Polygamy – The Hidden Face of Marriage in Michigan (Part 4)

four muslim women sitting on a bench
Many polygamists in Michigan are immigrants from the Middle East and Africa


Welcome back and thanks for joining us for this last installment in our series on polygamy in Michigan. So far we’ve discussed what Michigan law has to say about plural marriage, and also talked a little about the history and culture of this rare phenomenon. In our final article we’ll be looking at polygamy as it exists today in Michigan, and throughout the rest of the world. It can be difficult to get a good and accurate handle on this issue, due to it’s predominantly secretive nature, but we’re going to give it a shot.


Currently, polygamy is legal in many northern and central African countries, along with a number of middle eastern countries. It would appear, were you to look at a map, that polygamy is predominantly allowed in countries where some or all of the population is Muslim. This is an interesting fact to consider, as Michigan residents, when you think about the fact that Michigan has the largest Muslim population of any state in the U.S.


Because Michigan is home to thousands of Middle Eastern immigrant residents, the issue of polygamy as it pertains to Muslims, has been raised on a number of occasions in recent years. (Although in this instance the polygamy would take the form of Polygamy, which refers explicitly to a man having multiple wives, and not the reverse.)


As it turns out, culture plays a role in the prevalence of polygamy in Michigan.


Even NPR has weighed in on the subject. In a two part series they did back in 2008, it was estimated (based on expert opinion) that anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 people in the US practice polygamy. In the interviews conducted for the story, a reporter spoke with a number of Muslim women who shared their experiences in polygamous families.


One of the people interviewed was Daisy Khan, head of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. According to Khan, polygamy tends to happen more among conservative, less educated immigrants who come from Africa and Asia. Among middle-class Muslims from the Middle East, Khan says it is much rarer. But not so rare that it never happens.


However, if you assume that Muslims and Fundamentalist Mormons are the only people who could ever espouse the joys of polygamy, you’ve obviously never heard of Reverend Neil Patrick Carrick. On January 12th of this year, Carrick, a Detroit-based minister, filed a lawsuit against Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette. The grounds for his suit was the fact that Michigan’s current marriage statutes prevent him from practicing his religious freedoms, by forbidding him from performing same-sex and polygamous marriages. (In the end the case was dismissed with prejudice, just in case you’re curious about the outcome.)


What is perhaps more common here in the U.S. is what is known as Polyamorous relationships. Usually this takes the form of a married couple choosing to open their marriage to one or more partners. Spending even just five minutes online searching the web will yield a vast array of results for those who don’t think this happens in mainstream society. Blogs like Polyamory on Purpose, More Than Two, and Journals of a Polyamorous Triad, to name but a few, are proof positive of the fact that polyamory, if not polygamy, is a whole lot more common that many people think.

The changing face of what exactly constitutes marriage can make issues such as child custody and asset division even more challenging.  Our skilled and experienced family law attorneys stay informed so that we can help you make the best decisions when it comes to your family and the legal system.  If you need help, contact us today at 866 766 5245.