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Mormon accused of polygamy to use gay marriage as defence

PinkNews Staff Writer February 4, 2009
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A man in Canada charged with polygamy is to argue that the legalisation of gay marriage should lead the way for multiple wives.

Two fundamentalist Mormons Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Marion Oler, 44, both from a Mormon community in British Colombia called Bountiful, appeared in court last month on polygamy charges.

Their cases come back before the courts later this month.

Mr Blackmore reportedly has 19 wives and Mr Oler has two.

“Bountiful, which lies along the north Idaho border. It is a self-named community of about 1,000 people who practice the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints,” according to the Bonners Ferry Herald.

“Similar sister communities exist in the United States that follow these same religious practices.

“Since 2005, law enforcement on both sides of the border have been looking into allegations of child brides and trafficking of young girls between the two countries, police said.”

The men are not charged with any offences relating to children or young girls.

“I’m no attorney, I’m just a Canadian and I’ve taken the time last night to review the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, twice . . . Not only our basic Canadian rights, but our equality rights,” Mr Blackmore said before the case commenced.

“And I think if I’m guilty of anything, I’m guilty of being a Canadian and just living my religion.”

Mr Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, said his client will plead not guilty and will not dispute most of the evidence.

He will argue that polygamy for the purposes of religion should be legal and that gay marriage, legal in Canada since 2005, supports that position.

North Shore News reports that the prosecution may not be straightforward.

“The same-sex marriage reference to the Supreme Court in 2004 did away with the old definition of marriage, from the 1866 decision of the British House of Lords in Hyde vs. Hyde: “the union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

“If the Supreme Court could substitute “two persons” for “one man and one woman,” it may be hard to find an argument for retaining “to the exclusion of all others.”

“And there lies the perfect Catch-22: if the definition stands, Blackmore’s last eighteen “marriages” — and Oler’s second — are shams, carried out contrary to the very definition of the rite; and if the “exclusion” phrase is excised, then the “crime” of polygamy is in fact sanctioned by law, at best an awkward situation and at worst, absurd.”

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