Tue, January 25, 2005
Polygamist marriage challenge 'inevitable'
By Mindelle Jacobs
Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler objects to making the obvious link between same-sex marriage and a potential court challenge by polygamists.
Well, two human-rights advocates - a lawyer and a cult expert - are making the link for him.
Cotler is wrong to dismiss the
possibility that polygamists will use the victories homosexuals have won to
push for acceptance of their practices as well, says
The issues may be distinct but that doesn't mean polygamists won't launch a charter challenge if they're prosecuted, he says.
"I believe (a court
challenge) could potentially arise," says
The proceedings were
settled "amicably," says
If polygamists do launch
a constitutional challenge, the government will have to use the notwithstanding
clause to keep plural marriage illegal, says
"Governments and courts have inherent jurisdiction over the protection of children and their action will have to be framed from the standpoint of protecting the interests of children born of these unions and polygamy will continue to be outlawed for that reason".
"Certainly, polygamists will raise charter issues. It's inevitable," he says. "Whether it flies is another question."
Polygamists will use the same-sex marriage rulings as a jumping-off point to argue the supposed merits of their own unions, says Kent, who specializes in alternative religions.
They see the charter as their best defence and may feel emboldened since the B.C. government has refused to lay charges, he says.
B.C. missed a
"golden opportunity" to bring justice to the women and children of
Government inaction has
sent a message that
"The government has a responsibility to protect its most vulnerable citizens and, in this context, the government failed."
Some have argued that
polygamous communities are not a threat to society, but that view ignores the
substantial harm suffered by women, children and, in some cases, young men,
He has also written a piece on the issue which is to be published in an academic journal.
"Respecting freedom of religion does not mean giving a small number of religious leaders licence to perpetuate human misery," he writes in the paper.
"It is easy now to see why polygamy so often takes a toll on women, especially young women. The theology tells men that they have a right to multiple virgins," he writes.
"These marriages also control the young women's sexuality, as they become baby-producers in order to fulfil the religious aspirations of the men who control them," he continues.
Unlike in the
That could bring a flood
"It could happen," he says.
"Perish the thought."