Rep. Mike Noel went to extreme measures to make sure his anti-polygamy bill passed the legislature this year. The bill in question was HB 99 and was designed to “re-criminalize” polygamy after a failed legal challenge temporarily struck down portions of the statute.
The bill ended up passing the Senate by one vote on the last day of the session just before midnight.
On the House floor, Rep. Noel advanced a narrative painting all those choosing the polygamist lifestyle as child abusers, sex traffickers, welfare and tax cheats, to name a few. Additionally, Noel passionately stated during debate that the legislature should pass HB 99 to single out a religious minority of consenting adults because they were “not my religion”. Mike Noel is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or mainstream Mormon Church.
Among all of his antics, most notably, Mr. Noel produced a woman who would become his star witness, Michelle Neilson. Neilson made claims she was subjected to ritualistic sex abuse by leaders of “all the groups”. This raised some red flags for many current and former members of groups practicing polygamy, primarily for the fact that different groups practicing polygamy rarely interact with one another. Her testimony became even more suspect when she claimed some of the abuse occurred “on the altar of the Utah Masonic temple”.
With a little background, hers and Mike Noel’s testimony was debunked in the Salt Lake Tribune and his star witness was outed as a fraud, but it was too little too late. The bill had already been passed.
This is simply a continued pattern to dehumanize those choosing the polygamist lifestyle and to keep them as second-class citizens. Advancing this narrative makes it more acceptable for the community at large to abuse and marginalize us as citizens of the State of Utah and the United States.
There is little recourse for people of this lifestyle to speak up.
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