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Polygamy law is focus of Emory professor's Library of Congress appointment

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April L. Bogle

Emory University law professor John Witte, Jr. has been named the Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the John W.KlugeCenter of the Library of Congress. Appointed by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, Witte is serving during the summer and fall of 2012.

While at the Library, Witte is working on his 27th book, "Why Two in One Flesh? The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy." Witte considers the constitutionality of the  West’s traditional criminal prohibitions on polygamy to be "one of the hard questions just over the horizon of American family law."

"Every state in the union and every nation in the West criminalizes bigamy or polygamy," he says. Can these laws stand in the post-modern globalized legal culture of the 21st century, or will they go the way of traditional laws against adultery, contraception and sodomy?

"American courts are already facing these challenges," says Witte. "So far, state and federal courts have held firmly against polygamists. It’s not clear how long that will last."

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