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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News releases:  11/23/2011  |  12/10/2010

Polygamy, polyamory fail at B.C. Supreme Court

ADF-allied attorney participated in case to demonstrate harms of ‘group marriage’ to women, children, society
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ADF attorney sound bite:  Austin Nimocks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled that the government of Canada may continue to prohibit polygamy and polyamory--a decision that rejects an approach that could have had far-reaching effects on marriage throughout Canada and other countries. An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney participated in a multi-month trial that began in November of last year to examine the various harms of polygamy and polyamory to women, children, and society.

“No government should experiment with a practice that has been clearly demonstrated as harmful to women, children, and societies around the world,” said Gerald Chipeur, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “The British Columbia Supreme Court recognized that marriage is about children and parents, and that Parliament has a very important role to play in protecting the family. The court also recognized that Parliament, not the courts, has the authority to define marriage. I am pleased that the chief justice accepted our argument that, under the Constitution of Canada, Parliament may define marriage as no more than two people.”

“Some organizations claim that same-sex ‘marriage’ won’t open the door to polygamy and group marriage, but that’s what nearly happened in British Columbia,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. “Had marriage never been attacked there in the first place, it’s questionable whether this particular assault would have ever occurred. Canada just dodged a bullet for the moment; Americans should take notice because this country need not risk the same thing.”

Chipeur, with the firm Miller Thomson LLP, called Dr. Shoshana Grossbard to testify before the court during the multi-month hearing that began late last year. Christian Legal Fellowship, which was allowed by the court to intervene in the proceedings, presented Grossbard to the court because of her extensive research and expertise on the cross-cultural effects polygamy has on women and society.  The evidence she presented established that polygamy is human trafficking in disguise.

Grossbard is one of two CLF experts whose findings were submitted to the court and only one of many witnesses who were examined throughout the proceedings, known as the Constitutional Reference on Polygamy. The Reference, brought by the attorney general of British Columbia, asked the court to determine if Parliament may prohibit polygamy and polyamory and at the same time uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of religious freedom. The court concluded that prohibiting polygamy and other forms of group marriage does not jeopardize religious freedom rights under the Canadian Charter.

In his decision, Chief Justice Robert Bauman wrote, “When one accepts that there is a reasoned apprehension that polygamy is inevitably associated with sundry harms, and that these harms are not simply isolated to criminal adherents like Warren Jeffs but inhere in the institution itself, the…complaint that there are less sweeping means of achieving the government’s objective falls away. And it most certainly does when one considers the positive objective of the measure, the protection and preservation of monogamous marriage. For that, there can be no alternative to the outright prohibition of that which is fundamentally anathema to the institution. In the context of this objective, there is no such thing as so-called ‘good polygamy.’”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.