Utah's Constitution: Distinctively Undistinctive
THE CONSTITUTIONALISM OF AMERICAN STATES, George E. Connor, Christopher W. Hammons, eds., University of Missouri Press, 2006
21 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2006
This collection explores the proposition that state constitutions reflect distinctive state peoples. In the American system, state governments have no ability to control who their citizens are and, given the constraints of the First Amendment, very little ability to control the cultural production that typically defines peoples. Utah, however, continues to have a distinctive population, with a majority of its population belonging to a single church that understands itself in quasi-national terms as having a distinctive history and culture. Strikingly, however, the distinctive Utah history generated a quite normal state constitution, different only in unusually strong language protecting religious liberty (and simultaneously banning the most controversial local religious practice, polygamy) and its early protection of women's rights. The language of the original Utah constitution was largely borrowed from contemporary state constitutions and subsequent changes have reflected largely national rather than particularistically local concerns. To find the distinctive Utah heritage in the Utah constitution, one must listen to the silences rather than parse the written words.
Keywords: state constitutional law, religious liberty, polygamy, marriage, ERA
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