Western Standard
email print

In defense of polygamy

Pierre Lemieux argues that polygamous relationships should be treated the same way all contractual relationships between adults are treated.

Pierre Lemieux - January 20, 2009

In British Columbia, two Mormon officials have been indicted for practicing “a kind of conjugal union with ... contrary to Section 293(1)(a) of the Criminal Code”. On the indictment against Winston Blackmore, the “with” is followed by 19 women’s names, starting with Christina Maud Blackmore. Two women’s names appear on James Oler’s indictment: Gwen Renae Oler and Amelia Steed.

These women were involved in a freely-chosen, polygamous relationship. The state is the complainant, not them.

Section 293(1) of the Criminal Code reads:

“Every one who (a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into (i) any form of polygamy, or (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii), is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”

In a country where sex with multiple partners of any gender as well as swinger clubs are permitted, engaging in a “kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time” looks like the ultimate non-crime. But there is a hic: you may have any number of sexual partners provided you don’t say you are married to more than one of them!

At least in Canada, the Mormons’ polygamous marriages are not legal marriages, only religious unions. Under the present Surveillance State, nobody, surely, can enter into a legal marriage more than one time without valid divorce papers. Compare that with homosexuals who have obtained not only the right to pretend they are married but also the recognition of their unions by the state. Men and women in polygamous unions are discriminated against on both fronts.

Government spokesmen have justified the attack on Blackmore and Oler by the need to test the anti-polygamy ban, which dates back to the late 19th century, against the “freedom of conscience and religion” guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a ludicrous justification. The same state that has adopted both the Charter and the Criminal Code’s Section 293 does not know which one has precedence over the other. So let’s prosecute, say, James and Winston over there, in order to know what the law is!

Certainly, it should be a simple matter to abolish Section 293 if there are doubts regarding its constitutionality. Or is it that the government wants to keep it by having its dirty laundry washed by the courts?

More articles by Pierre Lemieux