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2 - Commentary on Reynolds v. United States

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2020

Rachel Rebouché
Affiliation:
Temple University, Philadelphia
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Summary

Reynolds v. United States is a struggle by men against men, reflecting men’s fears, described in men’s terms. In 1879, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a law criminalizing bigamy did not infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment right to free exercise of religion – the Constitution protects religious beliefs but not necessarily religious practices like polygamy. Women – the ostensible subjects and victims of polygamy, then known as one of the “twin relics of barbarism” along with slavery – are barely seen or heard in the case as it progresses to the Supreme Court, as Justice Kessler’s dissent makes clear. Yet, in Reynolds, the tropes of women’s place in the world as men imagine it are very much present, even today.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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