A, B, and C are in a polygamist relationship. A, a man, is legally married to B, a woman. A is symbolically—but not legally—married to C, a woman. A has fathered seven total children with B and C. The three children A has with B live with A and B. The four children A has with C live alone with C. C’s four children are thus the half-siblings of B’s three children, since all seven children share A as a father. A, B, and C’s belief in polygamy is not religious but is deeply personal. They believe that monogamy and the traditional nuclear family are unnatural family forms, and that the practice of polygamy provides a stronger and richer experience for both parents and children.
State Z has an anti-bigamy law that prohibits polygamous marriages. In addition, State Z recently adopted a cohabitation prohibition. The prohibition makes it a criminal act to knowingly cohabitate with another person when either person has a husband or wife.
The stated purpose of the cohabitation prohibition is to protect women and children from the inherent dangers of polygamist relationships. In particular, State Z legislators are worried about the historical practice of men marrying very young—and vulnerable—women and girls. The legislators further believe that a polygamous environment can be particularly damaging to young children. Many of these relationships are not legal marriages, and the state hopes that the cohabitation provision will be more effective in preventing symbolic or religious plural marriages.
Afraid of being prosecuted under these laws, A and B live separately from C. But the separate living arrangements impose a very detrimental impact on their family life. A, after all, is unable to reside with his children from C under the law.
Fed up with their living situation and inability to have the family life that they desire, A, B, and C bring a suit against State Z, arguing that the cohabitation prohibition is a violation of their fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They do not bring a challenge against the anti-bigamy statute. Assume that the case is ripe for adjudication, and that A, B, and C have standing to sue.
- How is the court likely to rule? Explain, analyzing the constitutionality of only the cohabitation prohibition.
How is the court likely to rule? Explain, analyzing the constitutionality of only the cohabitation prohibition.