Saturday, June 15, 2024
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students

Oppressor in oppressed clothing

Capital C conservatives in this country might have a hard time wiping the smug “I told you so” expressions off…

By Katie Hyslop , in Hot Politics , on January 19, 2009

Capital C conservatives in this country might have a hard time wiping the smug “I told you so” expressions off their faces this week, after Winston Blackmore declared he would use gay marriage as a defence in his polygamy trial.

Blackmore's gay marriage defence is both ironic and unfair. Photo courtesy of Tantek's photostream.
Blackmore's gay marriage defence is both ironic and unfair. Photo courtesy of Tantek's photostream.

It’s ironic considering The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints donated $20-million to the yes on Proposition 8 campaign against gay marriage last year.

It’s also strange, considering Blackmore’s defence lawyer is former B.C. Liberal MLA Blair Suffredine, whose party pushed for charges against Bountiful polygamists and eventually gave the nod to same-sex marriage in the province.

And it would be funny if the whole situation didn’t make me squirm in my seat.

I don’t like to be a fence sitter, but sometimes a situation isn’t black and white. This is how I feel about polyamory. Personally, it’s not for me, but who am I to deny a person’s right to be in a loving, consenting-adult relationship with more than one person?

Polygamy is different. Maybe I’m tarring all polygamists with the same brush here, but how many polygamist marriages are out there that don’t involve one man and multiple women? None that I know of.

Winston Blackmore, for instance, is reported to have 26 wives, some of whom may have been as young as 15 when they married.

Perhaps the age of consent in Canada had not yet been raised by the time Blackmore had reportedly married these child brides, but that doesn’t mean these girls were more mature than 15-year-olds today. I also have a hard time imagining any 15-year-old girl marrying Blackmore of her own free will.

Though I don’t know the particulars of Blackmore’s relationship with his wives, I have a hard time picturing equality between the man and his 26 spouses. Were they allowed to work outside the home? Was divorce an option? Was marrying Blackmore a choice or a decision made for them?

Gay marriage, like straight marriage, is a partnership between two consenting adults who are free to end the relationship if they so choose. Its legalization is not an excuse for people like Blackmore to abuse the system and collect women like property, particularly teenage girls.

Suffredine should also know better. It’s one thing to say a case is a case and everyone deserves fair and equal representation, but to come up with an excuse that plays right into the hands of conservative anti-gay marriage activists and politicians shows he doesn’t care who he sells out to keep his client happy, or keep money in his pocket.

I admit I have a difficult time taking a hard line stance on this subject because of my belief in a person’s right to live as they please. However, when that right infringes on the rights of others, particularly historically oppressed groups like women and children, I have to draw a line.

And when the oppressor tries to use gay marriage as an excuse, I have to make some noise.


  • Interesting discussion.
    Just to clarify my understanding of your comment about polygamy involving anything but one man and multiple women:
    Polygamy = having more than one mate
    Polyandry = a form of polygamy involving one woman and more than one husband (a practice in some areas of Nepal)
    Polygyny = a form of polygamy involving one man and multiple wives

  • Sorry, I need to correct the premise of your article is completely wrong. The LDS Church and its members donated millions to support prop 8 in California. The FLDS is NOT affiliated with the LDS, and didn’t donate anything, nor become involved in the passage of prop 8 in any way.

    The LDS Church considers itself the only “Mormon” church, and it is by far the largest remnant of what Joseph Smith started, but there have been many offshoots of the religion since its founder created the LDS Church. Upon his death, there were many splits, including the Reorganized LDS Church, which later became the Church of Christ. When the LDS Church publicly abandoned polygamy in 1890 (it continued the practice about thirty years underground before finally abandoning it privately), many of the practitioners of polygamy who had once been urged to practice plural marriage but now were cast out, continued the practice without their church. Some of these individuals organized their own churches or economic orders in order to survive, the FLDS is one of those churches. It was not officially organized until the early 1990s. Winston Blackmore was raised in that community, but left after a dispute with one of the leaders, along with other families, dividing the B.C. community nearly in half. While I cannot speak for them, my impression is that their attitude toward homosexuality is “live and let live”.

    In any case, there are also other communities of practicing polygamists who have no affiliation with any of these organizations, and there are individuals who have espoused a belief in and/or practice of polygamy but who are not members of any organized church (we call them Independents). Many of these people believe that in order for all people to enjoy freedom, they must be willing to defend the rights of others to make choices with which they may not agree. Whether or not they “approve” of homosexuality religiously, they understand that preserving the rights of all means preserving their rights as well.

    While we consider ourselves “Mormon” by faith, we are not members of the LDS Church. So, in truth, your article “paints with the same brush”, not only all fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, but all “Mormons” as well.

  • You should check out Tal Bachman’s blog. Yes, that Tal Bachman.

    Bachman is an ex-Mormon (LDS, not FLDS) with apparent libertarian sympathies. He sees prosecution of Bountiful’s (FLDS) Blackmore and Oler as bigotry or hypocritical religious persecution.

    Like yourself and many others, Bachman’s not a big fan of people telling other people how (and with whom) they should live.

    What’s more surprising to me is that the argument’s coming from Bachman, who is usually pretty scathing in his discussion of Mormonism.

  • Kerry, thanks for letting me know.

    Mary, you’re right, I stand corrected. My intention was not to paint all Mormons with the same brush, but that’s just what I ended up doing. I’m aware of the difference between FLDS and LDS, but I guess in my fervor to make my point I overlooked the absence of the word Fundamentalist in that article about Proposition 8. My apologies.

    Brent – really? Tal Bachman?

  • So i’m grateful that Prop 8 has been challenged. So i am not homosexual. Although I’m friends with people who are. I simply do not see what the big deal is about homosexual people having the identical rights we’ve got.

Leave a Reply