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?''