Hatch spars about polygamy at town meet
ST. GEORGE Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, found himself in a verbal sparring match with a couple of residents Thursday night when the pair challenged the senator's stance on polygamy.

Bob Curran, director of an anti-polygamy group in St. George called Help the Child Brides, asked Hatch if he knew girls as young as 13 and 14 were being forced into marriages with older men living in the nearby twin polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"I wouldn't throw accusations around unless you know they're true," Hatch cautioned Curran and another speaker, Sonja Blancke, who also questioned the senator on his position.

"I'm not here to justify polygamy," Hatch said. "All I can say is, I know people in Hildale who are polygamists who are very fine people. You come and show me evidence of children being abused there and I'll get involved. Bring the evidence to me."

Their comments came at a public meeting Hatch hosted at Dixie State College, during which the senator took questions on a variety of subjects from a small gathering of residents.

Blancke, who moved to St. George from Washington state two years ago, promised Hatch she would take him up on his offer.

"This issue, polygamy, breaks my heart," Blancke told the senator. "What about the children? If there are laws on the books against polygamy, why isn't something being done about it?"

Both Curran and Blancke pounded on Hatch for several minutes and voices were raised until Hatch offered to look further into the issue.

One man in the audience yelled at Blancke to "shut up."

"I expect people, whether they're in polygamous or monogamous relationships, to protect children," said Hatch. "I personally don't believe in polygamy. But I'm not going to judge others who feel differently."

One man asked Hatch why he was sponsoring a bill that would allow the children of illegal aliens to attend college in the state and pay resident tuition fees.

"I'm never one for holding things against the kids," replied Hatch. "We know here are a lot of little families who work and live here and pay taxes. We have to balance these things. Their children (of illegal aliens) shouldn't be discriminated against, though. It's basically a compassionate act bill."

A man who said he was a Vietnam veteran voiced a worry that the government could now take his civil liberties away in its zeal to capture terrorists.

"People who criticize the Patriots Act say we'll have Orwellian 1984 here, and I can tell you it's not gonna happen," said Hatch. "I do not place a concern about civil liberties above protecting the people in this country. But I don't think we'll have to give up our civil liberties to protect people, either."

Help for veterans seeking medical care, tax relief, the war in Iraq and other concerns were raised during the two-hour session attended by several dozen people. Among them was a young boy who wanted to know what Hatch thought about former President Clinton's use of the federal Antiquities Act to designate a national monument in Utah.

Hatch, who clearly was pleased to see a young man in an audience composed primarily of senior citizens, said Clinton was wrong to spring the deal on Utahns.

"Not one of us was consulted. In fact, they denied they were even doing it," said Hatch. "What he did was not right because of the lack of consultation."

President Bush's proposed tax relief package needs to be passed soon, the senator said.

"The economy will automatically excel and corporations will be more accountable to their stockholders," he said. "Almost every person I talk to says if you will get rid of double taxation on dividends, it will give a boost to the economy and the stock market. We need to get rid of the marriage penalty as well. It's not fair to families."
Originally published Friday, April 18, 2003