Why Is Polygamy Illegal in the United States?


Quick Answer

Anti-polygamy laws stem from 19th-century beliefs that Mormonism was a moral threat, according to HG.org. By extension, society deemed that the traditional Mormon lifestyle of polygamy was immoral. While every state in the United States has a law forbidding polygamy, recent lawsuits suggest that this long-standing moral debate may come to an end.

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Full Answer

While polygamy is the umbrella term for a man having multiple wives or a woman having multiple husbands, polygyny, the act of a man with more than one wife, is far more common, states the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. Consequently, many human rights organizations and women's rights organizations consider polygamy to be a human rights violation. On the grounds that polygamy is a form of human rights abuse, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declared that it is an infringement on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Penalties for polygamous relationships vary among states, explains Lawyers.com. Most polygamists are left alone by police, and local authorities rarely enforce anti-cohabitation laws in areas where they exist. Recognizing polygamy as a religious decision for religions such as Islam, law enforcement is reluctant to threaten a person's freedom of religion. When authorities enforce anti-polygamy laws, penalties range from misdemeanor charges and small fines to large fines and substantial jail time, along with a felony charge.

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