March 27, 2007
Polygamy in New York
"She worked at the Red Lobster in Times Square and lived with her husband near Yankee Stadium. Yet one night, returning home from her job, Odine D. discovered that African custom, not American law, held sway over her marriage. A strange woman was sitting in the living room, and Ms. D.’s husband, a security guard born in Ghana, introduced her as his other wife. Devastated, Ms. D., a Guinean immigrant who insisted that her last name be withheld, said she protested: “I can’t live with the woman in my house — we have only two bedrooms.” Her husband cited Islamic precepts allowing a man to have up to four wives, and told her to get used to it. And she tried to obey.
Polygamy in America, outlawed in every state but rarely prosecuted, has long been associated with Mormon splinter groups out West, not immigrants in New York. But a fatal fire in a row house in the Bronx on March 7 revealed its presence here, in a world very different from the suburban Utah setting of “Big Love,” the HBO series about polygamists next door. The city’s mourning for the dead — a woman and nine children in two families from Mali — has been followed by a hushed double take at the domestic arrangements described by relatives: Moussa Magassa, the Mali-born American citizen who owned the house and was the father of five children who perished, had two wives in the home, on different floors. Both survived.
No one knows how prevalent polygamy is in New York. Those who practice it have cause to keep it secret: under immigration law, polygamy is grounds for exclusion from the United States." By Nina Bernstein, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 3-27-07 NVS)
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