Week in Review for December 16–20
In the News
Federal Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that “for no rational reason,” the restriction discriminates against Utah’s same-sex couples. In what is sometimes called “the reddest of red states,” there will no doubt be appeals and numerous other attempts to restrict marriage equality, but case precedents are on the side of the plaintiffs against the ban. At least one couple raced to the county clerk’s office and applied for a marriage license before an appeal could be filed. They were married just a few minutes later. Perhaps because of the LDS church’s longstanding opposition to same sex marriage, multiple national news outlets picked up the story.
The LDS church continued posting articles on its website to address historical topics, this time focusing on polygamy. Although more cautious in tone than the article on race and priesthood, it nonetheless acknowledged post-manifesto polygamy and attempted to dispel cultural myths about why polygamy may have been practiced among early Mormons. The article was posted just as word came that a judge had struck down a portion of Utah’s cohabitation laws, decriminalizing polygamy in Utah. While bigamy technically remains illegal, it now only applies to those attempting to fraudulently obtain multiple marriage licenses from the state.
The church remains deeply sensitive to polygamy. Its “Newsroom” website has spent years rebutting articles that refer to “Mormon fundamentalists,” claiming there is no such thing as a Mormon fundamentalist, given that the church excommunicates those who practice polygamy. The Newsroom’s involvement reflects the largely public relations nature of the efforts to shed the polygamy label from Mormonism.
The University of Utah Press announced it would start a new series focused on Mormon issues. The series will be edited by historians W. Paul Reeve and Robert A. Goldberg. “This series situates Mormonism—its culture, institutions, and people—in a broad perspective that reflects the views of religious studies, history, literature, theology, politics, and other disciplines.”
—News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor