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     Family: A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. —

Lyle Jeffs isn’t exactly a household name, but his arrest last month placed the polygamous leader back in the news.

Oddly, Jeffs wasn’t arrested for having multiple wives but for food-stamp fraud. He is widely known, at least in the western part of our state, for establishing a polygamy compound near Pringle, a small town about 53 miles south of Rapid City.

Meanwhile, farther north, two men were convicted a few days ago for practicing polygamy in Canada. Neither Winston Blackmore nor James Oler denied the charges and instead argued that their religion allowed multiple wives. Both are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a spin-off of the Mormon Church that disavowed polygamy in 1904.

In the United States, polygamy is also banned, but increasingly polygamy advocates are pushing for their definition of a “family.”  Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that same-sex marriage was legal, polygamists have said, “Why not us?”

To expand the topic a bit further, the idea that individuals have the “right” to define for themselves what a “family” is has gained some traction. It may be a man and woman, or a man and a man, or a man and three women.  Even more troubling is the argument relating to the marriage of children by adults. And then what about the laws banning marriage to a close relative?

For some, this “slippery slope” is far-fetched. Arguments have been made differentiating between same-sex marriage and polygamous marriages. However, as the Supreme Court has expanded the definition of marriage to include members of the same sex, this departure from traditional values opens the door to other definitions of “family” and it’s not unreasonable to wonder where this path will lead.

I read somewhere that this nation’s Founding Fathers never dreamed that the Constitution they constructed would allow same-sex marriage. It wasn’t contemplated.

Today, things not contemplated a few short years ago are coming to pass. Some of the changes have been positive, such as fairness in matters of race and gender and age. Other changes, not so much.

Although bigamy and polygamy remain illegal today in the U.S., who’s to say that a judge won’t rule someday that polygamists have the right to live their own lives for at least two reasons: religious freedom, and the right to be free of laws that discriminate against them just because they have a different lifestyle.

Sound far-fetched or just familiar?

Aug. 2, 2017