Tuesday, December 2, 2003

A Utah man with five wives is in court fighting to get his bigamy conviction overturned on the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that decriminalized homosexual relations.

The legal action by polygamist Tom Green in the Utah Supreme Court seems to confirm predictions of a Republican lawmaker and other social conservatives who warned that the high court’s decision would open the door to attempts to legalize other sexual activities that historically have been outlawed by states, such as bigamy, polygamy, prostitution, adult incest and even bestiality.

“You would have the right to bigamy; you have the right to polygamy; you have the right to incest; you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,” Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, predicted in April.

“Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s sodomy, all of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable traditional family,” said Mr. Santorum, who was criticized at the time by Owen Allred, leader of Utah’s largest polygamist sect, for characterizing plural marriage as an antifamily practice.

Two months later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy law and declared in a 6-3 decision that the private actions of homosexuals are no business of government. On Monday, an attorney for Green — who has spent the past two years in prison — argued to Utah’s Supreme Court that the Texas ruling should invalidate laws against polygamy.

“It doesn’t bother anyone [and with] no compelling state interest in what you can do in your own home with consenting adults, you should be allowed to do it,” attorney John Bucher told the Utah court, according to the Associated Press.

In August, Green, the father of 30 children, filed an appeal of his 2001 conviction on four counts of bigamy.

He is serving a five-year sentence for that conviction and another for criminal nonsupport of his offspring. In addition, Green faces up to life in prison after being convicted of child rape for having sex with one of his five wives when she was 13.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Texas case also has been cited by attorneys for Rodney Holm, a former police officer in Hildale, Utah, who was convicted in August of bigamy and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

“Holm raised the issue [of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Texas case] before his trial, but the trial court denied it,” Laura B. Dupaix, Utah’s attorney general, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

On Oct. 10, Holm was sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation. He is appealing his conviction, which he claims is improper under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on sodomy, Ms. Dupaix said.

“I argued that [the high courts opinion] was not properly before the court in the Green case, because it’s never been raised before” by his lawyers, she added.

Holm is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a fringe sect whose members practice polygamy.

Green says he is not affiliated with any religion.

The official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, renounced polygamy in 1890 as part of a deal to grant Utah statehood. Mormons excommunicate anyone who practices plural marriage.

There are an estimated 30,000 people who practice polygamy in the Western states.

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