Origins Of Anti-polygamy Laws
The ban on polygamy originated in English COMMON LAW. In England polygamy was repudiated because it deviated from Christian norms; marriage, it was believed, properly existed only between one man and one woman. In 1866, for example, in the seminal case of Hyde v. Hyde, 1 L.R.-P. & D., an English court remarked that "the law of [England was] … adapted to the Christian marriage, and it is wholly inapplicable to polygamy." During the nineteenth century, English and U.S. law did not recognize polygamous marriage in any form. Only in the late twentieth century has either nation given limited legal recognition to polygamous partners from other countries.
Anti-polygamy laws in the United States also sprang from religious conflict. In the mid-1800s, widespread public hostility arose toward the practice of polygamy by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons. A small religious sect in the territory of Utah, the Mormons believed that their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, had a divine revelation in 1843 that called for men to marry more than one woman; in 1852 the church announced that the practice was religiously superior to monogamy. This position angered critics throughout the country, ranging from religious leaders to novelists, editorialists, and particularly politicians. In 1856 the Republican party's first national platform denounced polygamy and SLAVERY as "those twin relics of barbarism."
Legal controversies over the propriety of prohibiting polygamous marriages persisted in the United States for 150 years and were expected to continue as long as sects within the Mormon religion continued to openly support the practice of plural marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed polygamy in 1890 and excommunicates those members who practice plural marriage.
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