Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Polygamy

I've heard a number of expressions of outrage in the media over the number of pregnant teenage girls found at the polygamist compound recently raided and broken up in Eldorado, Texas.

Here's the thing on this- in all likelihood, a number of the men on this compound will be arrested on statutory rape charges, when it can be proven they fathered children with girls under the legal age of consent. Under Texas law, teenagers as young as 14 are permitted to marry with parental consent. But under Texas law, polygamy is illegal, so none of the the multiple marriages of the members of the sect can be recognized.

And therein lies my big problem. I understand the need to protect children and as I wrote about last week, we obviously need to set age limitations. But you've got where you've got a crime in a situation that, without the polygamy, there wouldn't have been a crime. Or at least, there wouldn't be the simple crime that's before us now.

Yes, there is the question of coercion, and I'd support the prosecution of any polygamist man forcing a woman, young or old, into a relationship they don't want. The problem is- and you'll see this when you see the polygamist women interviewed on tv- is that most of the women don't actually feel forced, nor do they want to leave, probably because this is the only life they've known. As I noted last time, I wonder if there would be this same outrage if this was a tribal culture in the South Pacific or Africa and wasn't a group of white folks dressed up like pioneers. At heart is an issue of cultural differences and the right to preserve one's culture- as weird as that culture might be to the rest of us. Does the government have the right to intervene in isolated communities if those communities are located within our nation's borders?

Updated 4/29/2008 @ 9:45 PM : On further review I seem to have been wrong about the age requirement to marry in Texas. I believe it had been 14 and had been changed to 16. Regardless, the fact that we've had these laws changed around (and the fact that the age to marry and the age of sexual consent varies by state) are further evidence of the larger point I've been making about cultural differences.


Anonymous rem said...

The actual age to marry in Texas is 16 with parental consent not 14. That's been changed.

9:34 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Thanks for the correction.

9:50 PM  

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