More Bountiful

polygamy-cp-4695694Note: filistro is currently on vacation. This article was previously written.

I first reported here in late November on the court case regarding Bountiful, British Columbia. This case continues to provide daily drama in a Vancouver courtroom, with women in long calico skirts and boots, children in denim overalls, thirty black-robed lawyers and numerous visiting experts in smart business suits, all passing each other on the courthouse steps.

But underlying the colorful, riveting fascination of tearful women claiming abuse, bearded elders reciting scripture and small children speaking to the courtroom via closed-circuit television, is the very real possibility that when it all ends Canada could become the first developed nation to legalize plural marriage, based on Canadian freedom of religion and freedom of association laws.

Winston Blackmore, with two of his children and one grandchild

Some Mormon women giving testimony have requested that media be denied access to the courtroom, complaining taped portions of testimony have appeared in local and national news coverage. Judge Bauman denied the request, noting the televised portion in question had been given voluntarily to the media by one of the former wives of Winston Blackmore, an elder in the Bountiful cult.

Lawyers for the polygamist community have argued strongly that perceptions of a religion different from their own should not sway the public or the court in their judgments about certain practices. (Fundamentalist Mormons believe an involvement in polygamist marriage will enhance their position in the afterlife.) They have also produced an array of women and children who testify that their living conditions in polygamous homes are happy, secure and mutually supportive, and there is absolutely no abuse or exploitation of children.

Shoshana Grossbard

The Crown has contradicted this with testimony both from former members of polygamous communities and from experts in the field. Shoshana Grossbard from San Diego State University, who researches the economics of marriage, testified early in December that allowing men to have multiple wives necessarily decreases the supply of women to most men in the community, but this paradoxically does not increase the individual value of women to the men who “own” them. Instead, Grossbard testified, it makes men more aggressive and controlling, because they are required to struggle to hang onto their wives. As a result, women are often threatened and physically intimidated to prevent them from straying. Also, teenage boys and young men who would otherwise compete for wives are banished from the community and denied contact with their families, providing a destabilizing social force.

The crown has also presented a series of women from plural marriages who testify to domestic abuse. This testimony is dismissed by the polygamists’ lawyers as anecdotal and misleading. “If you went to a women’s shelter and interviewed the women living there,” said one lawyer, “you would hear horrifying, heartbreaking stories of abuse and violence. But this would not mean monogamy is harmful and should be made illegal.”

The court is expected to issue its ruling on the legality of plural marriage sometime in late January.

About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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11 Responses to More Bountiful

  1. Monotreme says:

    I honestly have no problem with consenting adults making any legal arrangements they feel are necessary for the pursuit of happiness.

    I do have a problem with child abuse. I would much prefer my state’s Attorney General to focus on statutory rape and child abuse statutes, and overlook polygamy “laws”, which I find just as intrusive as “laws” which regulate what my wife and I may do in our bedroom.

  2. Bart DePalma says:


    By what legal authority does a Canadian court determine whether polygamy should or should not be legal? This was a legislative matter in the United States.

  3. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Bart, you purport to be a lawyer. If you wish to know about the Canadian legal system, you have the ability and resources to look it up yourself.

    Instead of depending on secondhand info from someone who holds you in only slightly higher regard than a coiled rattlesnake.

  4. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Hey! Who pulled Bart’s comment questioning whether I might happen to be either 13 or 14???

  5. Chris Rich says:

    I’d like to see more evolutionary biology data. The arrangement of one guy monopolizing a bunch of women in the mating game seems about as dumb as it gets.

    We are promiscuous monkeys. Nowadays it tends to be expressed as serial promiscuity or marriage and divorce cycles.

    A polygamy that entails a woman with a batch of husbands makes more sense from the standpoint of robust dispersal of genetic material but men would never stand for such a thing as we are a profoundly insecure gender and invent ridiculous man image sky god things to prop our sad asses up.

    I’d love to see more research about what we used to do before men got out of hand, what were our original monkey arrangements. What would a Bonobo do? I have a feeling much of human malaise grew from letting the dumber gender take over.

  6. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Read a couple of Heinlein books to see how the Master of Science Fiction visited the subject.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one where he covers several types of marriages, including the polyandries that Chris speaks of. (one woman with multiple husbands)

  7. shiloh says:

    Neither here nor there:

    CWCID lol

    Since Chris Rich is here, (pretty sure) it was he at the old 538 who used the phrase:

    I yield back the balance of my time which I appropriated 🙂

    And Bartles I “borrowed” from Jean, speaking of which, he indeed, is quite lazy and apologies to coiled rattlesnakes.

    Remember the threads about internet privacy and how PK was totally paranoid about someone having his IP address … Be afraid, be very afraid! Since WIKI leaks Petey boy has probably relocated to an underground bunker 😛

    carry on

  8. dcpetterson says:

    Hey, shiloh, you can still follow PK on twitter

    and even on huffpo

    But that’s off-topic, because it would be a miracle if PK could get even one woman to marry him, let alone several…

  9. shortchain says:

    I’d just like to point out that a man who deliberately takes many wives simultaneously is likely to produce progeny who are on the left end of the intelligence curve like he is.

    The only way to make that work, socially, is to brain-wash the women so that they are happy in their subservience. Hence they have to have home-schooling — and cut the science out.

    Personally, I’m opposed to brain-washing, and I think we have enough ill-trained and ill-equipped folks in this world — and even in the USA. No need to mass-produce them in Canada.

  10. shiloh says:

    Yea, PK used to advertise his Twitter acct. at the bottom of every post and of course he was makin’ a mountain out of a mole hill ie exaggerating when he was talkin’ about his internet privacy being “violated” 😀 er full of bullshit, much like Bartles!

    I don’t Twit and rarely post on Huffington Compost but thanx for the info as I’ll take it under advisement lol

  11. dcpetterson says:

    I personally have no problem with whatever arrangement two or more adults mutually choose. I think the complexities of multiple-partner marriages make them very difficult for many people, and it is the rare group that can truly make that work.

    The history of polygamous marriages (multiple wives for one man) tends toward the abusive, or toward a view of “ownership.” But polygamy is generally accepted in societies in which there is no gender equality. I suspect that in a culture that truly valued and enforced gender equity, the polygamous marriage would tend toward abuse no more often than would a polyandrous marriage or any form of pair-bonding (regardless of the gender of the members of the couple).

    Even “abuse” is sometimes a difficult term, however. I mean in no way to defend abusive relationship, but cultural definitions definitely change, both over time, and from one society to the next. Is it abusive to spank a child, or not? Is it a matter of degree? The manhood-initiation ceremonies practiced by aboriginal peoples the world over would be considered horrendously abusive on, say, the streets of Chicago. So it is with adult relationships, too. I’ll leave it at that.

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