Unconventional Unions in the US

by Amira Smale, July 2015

900 words

3 pages



The essay deals with unconventional unions, such as polygamy and same-sex spouses in the US society. In the introduction the current circumstances are exposed. In the main body the lawsuits concerning polygamy and sodomy are analyzed, legislation on marriage and unconventional marriages is studied; the attitude of the law towards same-sex spouses and polygamous marriages is traced back to the 19th century. The way society and government treat unconventional unions is examined, and possible reasons of such an attitude are considered. Finally, possible ways of solving these problems are considered.

Keywords: unconventional unions, polygamy, same-sex spouses, law, prosecution.

Unconventional Unions

Unconventional marriages have always been a controversial topic in American society. This may be because people have always treated marriage as a union of a man and a woman for giving birth to children. Any union different from the one between a man and a woman seemed to be unnatural. As for polygamy, it is still widespread among people who belong to some particular religions, such as Mormons and Muslims. Polygamy is viewed as unnatural union mainly among Christians. The USA have always been a polyethnic and multicultural country with a Christian government, so conflicts between unconventional couples and the ruling bodies, or better to say, conflicts between different cultures, were inevitable.

The earliest litigations concerning unconventional marriages were the ones on behalf of the Mormons, whose church was not acknowledged by the authorities those times. From 1862, Congress passed several statuses criminalizing traditional Mormon polygamy. In 1878 the case Reynolds v. United States happened. George Reynolds was a Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This religion allowed polygamy; they even found confirmation of their tradition in the Book of Mormons. But polygamy was officially prohibited, so Reynolds was charged with bigamy. He claimed that he was just exercising his religion, which could not be prohibited according to the First Amendment. But the Supreme Court declared that this Amendment did not cover the law prohibiting polygamy. We should not forget that the jury were just average people who had common prejudices, and they voted according to the views of that time. Reynolds was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and fined $500.

Talking about today, we can point out that the problems of same-sex marriages have moved to the forefront. Modern legislation restricted people’s right to enter into unconventional marriages until recently. In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Defence of Marriage Act, which declared that only a union between one man and one woman could be called a marriage, and allowed the states not to recognize same-sex marriages if the people had got married in another state. Though same-sex spouses are not recognized federally in the US, there are six states where such people can legally get married. The lesbian and gay civil rights movement is very strong nowadays, and even President Barack Obama said that he supports same-sex marriages.

The movement started in the 20th century, when the same-sex couples began to protect their rights, because …

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