While the US federal legal system rises from its slumber to consider the challenge Kody Brown and his four wives are presenting to the way a few US states treat polygamists as if they were criminals, there is of course plenty of time for an equally important media trial to progress in parallel to the legal battle.
Today the Browns’ lawyer, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, began to make his case to decriminalise polygamy in the New York Times. He challenged the civil rights lobby to stop being shy on the subject and to support him in pushing against this example of excessive government intrusion in citizens’ lives.
Suggesting that part of the problem may be the abuse that exists in some polygamous relationships, Turley says “there is nothing uniquely abusive about consenting polygamous relationships. It is no more fair to prosecute the Browns because of abuse in other polygamous families than it would be to hold a conventional family liable for the hundreds of thousands of domestic violence cases each year in monogamous families.”
Turley promotes this as supporting a general principle of the ‘right to be left alone’ which, if strengthened by the Browns’ case, would help many groups of which liberals are traditionally more fond. And perhaps his call has worked, for within 24 hours both the Economist and the Slate have come out in favour of leaving polygamists alone. When this is added to the Salt Lake Tribune’s early opinion in favour of the Browns, there is a possibility that Turley could build the liberal momentum he is hoping for.