Hey everyone, got caught up in Hurricane Sandy, long story. Will delay things a bit.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Yes, this was a short one, yes I should have done it last week. Life, as they say...
Regardless, it was really nice to read through DC's laws on this. Refreshing change from Alabama and Colorado!
Non-Monogamy and the Law
Review of District of Columbia
State Category: Friendly
Issue and Rule:
This is an assessment of the legal liability that non-monogamous families encounter through District of Columbia’s (DC) bigamy law. The primary rule governing bigamy in DC is statute 22-501, which also covers punishment.
Bigamy is rather narrowly defined in DC, with only marriage, or domestic partnership (an interesting inclusion), applying to the bigamy law, without any explicit cohabitation clause. Based on both case law around the definition of a marriage and statute on the definition of a domestic partnership, the question around the validity of these is judged more on their officiality, and not on the individuals acting in a marriage-like way.
Additionally, in bigamy cases, fifth amendment protections apply, and cannot be used as evidence of guilt.
The punishment for bigamy is imprisonment for 2 to 7 years.
As DC’s bigamy law is very specific that only an officially certified marriage can apply, this leaves room for much more flexibility in how a non-monogamous family structures and interacts. Liability is exceptionally limited, and only applicable in the existence of more than one state-certified marriage.
District of Columbia Summary:
Thanks to DC’s specificity on what defines a marriage, and it being quite narrow, and with the absence of adultery or fornication laws, DC presents almost no liability for non-monogamous families of any configuration. The only concern is in not having two state-certified marriages, which can carry a very hefty penalty. This also applies to domestic partnerships, which is an unusually modern inclusion into the law, but is narrowly defined enough that the law applies in the same way as it would to marriage.
The simple absence of adultery and fornication laws make ranking in those regards very simple. For bigamy, due to the narrow and specific nature of how marriage and domestic partnerships are looked at, and the lack of a purportation/cohabitation clause, DC fits into the simple bigamy category.
1 'Bigamy', in 22-501 (USA - District of Columbia: 2012).
2 'Definitions', in 32-701 (USA - District of Columbia: 2012).
3 'Mayo V. Ford', (Municipal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 1962), p. 38.