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By 3rd Anniversary of 'Lawrence' - Polygamy Rights Accelerating

Date: Jun 26, 2006
Word Count: 1700 words
Cross-Reference: Lawrence v. Texas, polygamy rights, O Centro Espirita, Supreme Court, no marriage amendment

The series of events that occurred during the year prior to June 26, 2006, accelerated the polygamy rights movement; Supreme Court changes, Christian Polygamy recognized, HBO’s “Big Love,” increased media attention, new Court Decision re-guarantees polygamy rights – and a big government marriage amendment still unable to be passed.

June 26, 2006, marks the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas. The chronology of events over the preceding year brought some powerfully positive consequences for the polygamy rights movement. 
From changes to the Supreme Court, to Christian media recognition of the Christian Polygamy movement, to another new Supreme Court Decision re-guaranteeing polygamy rights, to a new TV show about polygamy, to increased amounts of media reports about the polygamy rights movement, this series of events rapidly accelerated the polygamy rights movement. How fitting, therefore, that, less than three weeks before the third anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Senate once again failed to pass a federal marriage amendment.  
The chronology of events following June 26, 2005, brought much indeed. 
July 01, 2005 - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her intention to retire from the United States Supreme Court. The significance of that event cannot be overstated. Justice O’Connor had been the actual deciding “swing” vote in the 5-4 Decision of Lawrence v. Texas. If, instead, she had opposed the Lawrence v. Texas Decision, the result would likely have been the opposite, 4-5. Her decision to retire thereby opened the possibility that she could be replaced with a more conservative Justice. 
July 19, 2005 - President George Bush nominated John Roberts as a conservative to replace the “less-conservative” Justice O’Connor. 
August 4, 2005 - investigating Roberts’ background, the L.A.Times reported that Roberts had performed about a few hours of pro bono work for the legal defense team, Lambda Legal, helping them to “win” the Romer v. Evans case, 1996. That story was also reported the next day, on August 5, 2005, in the New York Times. Back when the Romer v. Evans case was being heard by the Supreme Court, Roberts’ law firm, Hogan & Hartson, knew that he had previously clerked for Justice William Rehnquist. So they asked him to sit in a practice moot court, role-playing as a would-be Justice Scalia. Roberts’ role-playing as a conservative Justice enabled the defense team to practice and prepare their best method of arguing their case before the Supreme Court. They succeeded - and with Roberts' help. 
August 11, 2005 - The Washington Times reported, “In 1980s, Roberts wary of New Right,” including Roberts’ concerns about a book written back then by renowned conservative, Paul Weyrich And the next day after that, on August 12, 2005, Concerned Women for America picked up on that same story, further reporting on other conservative concerns about John Roberts. Although many conservatives still supported the Roberts nomination, there did remain a few who used this information to oppose him. 
August 16, 2005 - the Christian Polygamy movement got its historic and first formal recognition as “evangelical Christians” from Christian media. A “700 Club” news report on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) accurately reported about the organization and its founder, Mark Henkel. That acknowledgement would be the first of others who followed afterward, openly identifying the growing Christian Polygamy movement correctly as “evangelical Christians.” The magnitude of the historical significance and impact of that event also cannot be overstated. 
September 3, 2006 - Chief Justice Rehnquist died of thyroid cancer. Two days later, President Bush nominated John Roberts for Chief Justice instead - leaving the vacancy for Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat still unfilled. However, she held off her pending retirement until her replacement on the Court could be determined. 
September 29, 2005 - 50-year-old John Roberts was confirmed as the new Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. With all 55 Republicans, 22 of 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent supporting Roberts, the confirmation vote in the Senate was 78-22. 
October 31, 2005 - President George Bush nominated Samuel Alito to fill the forthcoming vacancy from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement. Presented as being another conservative nominee, the political battle over Samuel Alito’s confirmation ensued for the next three months. 
January 31, 2006 - 55-year-old Samuel Alito was finally confirmed as an associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. With 54 of 55 Republicans supporting, with 4 of 44 Democrats also supporting, and with 1 Independent opposing Alito, the vote was 58-42. By replacing O’Connor who had been the deciding “swing” vote that supported Lawrence v. Texas, many perceived that a conservative Alito would have caused that kind of a case to have failed instead. 
February 21, 2006 - the U.S. Supreme Court gave a unanimous 8-0 Decision in a new religious freedom case called, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal. The new Chief Justice Roberts even wrote the official Decision. The other new Justice, Samuel Alito, had not participated in the Decision because he had not yet been appointed at the time when the case was heard. This case would become the third of three important Supreme Court cases re-guaranteeing polygamists’ Constitutional rights. 
March 12, 2006 - the pay-TV network, HBO, debuted its new series, “Big Love.” With a storyline premised around a quasi-secularized Mormon polygamist with three wives, the TV show was the first of its kind to positively portray polygamy of any kind. The topic of polygamy thereby exploded in the public marketplace - and the discussion of the differences between Mormon Polygamy, Christian Polygamy, and other forms was made possible. From the national organization (extolling love-not-force polygamy with Christian Polygamy) to the Utah/Arizona-area, Principle Voices, (presenting a positive model of Mormon Polygamy), the topic of polygamy was being more honestly discussed in the media. 
Spring, 2006 - as a result of the massive media interest about “Big Love,” numerous media outlets reported about the national polygamy rights movement. Founder Mark Henkel and Christian polygamous members from the organization were reported in various well-known media reports. Henkel’s sound-bite, “Polygamy rights is the next civil rights battle,” was repeatedly reported “around the world.” That sound-bite offered the solution to end the so-called “same sex marriage” debate once and for all: true limited government by getting government out of defining and “abominating” marriage altogether. 
June 7, 2006 - the U.S. Senate yet again failed to pass a federal marriage amendment. In a vote of 49-48, the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment” could not even obtain 50 out of 100 Senators to vote yes for cloture to actually vote on it. That fell short of the 60 votes needed for cloture – never mind the 67 votes it would have still needed to actually pass the amendment itself. In the end, desecrating the U.S. Constitution with another big government amendment was not going to happen. 
Such an important chronology of events could not have been predicted – particularly, the changes to – and a new Decision by - the Supreme Court. 
The previous 12 months had begun with the “swing” voter of the Lawrence v. Texas Decision announcing retirement and being replaced with a “more conservative” Justice. Despite the seemingly “more conservative” ideological shift in the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court with two new Justices, though, the Court actually ended up making a new unanimous Decision in a case that provided one of the strongest re-guarantees of polygamy rights yet: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal. While Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) are often represented as being “unconservative” Decisions, this third landmark case was an unquestionably conservative one, indeed – and it was unanimous. 
Although “Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita” was specifically dealing with a sacramental use of hallucinogenic tea, the case re-established the overall “standard” for would-be “religiously neutral” laws as set by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. With the praise of conservatives and even some liberals too, the Roberts Court thereby established the requirement of - not one, but - two burdens of proof upon the government regarding “religiously neutral” laws. 
First, it established that government has the burden of proof to show that it has a compelling interest to ban all forms and applications of an activity Second, even if the federal government is capable of proving that such a compelling interest legitimately exists for a total ban, the government also has the second burden of proof to show – on a case by case basis - that allowing any “regime of religious exemptions” from such a total ban would undermine those overall compelling interests of the total ban. 
While the specific case involved drug-use bans and a religious use of a hallucinogenic tea, this re-established “standard” equally applies to polygamy bans of all forms and applications of polygamy.  
First, because polygamy is a neutral word and can only be subsequently connected to the different ways in which it is applied, it would be completely impossible for government to rationally argue that it has any compelling interest in banning all forms of polygamy. Hence, the first test would not pass. Secondly, even if government could accomplish such establishment of proof, it would be even more impossible for government to ever rationally prove that allowing a religious exemption for individual benevolent models of applying consenting-adult polygamy - such as Christian Polygamy - would somehow undermine those overall would-be compelling interests of a total ban. Hence, even if the first test could pass, the second test could never pass within the re-established “standard” from the Roberts Court. 
Accordingly, even as most conservative organizations rightly applauded the 8-0 Decision in this case, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal (2006) is a truly conservative Decision by the Court that ultimately re-guarantees the constitutional rights of good, healthy, consenting-adult polygamists such as Christian Polygamy. And the Decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts – the conservative who had helped in winning the Romer v. Evans (1996) case. 
Add to that, the Christian media recognition of Christian Polygamy, HBO’s TV show, “Big Love,” and the massive media exposure of the polygamy rights movement, it is no wonder that – once again - the U.S. Senate could not pass a big government marriage amendment. 
Truly, therefore, on the third anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas – even with the “swing” vote Justice O’Connor no longer on the Supreme Court – pro-polygamists have much for which to celebrate. As of June 26, 2006, freedom from the utterly unconstitutional big government tyranny of anti-polygamy laws is unstoppably coming. 
Happy Anniversary indeed! 


Bibliographic URLs:

Lawrence v. Texas 
Sandra Day O’Connor 
Bush nominated Roberts for Chief Justice instead 
“Other conservative concerns about Roberts” 
Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal 

700 Club reports of Christian Polygamy

HBO's "Big Love"

Henkel's sound-bite: "Polygamy Rights is the Next Civil Rights Battle"

Polygamy Interviews & Reports in the Media

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