October 23, 2008

Is Utah Doing Enough About Polygamy?

Utah should do more to clamp down on polygamy, a New York law professor said in a debate with a member of the Utah attorney general's office.

Marci Hamilton of the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law praised Texas in the debate Wednesday for raiding a ranch owned by a polygamous sect and taking custody of the children there, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. She said a 1955 Utah Supreme Court ruling that polygamous homes are not fit for children gives the state the legal tool it needs.

Hamilton accused Utah and Arizona of a "policy of appeasement." The polygamous community of Hildale-Colorado City sits on the state line.

During the debate at the University of Utah College of Law, Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen said Utah pursues polygamists who force girls into plural marriages or engage in other abusive behavior. But he said the state should not be "throwing a net at a whole bunch of people because they happen to hold certain beliefs."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw out sodomy laws also allows polygamists to recognize "spiritual marriages" between consenting adults, although the relationships have no legal standing.