Polygamy Defended - AP Newswire

SALT LAKE CITY Jan 22, 2005 - A Republican state lawmaker countered a Senate colleague's dispersal of an anti-polygamy book by passing out materials to fellow legislators defending the practice as natural and not necessarily harmful.

State Sen. Carlene Walker said she was offended by the book, "God's Brothel," that Democratic Senate Minority Whip Ron Allen distributed to legislators Tuesday.

Walker said she has known polygamists who are "fine, honest, educated, wonderful people."

"To characterize the whole polygamy community as abusive to children and the welfare system is inaccurate," she said.

The book distributed by Allen and written by Salt Lake City author Andrea Moore-Emmett tells the stories of 18 women who claim they suffered rape, incest and violence in polygamous communities.

"It's not fair to say we should ignore it," he said.

Allen helped enact a child bigamy law in 2003 that made forced marriages of minors a second-degree felony punishable by one to 15 years in prison. The offense previously carried only a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail, and was rarely enforced.

It's believed that tens of thousands in Utah and more than 30,000 across the West continue to practice polygamy.