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Taken from the Deseret News, Metro Section, August 12, 1997
[Reprinted from the Washington Times].

Group doesn't blatantly support practice but says it'd help 1990's women.

The Deseret News periodically runs articles written for national publications about Utah people, places and events. This is one of those articles.

By Joyce Price - The Washington Times


The Utah Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) says polygamy can be a solution for the problems of working mothers.

"It seems like a pretty good idea for professional women, who can proceed with their careers and have someone at home they can trust to watch their children. It solves the day care problem," said Luci Malin, vice chairman of Utah NOW in a telephone interview Monday.

"This isn't blatant support for polygamy....But maybe it can work for some people, and maybe it can make raising children easier" for those trying to juggle careers and motherhood, said Ellen George, state secretary for Utah NOW.

The Utah NOW leaders, none of whom is a Mormon, made their comments in response to questions about a report in the summer issue of Women's Quarterly magazine. It said the "Utah chapter of NOW embraces polygamy," in which a man takes multiple wives, as a way of helping career women.

The Mormon Church excommunicates members who practice polygamy.

Current and past officials of the Utah NOW Chapter, quoted in Women's Quarterly, said they see no reason why the national organization would not support polygamy, provided those involved in such arrangements are consenting adults.

"If NOW is about anything, it's about choice," Malin said in Women's Quarterly, a publication of the Independent Women's Forum.

NOW endorses "an expanded definition of family, including same-sex parents," so "it is very difficult to look at that and not support other configurations of families, including polygamous families," said Robin Frodge, a Utah member of NOW who serves on the national board.

George said: "We fight for lesbian families and single-parent families. I don't know why we wouldn't support this."

Officials at NOW's national office could not be reached for comment.

Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagle Forum, said she was not surprised by the unconventional opinions offered by Utah NOW leaders. "NOW women go for any kind of alternate lifestyle. They take the position that any kind of sex - whether inside or outside of marriage - is OK," she said.

"Radical feminists have been on a collision course with traditional morality for quite some time, and this is just another manifestation of that," Schlafly said.

George said the type of polygamy NOW finds acceptable is the type Elizabeth Joseph of Big Water, Utah - a feminist lawyer, radio executive and college instructor - promoted in a speech she delivered to the Utah Chapter in May.

She said her group had denounced the religion-based polygamy that is common among breakaway Mormon sects in southern Utah. "That amounts to slavery and child abuse...Church fathers divvy up young girls, 12 or 13 years old, among old men," she said.

In contrast, George said, the lifestyle Joseph described provides women with freedom and choice. "There's no coercion, no control," George said.

"Polygamy is the ultimate feminist lifestyle," Joseph told the Washington Times.

Joseph and seven other women share their husband, Alex Joseph. She said that Mr. Joseph has sired 20 children and that his various families "basically live together in a complex."

"We're right next door to each other. I have a big house that I share with another wife," said Mrs. Joseph, who said she's been in this domestic relationship for 23 years.

She said the arrangement enabled her to "go to law school 400 miles away, knowing my husband had clean shorts in the morning and dinner every night." She boasts that her 8-year-old son has "never seen the inside of a day care center."

The polygamous unions do not violate marriage statutes, Mrs. Joseph said. "According to the law, my husband is not a legal spouse because he does not have a (marriage) license from any state. There are unlawful-cohabitation laws on the book, but the last time Utah prosecuted under those laws was 1944.

"And by doing press (interviews), we keep overly zealous prosecutors at bay."

Mrs. Joseph told Utah's NOW chapter that all the women her husband took as wives were educated adults when he "wed" them. And selection of wives was a "group decision" involving existing spouses, George said.

"In fact, Elizabeth recommended one of her legal secretaries" as a wife, the NOW leader said.

Mrs. Joseph contends there's a "shortage of good guys worth marrying," so it's better if many women marry the same man. "I chose to marry my husband. The fact that he had five other wives was not a barrier," she said.

While NOW leaders in Utah see benefits to polygamous relationships, Carmen Cate, vice president and spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, said they are harmful to children and "devalue women and marriage."

"I'm not surprised by the comments of the feminists, because they have a self-centered ideology," Cate said. "They are looking for people to share the workload so they can do what they want without any restraints."

As for the effect on children, Cate said a "child needs bonding to his or her mother," not someone else's mother.

- END -

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