On February 2, Rebakah Wightman, a 3L at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, published an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune titled “Legislature should protect girls in polygamy.” In the interview below, she explains how she became interested in the subject and why she believes lawyers should protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Your op-ed focuses on the issue of polygamy and the importance of protecting vulnerable children. How did you get interested in this topic?
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, I was involved with a research group that pursued collecting data regarding the compliance of countries to the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The research I did for the Womanstats Project instilled a desire in me to help women and children. Then, while attending law school, Professor Amos Guiora guest- lectured in my Human Rights class last year and discussed the issues with protecting vulnerable women and children within the polygamous communities in Utah, and I haven’t been able to get this issue out of my mind since.
What inspired you to write and submit an op-ed on this topic?
I attended a luncheon where the House Majority Leader spoke regarding the goals of the legislature for this session. He never mentioned polygamy or the associated harms of polygamy during his speech, and when I asked him about it during the Q&A portion of his presentation, he explained that there really was no plan this session to address polygamy or the associated harms of polygamy.
How did your classes or professors influence your choice of topic and/or approach to this subject?
As I mentioned previously, Professor Guiora introduced this topic to me, and since that time, I have been striving to become more informed about it. Last semester, I wrote my Global Justice seminar paper on this issue and that gave me excellent background to inform my opinion for this op-ed.
Any additional thoughts?
As the up-and-coming group of attorneys in Utah, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable members of our society and to strive to do something to help them. The more of us that take on this challenge, the more of an impact we’ll have to influence a positive change for these victims and others like them.