Tag Archives: polygamy

New in Print from UBC Press: Calder & Beaman, Polygamy's Rights and Wrongs


Click here for UBC press page

Gillian Calder (UVic) and Lori G. Beaman (UOttawa) Eds.

Polygamy’s Rights & Wrongs: Perspectives of Harm, Family, and Law 

Contents look really interesting – with a strong theme connecting them but quite diverse.    They are described in Lori Beaman’s introduction, “Is Polygamy Inherently Harmful?”, which, happily, you can read as a sample, here.  I hope your librarian is getting this (they may appreciate an email suggesting it).  Great cover design too!


1 Plus Ça Change … ? Bountiful’s Diverse and Durable Marriage Practices / Angela Campbell 

2 How Should Public Institutions Assess Religious Identity? The Case of Polygamy / Avigail Eisenberg 

3 Polygamy and the Predicament of Contemporary Criminal Law / Benjamin L. Berger 

4 Are They Not Us? A Personal Reflection on Polygamy / Arta Blanche Johnson 

5 Reflecting on Polygamy: What’s the Harm? / Rebecca Johnson 

6 Polygamy in the Parisian Banlieues: Debate and Discourse on the 2005 French Suburban Riots / Jennifer A. Selby 

7 Polygamy and Race-Thinking: A Genealogy / Margaret Denike 

8 Making Them Fit: The Australian National Census and Aboriginal Family Forms / Frances Morphy 

9 The Raids at Short Creek and Yearning for Zion Ranch and the Law of Unintended Consequences / Martha Bradley-Evans 

Conclusion: “To the Exclusion of All Others” — Polygamy, Monogamy, and the Legal Family in Canada / Gillian Calder 

The Uniform Sister-wife Act: Ensuring A Fair Share of the “Marital Pie ” – Jotwell: Family Law

Camille Gear Rich reviews Adrienne D. Davis’ new article from the Columbia Law Review.

The Uniform Sister-wife Act: Ensuring A Fair Share of the “Marital Pie ” – Jotwell: Family Law.

Adrienne Davis’s recent article, Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules and Bargaining for Equality, is a must read for family law scholars, marriage equality scholars, as well as anyone interested in understanding the limits of contemporary analogies made between gay marriage and polygamy.

Well, that list definitely includes me.

The Polygamy Reference: "Controversial interpretations" aired

CBC News – British Columbia – Polygamy laws aimed at men, court told.

Wondering what’s going on with this reference? For a helpful backgrounder, go to www.equalityrightscentral.com.

And here’s the CBC….

“Craig Jones [for the BC Government]  told court the law was intended to only prohibit men from marrying multiple women. Jones offered his admittedly “controversial” interpretation — one that stands at odds with even the federal government — at a constitutional reference case in Vancouver examining whether Canada’s anti-polygamy laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  ….

Jones said the harms associated with polygamy — including child brides and the discrimination against women — are specific to the most common form of polygamy known as polygyny, which involves men having multiple wives and is the form of polygamy practiced in Bountiful.  Instances of women with multiple husbands, known as polyandry, are incredibly rare, said Jones, and neither polyandry nor same-sex, multi-partner relationships bring about the same harms to the people involved and society as a whole.

“It is arguable that Parliament could not criminalize polyandry and same-sex, multipartner conjugality even if it wished to,” said Jones.   “Polyandry does carry some risk of harms that might be associated with it, but evidence for these is speculative and weak…. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of polygamy in practice is traditional, usually religious, patriarchal polygyny.”

Jones made the point as he rejected a criticism made by some opponents of the law: that the crime of polygamy sweeps in relationships that aren’t harmful.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/11/23/bc-polygamy-hearing.html#ixzz16CtunNdB

or more recently, here: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/11/25/bc-polygamy-constitutionality-hearing.html

My colleague Susan Drummond has written on “Polygamy’s Inscrutable Secular Mischief” here (this is an SSRN link).  She argues that the section is unconstitutional:

The relevance of formal conjugality – triggered by marriage, extinguished by divorce, and shielded in-between by privacy – has been turned inside/out by the sociological and legal significance of functional conjugality. For the latter construct the content of intimate and familial relationships has become a substitute focus of legal scrutiny. Meanwhile, the contemporary range of normalized sexual and familial diversity has voided functional conjugality of the bright line coherence of its antecedent. Conjugality itself appears to be collapsing into uncertainty and incoherence in its most familiar domain: family law. These parallel developments in the socio-legal conception of family and intimacy have outpaced a polygamy offense that has sat virtually unused since the first Criminal Code of 1892. As a result, the polygamy offense itself has collapsed into the disintegrating concept of conjugality, rendering the harm that it targets all the more inscrutable. ….

Zoe Duff’s situation might be a good example of Drummond’s argument that formal conjugality doesn’t make sense as a focus anymore, and the kind of polyamorous relationship she has is certainly part of Jones’ arguments above.  See  B.C. woman with 2 partners decries polygamy law .  On Duff’s account, at least in these two articles, what’s important isn’t the gender of the people in the relationship, but the values on which the relationship is built.  See here:

Polyamory is different from polygamy because all partners are consenting, said Duff. The hallmarks of the lifestyle are respect, integrity and communication.

Duff has a Blogger page,, but it’s marked adult content and although I kind of suspect it’s not NSFW, I’m actually worried of the consequences of trying to open it here.  Her tweets here.  At any rate, I think that it’s no easy case to decide, given that you have the Bountiful folk, Zoe Duff, and all the other forms of underground polygamy (polgamy without bigamy)

floating around. Still, if you want to play judge, the Polyamory Advocacy Association has created a great resource for those interested in this case: almost every single document filed in this case, by all parties.

Oral arguments are beginning. We’re celebrating the first live action by opening up our internal archive of court documents. This includes practically everything filed by every party to the case.