Utah always was queer about marriage, ever since the City of the Saints was founded by Brigham Young and his concubines … err, wives. The leadership of the Mormon Church nevertheless kept the practice of polygamy on the down low for five years.
The fact that the Christian institution of marriage, between a man and a woman, had been broaden to include a man and just about any number of women a man could coerce into marrying him was not widely known for nearly 10 years after Joseph Smith received permission to screw at will. Not until 1852 did Brother Brigham make it official when he announced to the world that, yes indeed folks, Mormon men are boinking more than one woman. Thus, in one sweeping announcement, Brigham Young made a liar out of the hundreds of missionaries abroad in the Mission field swearing up and down that Mormon’s were monogamous.
Now that the secret was out in the open and the jig was up, for the next 40 years Mormon leaders sung the praises of female concubinage while denouncing the absolute horrors of monogamy.
Brother Brigham spouted in 1862, “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.” Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt also added his two cents claiming, “this law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans…”
However, my favorite pronouncement of the evils of monogamy is from John Taylor, 3rd Prophet Seer and Revelator of the Mormon Church who chimed in, “…the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.”
Well that is all right and good living 500 miles from decent society, but when a national political party is founded on the premise that slavery and polygamy are the twin relics of barbarism, and after said political party had beaten the crap out of half the country over slavery, one starts to sing a different tune when the Grand Old Party turn its sights in your direction.
Here comes the judge, here comes the judge, the federal judge who sent Mormon polygamists into hiding or into prison cells for cohabitating. Mormons wailed they were only obeying God. Blame God not me! However, Republicans turned a deaf ear and said: “No statehood for you.” Mormons very much wanted to become a state and get the feds off their ass. So they did the sensible thing to become a state. They lied. Yes, they said they would end the practice of plural marriage in 1890. Even said it was a manifesto, but in reality they were just kidding and they just kept on marrying and marrying as many women as they could convince that it was God’s will to boink. “Its for the children!” “Think of the children!” Who could resist when you put it like that?
Well, finally after trying to push a Mormon Apostle into the United States Senate with no luck because the opposition was calling Mormons “liars pants on fire” over this plural wife thing-y, President Joseph F. Smith issued a second manifesto in 1904 saying they really mean it this time. And “It was an honest mistake.”
So, as the old Mormon broads, I mean venerable pioneers, died off, polygamy in Utah buckled under for the evils of monogamy. President Heber J. Grant was the very last polygamist prophet to head the church, but lucky for the PR department, Heber only had one wife still hanging around when he assumed the Church Presidency in 1919, the other two had conveniently dropped dead.
So about mid 20th century Mormons went full steam ahead on main streaming into American monogamous society and they jettison the eternal principle of spiritual wifery. They even went after their former polygamist relatives, treating them like unwanted bastard stepchildren.
Mormons were all American as apple pie now in the matrimony department except for this simple codicil ‘no mixing of the races.’ No Brown Sugar for the Priesthood. Nary a single solitary drop of Negro blood can be allowed in the Temple, No M’am, uhuh, no sirree. The reason for this was quite reasonable because, you see, back in those days God was still a bigot.
Brother Brigham said in 1852, “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”
A hundred years later in 1952 the Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen piled on adding more ethnicities to the mix. “What is our advice with respect to intermarriage with Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians and so on? I will tell you what advice I give personally. If a boy or girl comes to me claiming to be in love with a Chinese or Japanese or a Hawaiian or a person of any other dark race, I do my best to talk them out of it. I tell them that I think the Hawaiians should marry Hawaiians, the Japanese ought to marry Japanese, and the Chinese ought to marry Chinese, and the Caucasians should marry Caucasians … I teach against inter-marriage of all kinds.”
Well, Elder Petersen and whole lot of other folks looked kind of foolish when President Spencer Kimball did them a mean trick and pulled bigotry right out from under their feet in 1978. But not to worry, there was a new boogeyman threat emerging just in time to fill the void … homosexuals! Homosexuals who want to get married. In Utah! Horror!
On Jan. 6 1976, two lesbians marched into the County Clerk office and asked for a marriage license. Flabbergasted, the clerk referred the women to the Salt Lake County attorney office for a judgement on whether they could get a license. Unfortunately this was 1976 and the pair declined to take the matter further, however the Salt Lake Tribune got wind of the story and wrote an opinion stating, “Two women who had applied for a marriage license in Salt Lake County probably should have been issued one, according to Utah law.” Whoops!
In 1976, Utah did not specifically prohibit marriage between members of the same sex according to a spokesperson in the Salt Lake County Attorney office. Well something had to be done about that. In June 1977, “GAY MARRIAGES BANNED IN UTAH” screamed from the headlines! The ban was placed in a bill clarifying ambiguous language in the marriage statutes over legal age for matrimony. Someone had pointed out to Governor Scott Matheson that, you know, nothing in state law says marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Holy Cow! Queers could marry other perverts?!
Thus, the righteous Representative Roger Livingston, R-Sandy, quietly and discreetly inserted into HB 3 language prohibiting marriage “between persons of the same sex.” There, that nasty business was taken care of. Gay marriage was so odious that the prohibition language went virtually undiscussed among the lawmakers. When asked later, some legislators said they knew about “the controversial nature of such a proposal” but some things are “better left unsaid.” Indeed! Nasty business this queer stuff. However, less we forget our hero, a brave, feminist, pro-ERA Senator, Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake City, who objected. She moved to eliminate the language barring marriage between persons of the same sex. Can you believe it? Her motion did fail of course, and the bill passed on a 20-2 vote with just one other senator, Arthur Kimball, D-Salt Lake City, joining Farley in the opposition. Senator Carl E. Peterson, DMagna, speaking for the majority spoke against Farley’s motion proudly stating the ban on homosexual marriage is what “we in the state believe in.”