Canadian Polygamists Bring Gays Into Their Marriage Battle
January 24 2009 12:00 AM ET
The leaders of
two Canadian polygamist groups are defending their
"marriages" by referencing the nation's 2005 decision to
legalize same-sex marriage, reports the Associated
Two men are
fighting to stay out of Canadian jails for their
multipartner arrangements by arguing that the
country's marriage norms have changed since gay
couples were granted marriage rights. Winston Blackmore, 52,
and James Oler, 44, are each accused of being married to
more than one woman at a time. The charges carry a
maximum penalty of five years in prison.
"If [gays] can
marry, what is the reason that public policy says one
person can't marry more than one person?" Blair Suffredine,
Blackmore's attorney, told AP Wednesday, when the defendants
made their first court appearance.
Oler run rival polygamist sects in Bountiful, in the
British Columbia province. Blackmore, who has 400 followers,
once ran the Canadian arm of the Utah-based
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, but he was ejected in 2003 by that group's leader,
Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is in jail awaiting trial on four counts
of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor.
Oler is the bishop of Bountiful's FLDS community and
is loyal to Jeffs.
It's not clear
how successful the argument of Blackmore and Oler will be
in court or how any push for polygamous marriage will hinder
efforts to legalize same-sex marriage outside Canada.
The trial continues February 18. (Neal Broverman,