Chesapeake City, MD asked in Civil Rights for Delaware

Q: Is it possible to have a polygamous marriage in the United States under the first amendment?

I googled where I could get a polygamous marriage and it appears to be illegal but I don't see how that is possible due to the first ammendment allowing freedom of religion

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2 Lawyer Answers

A: In Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that religious duty is not a defense to a criminal indictment for polygamy. It determined that while the First Amendment protects an individual's right to believe in polygamy, it does not prohibit Congress or the states from outlawing the practice. In most circumstances, laws may not single out religiously motivated conduct for adverse treatment, but formally neutral laws of general applicability may regulate religious conduct (along with other conduct) regardless of the adverse or prohibitory effects on religious exercise.

For example, throughout history, some religions have required human sacrifice. While a law cannot properly single out human sacrifice, a neutral law such as one prohibiting homicide (intentionally causing the death of another) regulates not only human sacrifice and all intentional killing and, therefore, does not violate the First Amendment.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Little Neck, NY

A: No, polygamy is illegal in the United States. Good luck

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