Edmunds Act

The Edmunds Act, is United States federal legislation, signed into law on March 23, 1882, declaring polygamy a felony. The act not only reinforced the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act but also revoked the polygamists right to vote, made them ineligible for jury service, and prohibited them from holding political office.

The law was applied in an apparently ex post facto manner; that is, polygamists were charged for polygamist marriages solemnized before passage of the statute. A constitutional challenge to the statute was framed on these and other grounds. The Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. Ramsey, , that the statute was not ex post facto because convicts were charged for their continued cohabitation, not for the prior illegal marriage . Modern scholarship suggests the law may be unconstitutional for being in violation of the Free Exercise Clause.

These restrictions were enforced regardless of whether an individual was actually practicing polygamy, or merely believed in the Mormon doctrine of plural marriage without actually participating in it. This in effect became a religious test, where faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had their civil rights taken away without a trial or due process. Adulterers and fornicators had no such penalties applied and did not lose their rights.

All elected offices in the Utah Territory were vacated, an election board was formed to issue certificates to those who both denied polygamy and did not practice it, and new elections were held territory-wide.


See also

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