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Utah and Arizona Officials Allow Polygamy

Excerpts from this article:

Polygamy meeting crowded -- Officials explain prosecution policies

By Travis Reed, The Associated Press

Friday, March 04, 2005

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Attorneys general of Utah and Arizona told a two-state town hall meeting they would not target polygamists solely for practicing plural marriage.

However, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told the crowd of about 350 Thursday they would pursue criminal charges against those involved in forced or underage marriages, sexual abuse and welfare and tax fraud.

That drew an angry reaction from polygamy opponents, who said the practice is against the law and the law should be enforced.

Polygamists contend they have a First Amendment right to practice plural marriage, because it's part of their religion. They also claim they've been targeted by prosecutors because they're different.

Goddard said work still needs to be done in "breaking down decades of suspicion that have existed" between those who believe polygamy is the height of religious exhalation and those in the law enforcement communities and beyond.

Some at the meeting told the officials they needed to stop prosecuting polygamy or treat it as a misdemeanor, drawing applause.

"Believe it or not, there's a lot of happy women, and there are a lot of them here today," said one woman who took one of the two-minute turns to speak in favor of polygamy.

The crowd reacted similarly when a woman suggested polygamy wouldn't be so bothersome if the states would "cut back all this welfare and they had to support all these children" instead of receiving public assistance.

Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal


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