Jan 19, 2017

Utah polygamists unite to oppose latest bigamy bill

Plural-marriage supporters plan to point at kids who could lose parents if they are jailed for polygamy
The Salt Lake Tribune
January 18,  2017

HB99 » Plural-marriage supporters plan to point at kids who could lose parents if they are jailed for polygamy.

Earlier this month, in the living room of a South Jordan home, politically-engaged polygamists met to discuss two things.

First, according to people who attended the meeting, the group explored ways to combat HB99, the latest bill seeking to clarify that polygamy is a felony in Utah.

Then the group, which calls itself the Principle Rights Coalition, talked about a larger goal: how can it persuade the Legislature and voters to permanently decriminalize polygamy?

"I'm under no illusions," Joe Darger, who has three wives and who attended the South Jordan meeting, said in an interview Friday. "This is a long-term battle."

The coalition is increasing its manpower for that fight. Darger said polygamists without a church affiliation, like his family, attended the meeting, and so did political activists who don't practice polygamy but see it as a civil right.

When the Utah Legislature convenes Jan. 23, Principle Rights plan to be ready to hold rallies and launch social media campaigns opposed to HB99 and to testify against the bill in hearings.

Throughout it all, the polygamists and their allies plan to put the focus on family. Keeping polygamy a felony punishable by up to five years in prison leaves parents at risk of going to jail and keeps children afraid they will lose their father and mothers, HB99 opponents plan to argue.

"I look forward to the day when I get to have the same rights as everyone else," said Heidi Foster, a member of the polygamous Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group, who attended the coalition meeting.

In an October poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics and conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, voters were opposed to decriminalization.


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