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Old 12-13-2007, 07:00 PM
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What -- and why -- are the penalties for Bigamy?

My wife brought this up today. I've been very busy at wrok for the past few weeks, and at least once or twice a week have only got home past 10pm. She jokingly asked if I was seeing a second family, then added, "even if you were I wouldn't turn you in. I mean, what good are you to this family in jail?"

That got me wondering. Obviously this will vary by state and country, but when you get right down to it, doesn't punishing a bigamist with fines, incarceration, etc. potentially do more harm than good (i.e., where the man has children in multiple families)?

Just what are the statutes, anyway?
Old 12-13-2007, 07:07 PM
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In New York, Bigamy is a Class E felony, the lowest level of felony. For a class E felony, the maximum jail term must be at least three years and must not exceed four years.

Why is it against the law? Because the Big Love portrayal of bigamy is rare. Usually, it's a man marrying multiple wives and keeping them secret from each other. This leads to problems with things like an estate if he dies -- since the second marriage is illegal, the second wife gets none of the estate. In addition, it is a form of fraud since the wives would probably not marry the man if they knew about the earlier wife or wives.
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Old 12-13-2007, 07:40 PM
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Having two mothers-in-law?
Old 12-13-2007, 07:45 PM
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From my understanding of, "connected," families in Salt Lake City, bigamy or polygamy is generally overlooked by the authorities except in cases of expoloitive or young situations. There are a fair number of such families living in Utah that aren't hassled about it if the wives are, "of age," etc.

For an example, look at the case of Warren Jeffs, the recently convicted leader of the polygamist cult in Colorado City, AZ.

Another portrayal of a modern real-life family living in a, "Big Love," fashion is in this Frontline documentary on Mormonism.

http://pbs.org/mormons/view/

Look at, "Those Who Still Practice Polygamy."
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Old 12-13-2007, 08:58 PM
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Sheez, you guys, leave the poor Mormons alone, will ya? The official church realized what a screw-up that was when Utah wanted to become a state and they dropped it. Hanging bigamy on today's Mormons is like flailing away at Catholics for the Spanish Inquisition -- get over it!

The real reason bigamy as a crime is that it throws a huge monkey wrench into the legality of estate disposal. That's the only real reason. Personally, I think bigamy is immoral and evil, but that's an emotional response to it. My logical, reasoned objection is that it makes adjudication of estates more complex than I, as a taxpayer, want it to be. I don't want my tax-supported state courts slogging through estate cases for years. As a taxpayer and citizen, I want estate disposal to be clean and quick. That's not the case when bigamy is involved. That's why it's illegal.
Old 12-13-2007, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunrazor
As a taxpayer and citizen, I want estate disposal to be clean and quick. That's not the case when bigamy is involved. That's why it's illegal.
This is a bit circular. Because it's illegal, it's not possible to have a nice, orderly transition of estate. Countries where polygamy is legal don't have this issue, although to be fair, in those cases women's right are usually nominal at best. Anyway, estate disposal for those that die intestate (sp?) is often not clean and quick, but there is no law against not having a valid will.
Old 12-13-2007, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
Having two mothers-in-law?
Sort of a self-applying penalty, eh?
Old 12-13-2007, 10:29 PM
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I've said this before: the crime of bigamy should be struck from the books, and replaced with the crime of marriage fraud. Three spouses aren't the problem; lying about it is. (I appreciate, of course, the legal-complexity problems of large marriages that others have mentioned. But those problems can be solved.)
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:35 AM
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Hmm, I wasn't really picturing a Fundie Mormon, "Big Love" style arrangement, which is "plural marriage" or "polygamy" and distinct in my mind (if not on the law books) from "bigamy".

By "bigamy" I meant the case where a man (or woman, I guess, but AFAIK it's always been a man) has a whole second (or third, etc.) "secret" family that he covers up with frequent "business trips" or having an itinerant job to begin with, like being an airline pilot or something.

I've never been sure what the motivation is for such bigamists, and in general yes, it is "marriage fraud" in that each family believes they are his only one. A related case might be where he tells Family B that he's divorced and still goes to see his kids from Family A from time to time, when in fact he's popping in on Family A to keep Family B a secret from them.

Anyway, at some point the charade is exposed and then what happens? If Big Bad Bigamist goes to jail, doesn't that leave not one but two families in the lurch? What if he's the primary financial support for both of them?
Old 12-14-2007, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robardin
My wife brought this up today. I've been very busy at wrok for the past few weeks, and at least once or twice a week have only got home past 10pm. She jokingly asked if I was seeing a second family, then added, "even if you were I wouldn't turn you in. I mean, what good are you to this family in jail?"
Please tell me you responded, "That's very bigayou".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunrazor
Hanging bigamy on today's Mormons is like flailing away at Catholics for the Spanish Inquisition -- get over it!
To be fair, it was really not nice of them to spring it on us when nobody was expecting it.
Old 12-14-2007, 09:00 AM
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If the estate issue wasnít a concern would bigamy still be a problem? I mean, suppose a state passed a law saying that bigamy was permitted as long as:
1. All parties involved were in agreement and
2. Estate plans and wills are in place before the marriage
Wouldnít that eliminate the problem?

Personally I canít imagine having more than one wife/family. Iím exhausted and broke enough with the one I have.
Old 12-14-2007, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slypork
If the estate issue wasnít a concern would bigamy still be a problem? I mean, suppose a state passed a law saying that bigamy was permitted as long as:
1. All parties involved were in agreement and
2. Estate plans and wills are in place before the marriage
Wouldnít that eliminate the problem?
Sounds good to me. Is there any federal legislation that would disallow it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slypork
Personally I canít imagine having more than one wife/family. Iím exhausted and broke enough with the one I have.
I always figured that, the larger the family, the more people there are to work and bring in rent money.

Last edited by Sunspace; 12-14-2007 at 10:27 AM.
Old 12-14-2007, 10:40 AM
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What I don't at all get, is why you'd want a second wife and family? Seems to me that having a mistress or just getting some on the side would be a better bet all around.
Old 12-14-2007, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bump
What I don't at all get, is why you'd want a second wife and family? Seems to me that having a mistress or just getting some on the side would be a better bet all around.
"Getting some on the side"? I don't think so. Some of us don't like sneaking around.

Last edited by Sunspace; 12-14-2007 at 11:04 AM.
Old 12-14-2007, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slypork
If the estate issue wasnít a concern would bigamy still be a problem? I mean, suppose a state passed a law saying that bigamy was permitted as long as:
1. All parties involved were in agreement and
2. Estate plans and wills are in place before the marriage
Wouldnít that eliminate the problem?
No. As we know from the debate over gay marriage, marriage confers a huge number of statutory rights and obligations, from Social Security spousal benefits to income tax filing status and many others. Every one of those rights and obligations would need to be reviewed in the light of plural marriage. It can be done, but it's not as simple as saying, "This wasn't OK before and it's OK now".
Old 12-14-2007, 11:10 AM
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Why are the penalties for Bigamy what?

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