A Canadian judge dealt a blow to polygamy advocates Wednesday by upholding the country's ban on plural marriage.
In a landmark decision, British Columbia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman wrote that the ban prevents "sundry harms" related to polygamy and "minimally impairs religious freedom."
"There can be no alternative to the outright prohibition," Bauman wrote. "... There is no such thing as so-called 'good polygamy.' "
While Canadian officials hailed the ruling as a strong message, advocates of the practice challenged Bauman's conclusion that it is inherently harmful to the families involved and to society at large.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has been watching the Canadian case develop alongside a challenge to this state's bigamy law filed in U.S. District Court by the polygamous family of Cody Brown — stars of the reality show "Sister Wives."
The Brown lawsuit differs from the Canadian case in that it relies on a legal right to privacy instead of a religious freedom argument, which was discarded by the U.S. Supreme Court in a bigamy case more than 100 years ago. However, both cases ask whether polygamy, when practiced by consenting adults, is truly harmful to society.
"It's the same analysis our courts will go through if the Cody Brown case gets to that point," said Shurtleff, who applauded Bauman's conclusions. "I think it's how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule if it ever gets to the Supreme Court here."
The Canadian case stemmed from an investigation into two polygamous factions in a community of about 1,000 known as Bountiful, located just outside of Creston, British Columbia. Members follow the practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, historically based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Bauman also cited evidence that polygamy "generates a class of largely poor, unmarried men who are statistically predisposed to violence and other anti-social behaviour."
Blackmore, who is alleged to have 19 wives, has long claimed religious persecution and said Wednesday he would continue to fight.
"I certainly don't plan on dropping my faith and running away," he said. "The government has tried to do everything they could in the last 20 years to ruin our lifestyle. How can the Supreme Court of Canada uphold swinging and swapping clubs? A plural relationship doesn't kill anybody. The judge: he's wrong."