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Bigamy itself is not illegal in New York

Reader comment on item: Harems Accepted in the West

Submitted by Griswel (United States), Jun 1, 2007 at 09:44

People erroneously believe that bigamy - being married to more than one person - is illegal in New York. The truth is more complicated. Penal Law 255.15 provides that "A person is guilty of bigamy when he contracts or purports to contract a marriage with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse."

Thus, the act of marrying is prohibited, but the state of being married to two people is not (legally the second marriage is a nullity). I represented someone charged with bigamy years ago. The charges were dismissed because the act of marriage was more than five years prior to the commencement of the prosecution, and thus the prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations (the case was merely re-marriage without divorce, not a man living with two wives).

In any event, given the state of our society, people engaging in formal marriages are hardly the primary source of bigamous relationships. A man may collect an entire harem and live legally so long as he marries only one, or none. No doubt his children's school will go to great lengths to ensure that his family situation is portrayed as normal. Those of us who teach our own children otherwise are in danger of prosecution.

We are all (19th century) Mormons now.

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