There could not be a stranger moment in time. Amidst the excitement and celebration of the fifteenth and sixteenth states to pass marriage equality, and the historic passing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through the U.S. Senate, in the remote Western state of Utah, a federal District Court judge has just ruled part of that state’s ban on polygamy is unconstitutional.
The 91 page ruling from Judge Clark Waddoups marks the first time ever a United States judge has sided on the side of polygamy.
Jonathan Turley, lead counsel in the case brought forward by the stars of the TLC show “Sister Wives,” announced the ruling Friday in a blog post, calling it a victory equivalent to Brown v. Board of Education, and Lawrence v. Texas.
And here I am, left wondering if the comparisons between polygamy and the hard-fought freedoms the LGBT community has recently achieved are actually comparable.
We’ve heard the comparisons for years, “Gay Marriage leads to polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia!” How many times have those words dripped from the mouths of people like Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, and Rick Warren?
The potential legalization of polygamy calls into question everything we know and think of in marriage. The very thought of polygamy is rank with images of 55-year old men marrying 12-year old girls, of trapped teenagers beaten and killed for trying to escape polygamist compounds in the deserts of Utah and Texas.
So what are the implications of this ruling? Is it going to become the latest sideshow for those culture warriors against equality to hold up as supposed proof that they were right?
To put it plainly, yes it is.
What’s important to remember are the simple and fundamental truths. The struggle for same-sex marriage has only been, and will continue to only be about one thing: equality—that joyful little word that fills our hearts and keeps us pushing. It’s about leveling the playing field and being able to say without any doubt that no other human being in our country has rights that we do not. We were born Gay, or Lesbian, or Bisexual, or Trans*, and we will always be so. We have every bit the same right to marry the person we fall in love with that our neighbors have.
Polygamy? It’s not an innate characteristic, it’s a choice. The struggle for polygamy is not about equality, but about privacy. It’s a fight to keep government away from the choices of consenting adults. It’s an important distinction to make.
Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about polygamy. On one hand I’ve always felt that the government shouldn’t be in the business of legitimizing or sanctifying any marriages. On the other hand, polygamy actually is a redefinition of marriage, and frequently used as an excuse for abuse and persecution of women and children.
But however you feel about it, as the nation no-doubt erupts in Utah/Mormon/Polygamy jokes over the next few days, it’s important to speak out about the differences between equality and privacy.
We only want what everyone else already has. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
Image via Sister Wives on Facebook
Follow author Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington
Eric Ethington has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Eric’s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes atNuanceStillMatters.com
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