Conservatives can say I told you so as Kody Brown of the TLC show "Sister Wives" plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday against Utah's ban on polygamy. Conservatives have been warning lawmakers that amending laws governing moral sexual behavior would open the floodgates for all kinds of consensual sexual relationships including polygamy. Now one Christian leader warns that America is falling into a downward spiral of sin.
Brown's attorney, Jonathan Turley, says he will argue that the arrangement between Brown and his four wives, Robyn, Christine, Meri and Janelle, is consensual and one made in the privacy of their own household and should therefore be legal. He is basing his assertion on a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning sodomy laws for the benefit of gay couples.
In the case of Lawrence v. Texas, the majority ruled that the state could not prosecute people for engaging in private, consensual sexual behavior.
Justice Antonin Scalia, known to be a conservative, dissented, warning in his written opinion that the ruling could question other laws trying to rein in immoral and unacceptable sexual behaviors such as "fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity."
Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also warned that medding with laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act – which defines marriage as between a man and a woman – encourages others to challenge the definition of marriage.
In a March interview with The Christian Post, Land questioned, "Where do you stop? I ask same-sex proponents this all the time and they end up sputtering. What about polygamy? 'Well that's wrong.' According to you. Who are you to impose your morality on someone else?”
He continued, "What about adult siblings? With all of the dangers imposed by incest. 'Well, that's wrong.' According to you. Who are you to impose your morality on someone else?"
Land concluded his argument stating, "When you expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationship, you don't expand it but shatter it."
When contacted Tuesday, Land said he is not surprised by Brown's attempts to redefine marriage. He says those who ask the question "Who are you to impose your morality on someone else?" are asserting that "the ultimate value is self-fulfillment."
"If the ultimate value is a person's self-fulfillment ... well [then] they can say: 'I find myself fulfilled in having consensual sex with my adult sister,'" Land pointed out.
The Southern Baptist believes the societal emphasis on personal fulfillment above all else is propelling America on a downward spiral of sin similar to the one mentioned in the Bible, specifically Romans chapter one.
"If you read … Romans one they begin to worship themselves, then they begin to have unnatural sex with people of the same sex ... and then it goes on to describe people who love violence, people without natural affection," he summarized.
Marci Hamilton, professor at Cardozo School of Law, countered concerns about a long-lasting effect of the 2003 ruling, arguing that the Supreme Court did not give an open pass to all sexual acts.
"The court does not say that every activity involving sex is now immune from regulation," she told National Public Radio.
Hamilton agreed polygamy is a harmful institution.
"This is a culture in which men must rule and women are not equal. Three women are equal to one man, nine women are equal to one man – and the children are second-class citizens," she said.
Turley, Brown's attorney, plans to hold a press conference Wednesday about the legal challenge they’re bringing against Utah’s laws. He clarified that they will not be demanding recognition of polygamous marriage in the state. Rather, they are challenging “the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs.”
“Sister Wives” is a reality show that centers on a fundamentalist Mormon family that includes 16 children. Brown has maintained that he is not breaking any laws with his polygamous relationship because as reported by Radaronline.com, “It’s one legal marriage and the rest are commitment marriages.”
“There are tens of thousands of plural families in Utah and other states. We are one of those families,” Brown said in a statement released Tuesday. “We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. While we understand that this may be a long struggle in court, it has already been a long struggle for my family and other plural families to end the stereotypes and unfair treatment given consensual polygamy.”
Hamilton, an expert on polygamy law, does not expect Brown to be successful. She noted that there have been over 100 challenges to polygamy laws – including in Utah – and all of them have failed.