Video: Polygamy vs. Gay Marriage

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updated 3/21/2006 5:13:23 PM ET 2006-03-21T22:13:23

Did you know that polygamy is being hailed as “the next civil rights movement?”  The HBO series “Big Love” has brought new attention to the ancient practice.  And now a Utah man named Gene Lee Cook is suing for his right to have multiple wives. 

Using the victories of the gay rights movement as a backdrop, Cook claims his constitutional rights to privacy and to intimate expression have been violated by the government. 

Brian Barnard is the attorney representing Mr. Cook and he spoke with Tucker Carlson to discuss the case.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "THE SITUATION":  You’re a lawyer.  Most of our viewers, I hope, are not.  So give us a nonlegalese-ridden description of why victories in the gay rights movement are, in your view, going to make polygamy legal?

BARNARD:  Under the Utah statute that prohibits polygamy, it becomes a crime for a married person to simply live with another person to whom he is not married in a sexual relationship.

CARLSON:  Right.

BARNARD:  That is the crime of polygamy.  You don’t need—in Utah, you don’t need to have a second marriage ceremony.  You don’t need fraud.  Under the decision of Lawrence v. Texas from two and a half years ago, the United States Supreme Court said you cannot criminalize intimate sexual conduct between adults. 

CARLSON:  OK.

BARNARD:  In that case it was a situation involving homosexual males who engaged in sodomy.  The Supreme Court said you can’t make that personal conduct into a crime. 

In Utah, if my client lives with a woman to whom he is not married, he commits the crime of polygamy or bigamy.  So what the Utah state legislature has done is made that intimate sexual relationship into a crime. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So that’s a little bit different than legalizing polygamy, I’m certain in the vast majority of the other 49 states it’s perfectly legal to live with someone in a sexual relationship to whom you’re not married.  But that’s not polygamy.  Polygamy is marrying more than one person.  Right?

BARNARD:  Well, in Utah, though, you don’t have to marry in the sense of getting a marriage license and going through a marriage ceremony to commit the crime.  It is that relationship: living with someone to whom you’re not married, when you are married, is the crime of polygamy.  And so that’s similar to the situation with the sodomy in Texas. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it sounds very similar.  Now are you for gay marriage, incidentally?

BARNARD:  I think that people should have the right to have a relationship with whomever they choose to have that relationship. 

CARLSON:  When you think of polygamists, you think either of breakaway sects of Mormons in Utah or Arizona or Colorado, the mountain west, or you think of Muslim groups in the Midwest or you think of, you know, Laotian people who are polygamists.  You think of religious or traditional people practicing polygamy.  You don’t think of people who are sympathetic to gay rights. 

Do you see a certain irony in polygamists using victories won by the gay rights movement to justify their relationships?

BARNARD:  Well, I don’t know that polygamists are using those decisions with regard to gay rights.  Polygamists have been advocating their position for religious purposes for 100 plus years.  They have been saying, “We have the right to practice our religion, and our religion includes the practice of polygamy.” 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BARNARD:  My clients believe that, in order to obtain eternal salvation, they must practice polygamy.  So they’ve been arguing that position, the religious aspects, for 100-plus years in the United States. 

CARLSON:  And they’ve gotten nowhere.  In fact, they’ve really raised the ire of the government at various points to the point of violence, as you know.  I wonder, though, why you think far more people support gay marriage than support polygamy. 

BARNARD:  Well, that’s interesting, too, because if you look at marriage on a spectrum, if you look at traditional marriage at one end, you have a relationship between people of the opposite gender, with the possibility of procreation. 

Polygamy is between people of the opposite gender, again, with the possibility of procreation between the two of them—between the parties. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

BARNARD:  And at the far end of the spectrum is gay marriage, where people of the same gender, without the possibility of procreation.  So on a spectrum you’re really need to say that polygamist marriages should be more acceptable, if you will. 

CARLSON:  And not just procreation, big-time procreation.  Brigham Young had over 50 children.  So you think that people would be more accepting.  Why do you think they’re not?

BARNARD:  Polygamy is odd; it’s strange; it’s unusual.  Why the—why the national interest in a television program about polygamy?  Because it’s odd; it’s strange; it’s different.  People want to know what’s going on in Utah and want to see what polygamy is all about. 

CARLSON:  Well, it’s also titillating.  Let’s be totally honest.  That’s the interest.  The interest is the sexual prurient interest.  People want to know what the sleeping arrangements are.  And that’s the bottom line.  What are the sleeping arrangements, by the way?

BARNARD:  I have no idea. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Well, when you find out I hope you come back and tell us.  Brian Barnard.

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