Utah Demos: Fight 'Polygamy Abuse'

Salt Lake Tribune/September 15, 1998
By Dan Harrie

The head of Utah's Democratic Party called Monday for $2 million in state initiatives to combat crimes sometimes associated with polygamy, including bolstering enforcement of abuse laws and building domestic-violence shelters.

Democratic leader Meghan Holbrook said the recommendations to curb ``polygamy abuse'' represented official party position. She unveiled the initiatives during a debate with Republican Party Chairman Rob Bishop before the Junior League of Salt Lake City.

The Legislature should immediately appropriate $1 million for investigation and prosecution of incest, statutory rape, child abuse, sex abuse, welfare fraud, tax fraud and unpaid child support, Holbrook said.

Another $1 million should be earmarked for shelters for abused women ``with larger families and older male children.''

``We have to do something about polygamy abuse and prosecution,'' Holbrook told the audience of more than 100 women at the Wyndham Hotel in Salt Lake City. ``The world is watching us,'' she said. ``The Washington Post wrote an article a month ago and they called polygamy `Utah's dirty little secret.' ''

It has been estimated that 20,000 Utahns are involved in plural marriage -- a practice introduced to the region 150 years ago by Mormon pioneers but renounced by church leaders in 1890.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicates polygamists.

Holbrook said she was not calling for enforcement of anti-polygamy laws themselves, but of underlying crimes committed by individuals and families.

``We have been very concerned that nothing has been done about polygamy at all.''

Bishop, the GOP leader, did not respond to Holbrook's polygamy comments during the debate.

During a later interview, he said the Republican Party has no position on the controversial issue.

``It's against the [Utah] Constitution. It's illegal,'' Bishop said. ``Where do we go from there?''

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