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bigamy (bĭˈgəmē), crime of marrying during the continuance of a lawful marriage. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage has been terminated by a divorce or a decree of nullity of marriage. In the United States if a husband or wife is absent and unheard of for seven (or in some states five) years and not known to be alive, he or she is presumed dead, and remarriage by the other spouse is not bigamous. It is not necessarily a defense to a charge of bigamy that the offending party believed in good faith that he was divorced or that his previous marriage was not lawful.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1878 that plurality of wives (polygamy), as originally permitted by the Mormon religion, violated criminal law and was not defensible as an exercise of religious liberty. The Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890, but the practice has persisted among some, although it has been rarely prosecuted.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



and polygamy, in Soviet criminal law, cohabitation of a man with two or several women, provided that the man establishes a household separately with each of the women or simultaneously with all of them. In either case it is insignificant whether the marriages with these women have been registered. It is sufficient to establish the facts of cohabitation and keeping house together.

The social danger of bigamy is that it hinders the actual emancipation of women and violates the principle of monogamy. The law provides for punitive measures of deprivation of freedom for up to one year or correctional tasks for the same term (see, for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, arts. 235–36). Criminal responsibility for bigamy and polygamy is provided for by the legislation of the Azerbaijan, Armenian, Georgian, Kirghiz, Tadzhik, Turkmen, and Uzbek Soviet socialist republics and in the RSFSR in several autonomous Soviet socialist republics and national okrugs (the Bashkir, Buriat, Dagestan, Kabarda-Balkar, and Tatar autonomous Soviet socialist republics, Adygei and Gorno-Altai autonomous oblasts, and Aga-Buriat, Komi-Permiak, and Koriak national okrugs)—that is, where the vestiges of a tribal way of life have not been completely eradicated.

Bigamy and polygamy should be distinguished from illegal registration of marriage with two or several women. The legislation of all the union republics prohibits the registration of a marriage without the dissolution of a previous marriage. Failure to comply with this legislation constitutes a special form of crime (for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, art. 201).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the crime of marrying a person while one is still legally married to someone else
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Even Jean, the mendacious bigamist, who might elicit audience contempt, evokes great empathy from spectators.
n A keen schoolboy actor, his first role after leaving university was as a cold-hearted bigamist in US TV soap Love of Life.
If the second spouse is unaware of a still-valid prior marriage, the bigamist may also be seen as causing him or her to enter into a legal agreement under false pretences, which may be another form of fraud.
Serial bigamist Danielle Loxton, from Southport, then walked down the aisle for the third time and married another man without divorcing the first.
The Bigamist Bride: My Five Husbands Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm At the age of 30, Emily Horne has been wed five times but never been divorced.
For example, Kim Cattrall was presented with a vital piece of evidence, the marriage certificate of her bigamist grandfather, with no explanation as to how it was discovered.
SHE is known as Sex and the City's nymphomaniac narcissist Samantha Jones, but Kim Cattrall was reduced to tears by the revelation that the grandfather she never met was a bigamist.
A SERIAL bigamist vowed to get a divorce before she weds again after escaping jail for marrying illegally for a fourth time.
Washington, July 24 (ANI): 'Sex and the City' star Kim Cattrall was shocked to know that her grandfather was a bigamist.
A CONVICTED bigamist who did not turn up to his own trial handed himself in yesterday.
A CONVICTED bigamist who was married to two Leamington women at the same time has handed himself in to police.