, in jeans and jean skirts, their hair worn long or tied back in simple ponytails, were all his daughters.

This is the public face of plural unions—North America’s illegal polygamy—today. How did we get to the point that stories of polygamous sects can be reported in mainstream news sources while the practice is still criminal? How did the women become the spokespeople for plural unions as the men receded into the background? How did many civil libertarians and feminists become their allies, at least as far as decriminalizing the practice? While the raid on the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) ranch in Texas and the

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Polygamy in the Monogamous World: Multicultural Challenges for Western Law and Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Polygamy in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia 7
  • Chapter 3 - Plural Unions 69
  • Chapter 4 - Principles That Should Inform Public Policy 133
  • Chapter 5 - How Monogamous Countries Should Respond 143
  • Notes 189
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 271
  • About the Authors 279
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