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Ilhan Omar, marriage, and Somali culture: an FAQ

Ilhan Omar celebrating her victory with supporters on primary night.
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
Ilhan Omar celebrating her victory with supporters on primary night.

Last week, Ilhan Omar made national headlines after her historic win over longtime Rep. Phyllis Kahn and fellow Somali-American Mohamud Noor in the DFL primary race for House District 60B. In the heavily Democratic district, the primary victory put the 33-year-old mother of three in position to become the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature anywhere in the United States.

A little more than week later, however, she found herself on the hot seat after conservative blog Power Line questioned whether Omar was married to two men: Ahmed Nur Said Elmi and Ahmed Hirsi, the father of her three children.

The Star Tribune then followed up, looking into Omar’s marital records, which revealed that Omar has been legally married to Elmi since 2009, and that she has never been legally married to Hirsi. Yet the paper also found that there was no evidence to support another of the charges raised in Power Line’s original report, that Elmi is Omar’s brother.

Given the murky nature of the story, here is an FAQ about the many questions the episode has raised: about Omar, immigration, marriage licenses and Somali-American culture in Minnesota:

So what’s the latest — what does Omar say?

Late Wednesday, Omar’s campaign issued a "response from Omar" statement on her website that sought to clear up the questions about her marital status and finally put the matter to rest: 

In 2002, when I was 19 years old, Ahmed Hirsi (whose name before he received citizenship was Ahmed Aden), the father of my children and love of my life, and I, applied for a marriage license, but we never finalized the application and thus were never legally married. In 2008, we decided to end our relationship in our faith tradition after reaching an impasse in our life together.

I entered into a relationship with a British citizen, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and married him legally in 2009. Our relationship ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition. After that, he moved home to England. I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so. Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive.  

Since 2011, I am happy to say that I have reconciled with Ahmed Hirsi, we have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together. Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together.

Omar’s statement references getting married “in our faith tradition.” What exactly does that refer to?  

We don't know any details about Omar's marriage, but there are common traditions in both Somali and Muslim culture when it comes to getting married. For one thing, respected elders and religious leaders traditionally play a key role in the process. In fact, when a man and woman decide to marry, the man sends his male relatives and elders to the woman’s family to ask for permission to marry her. The woman’s family then begins the vetting process of the man: Is he able to provide for the woman? Does he come from a good family? Does he have a clean criminal record? Is he a practicing Muslim who embraces his Somali culture and religion?

To find these answers, the family members seek out other Somalis in the area to learn about the man. And because Somalis make up such a tight-knit community, that process can expose anyone’s back-story quickly – often in a matter of hours.

Ilhan Omar hugging her husband, Ahmed Hirsi
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
Ilhan Omar hugging her husband, Ahmed Hirsi, during the primary victory party.

If the man survives the vetting process, the marrying partners privately agree upon an amount of merh — a payment, often in the form of money — the groom or his family will give to the bride.

The two families then organize the nikah — a marriage ceremony — where elderly men representing the groom ask other elders from the woman’s family for her hand. In Minnesota, such ceremonies often take place at community halls around the metro area, and may include as many as 200 witnesses to the ceremony, officiated by local imams.

At this point, the two are married according to Islamic custom. Many couples, however, decide to host Western-style wedding parties in closing to celebrate the months-long marriage process.

So what about a marriage license?

After such a long and expensive process, many young couples in the Somali-American community just don't look beyond their traditional marriage.

Some aren’t aware that their marriage isn’t complete until they receive a signed marriage certificate from the state. For others, the traditional marriage consumes so much time and energy that they don’t have the desire, or see the need, to apply for a marriage license, which was never required in Somalia.

Other couples, who may want to legalize their marriage according to the state’s marriage laws, mistakenly assume that they have to go in front of a Christian minister to get a state license.

What about the allegation that Elmi was Omar’s brother? Where does that come from? 

Well, we should reiterate that Omar has unequivocally stated that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is not her brother, calling the allegation absurd and ridiculous.

The nature of the charge is easy to trace, however, and stems from the fact that immigration authorities give priority to U.S. citizens who request to bring in their noncitizen spouses to the United States. In practical terms, the immigration process for nonresidents can be cut by years if they are sponsored by citizen spouses.

Not surprisingly, there are examples of those who misuse the law. Instead of using the visa to bring their spouses, they fabricate marriage to get their siblings or other relatives living in foreign countries into the U.S.

That’s illegal, of course, and carries the potential for serious criminal consequences for both the sponsored immigrant and the petitioner. “Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than five years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both,” writes Ilona Bray of Nola, a California-based company that specializes in immigration law and real estate.

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Comments (39)

Few Questions....

Is polygamy popular in Somali culture?

Do State benefits and financial assistance continue for any person who is married according to their cultural norms and who do no register that marriage with the State?

Two Answers

1. It doesn't matter. As Mr. Foster points out, polygamous marriages are void in Minnesota.

2. No. So all the Somalis one might envision flocking to Minnesota to collect welfare will have to prove a marriage that is valid under civil law in order to collect.

reality....

#1 - You did not answer the question.

#2 - Legally - single women collect benefits all the time. Especially if they have children. My point - They can be "married" according to their tradition but not married according to MN law. The benefits can continue but may be discontinued if a marriage is declared under MN law.

Augmented

#1. No, I did not. I don't see what it has to do with anything, since we are not in Somalia (I assume you are not insinuating that Somalis are incapable of leaving their cultural norms behind them when they come to the US).

#2. Yes. So? Is Ms. Omar collecting benefits? If not, I fail to see the point of your question.

Marriage

I don't know how popular polygamy is elsewhere, but a polygamous marriage, speaking in general terms is not valid in Minnesota.

It's really hard to speak in absolutes here because marriage is an equity kind of a deal, and courts would want to find ways to avoid unfair results but there are certain guidelines that would be applicable.

A monogamous marriage validly performed in Somalia is a valid marriage here. The rights and benefits stemming from a valid marriage would result from the marriage. People married outside the United States or for that matter, people married in a state other than Minnesota, are not required to register their marriages here in order for those marriages to be valid in Minnesota. Don't worry, if you validly eloped in Wisconsin, you won't suddenly be living in sin if you move to Minnesota.

Thank you

For the information. It definitely makes more sense. It really sounds like the whole thing is an issue of cultural ignorance...on both sides. Though, the allegation that she "married" her brother to get him citizenship is a pretty big claim, and reckless if incorrect.

More please

This article is most helpful about this particular marriage. However, some of the comments show that there are still many questions about Somali culture - even after so many years that Somali people have settled in Minneapolis.
It would be helpful to also understand naming traditions related to marriage and the names of children from that marriage. For example, does the woman take the man's last name? How are the children of that marriage named? I suspect that Somali naming traditions contributed to this uproar.

To me, more articles like this go a long way in understanding another culture. Thank you.

Unanswered questions

There are a lot of questions one could ask, but I don't think the context of the Omar campaign is one that we want to ask them.

Every "faith tradition" has it's marriage customs, but in political terms, I just don't care what they are. In America and in Minnesota, marriage is a question of civil law, which despite some ambiguities around the edges, are thankfully pretty clear. In this case, and there is no reason at all to think that Ms. Omar doesn't understand them. She knows she is married to someone from whom she is seeking a divorce. She knows that the man she claimed is her husband, isn't her husband by any common understanding of the term, and she knows she was being deceptive in saying otherwise. Now I don't think that's a big problem myself, for a lot of reasons. But it is a problem, and it would be nice if Ms. Omar found a way of assuring the voters of 60B, that if and when elected, she won't make a habit of this sort of thing.

ILHAN OMAR, MARRIAGE, AND SOMALI CULTURE: AN FAQ

And what are your facts? Ilhan Omar divorced the guy through her faith tradition. He left the US and went back to the UK. If he is not responding to her requests and is ignoring her due to the difficulty in their marriage, is she stuck there to forever wait for him? Keep in mind he lives in another country where she can't even sue him. Let us get real: The expectation that Mrs Omar has to wait for that man to divorce her before she can marry is ludicrous and unthinkable. If they are done, she should be able to divorce, and if he is not responding, she should sign an affidavit stating she is not married to that guy, and moved on with her current husband. The expectation that a woman has to wait for a man to legally divorce her until God knows how long is misogynist and is denying her right to marry and divorce whom she wants.

Learn The Laws

Thats the problem with becoming new immigrants to the US and then not learning the laws of that land. When being pulled over by a police officer, they will tell you, there is no excuse in not knowing the laws. Same as in this case. Just because there are traditions that are followed in one country does not mean that another country will follow suit to traditions and customs. That would be like getting married in front of a Christian pastor and he not sign a marriage certificate. Ludicrous way of thinking. In the case for Ilhan Omar, I believe her story is legitimate and reasonable.

Marriages

Legitimate and reasonable are not two terms I would apply to the actions of a person who is lawfully and indisputably married to one living person who enters into a marriage with another person. I do understand that various 'faith traditions" have various views on marriage, which in my view are of interest to no one outside those traditions. But if we did choose to take an interest in those traditions, and the view that such marriages entered into here are "legitimate" in a literal sense of the term, then the conclusion that Ms. Omar is a bigamist would be virtually inescapable. That is a road her defenders really don't want to go down.

It's best to take the easy way out. Ms. Omar is married to someone with whom she is not living with. She fudged the facts a little bit for reasons that we perhaps can understand and excuse, but which should not be encouraged. And then we can move on.

Give this a read

".....Ms. Omar is a bigamist would be virtually inescapable. "

What proof do you have that she is a bigamist? She married a guy, they are divorced through her faith tradition, he went back to the UK, and he is not responding to her requests for legal separation/divorce. He is not financially supporting her, and she has been trying all of this time to get a legal separation/divorce from him. Meanwhile, she met another man whom she loves and wants to have a life with. Are you saying she has to wait to get married for God-knows how long before her ex-husband responds to her requests for legal separation? What if he is trying to make it difficult for her to get a divorce and not signing the papers as a result? Your argument is misogynist and very anti-woman. This goes back to the fundamental right that women have in order to marry and divorce whom they choose, and there is nothing that a guy like you can do about it. Get a grip and tell us your real motives to suggest the unthinkable!

Hassan

You have to be LEGALLY divorced in the US before you can marry someone else, if not, you're a bigamist. There are two ways to resolve this for Omar, she can either assert that she was never legally married to the guy in England in the first place, or she can legally divorce him. He does not have to return to the US for her to obtain a legal divorce. In the US secular law trumps religious tradition in most cases, religious tradition is not considered enforceable law. You can't just say your married to someone. My wife and I lived together for five years before we got married, we weren't married until we actually got married.

This what the big kerfuffle over gay marriage was all about. If gay and lesbians could be married simply by saying they were married according to some tradition of some kind there wouldn't have been a problem in the first place.

Basically the only question is whether or not Omar is currently married? If she is she needs to be unmarried before she can marry someone else. If she isn't married, why is she telling people that she is or was?

I'm no lawyer but I suspect she was never legally married to the guy in England in the first place so she need not seek divorce unless they have some financial entanglements to resolve.

Divorce "in faith tradition"

She says twice that she was "divorced" in her faith tradition -- NOT "married" in her faith tradition. So, what's the story on Islamic divorce.

On the 2002 license, did she marry then "in her faith tradition" and just not do the return on the civil marriage license? She never explains what happened to the 2002 license.

She divorced Elmi "in her faith tradition". Okay, why didn't she follow the civil law for what she admits was a valid civil marriage.

Okay, so Elmi is not her brother. Did he get a green card or U.S. citizenship base on his marriage to Omar? She just dismisses the marriage to her brother as "absurd and offensive" but never otherwise explains whether she assisted Elmi in getting into this country.

So, she divorced Hersi in 2008. But they were together again in 2011 -- did they re-marry "in their faith tradition.

How about some more explanations?

Omar displays only a casual regard to our civil laws which is strange for someone who is seeking to be a legislator.

Divorce "in faith tradition"

Her ex-husband left the country and went back to UK after they divorced through her faith tradition. He is also not responding to her requests for legal separation. Now, do you expect her to forever wait for the response for a guy who would never sign those legal papers? And where is her right as a woman to marry and divorce whomever she chooses? Oh wait, she is a Muslim and African immigrant; therefore, all of you who're throwing the alarm have a separate expectation for her than you would for the women in your family. You see we can all smell a rat!

Not What I Said

I am not going after someone because of being a Muslim and African immigrant. I do think that she shows a remarkable casual concern for our civil laws which is out of place for someone who wants to write our laws. It's a fairly high level of hypocrisy.

Her current status seem to be that she's in a "common-law relationship."

She didn't Break Any Civil Law

There is no hypocrisy. She came to the US through refugee resettlement program, was very young woman (only 19) when she first married through her faith tradition. That didn't work out, so she met another guy from UK, he came to US, and after 3 years she divorced. He left the country, went back to UK, and doesn't want to hear from her. Two years later, she and her first husband meet up again and re-marry again. She is married to her current husband through her faith tradition, and are in the process of legally ending the last marriage, so she can legalize her current husband. Her current husband is the father of her children, he is very supportive of her and their children, and she is very happy with him. Shouldn't we be more appreciating this young woman who is happily living with her children, husband, and wants to be a public servant? Ask yourself how many women in the US who have many children while the husbands are not around - and some of these women don't know the father of her children; to Mrs Omar's case, she is happily living with her children and the father of children. She is married to her Islamically (her faith tradition) but she is going through the process of finalizing her marriage through America's civic law. Now, the question is, how does someone's private life become a hypocrisy?

The reality is the only reason why she couldn't legally divorce her previous husband is because, after they were divorced, he went back to his country UK and doesn't want to sign the legal papers. And we all know the drama of ex-couples.

Lastly, let us not forget the reason this story broke was some Republicans accused her of marrying her brother so he could come to the US. After Mrs Omar categorically rejected it and stated "to suggest that she married her brother is absurd and offensive," the Conservatives have now shifted the blame to civil law. It is obvious they are throwing anything at Mrs Omar that they can come up. Yet, these people support the candidacy of Donald Trump who defrauded people through his fake university, and extorted the taxpayers through his various other schemes - we're talking about the same guy who wouldn't release his tax records while he wants to write the tax laws. These same Republicans who lied to us about the war in Iraq where thousands of Americans were killed; over 100 thousand service men and women were either wounded or suffering PTSD; and we have wasted trillions USD of precious resources that we need so badly at home. A Republican is a typical hypocrite who would call people at anything when they practice the worst form of hypocrisy.

They (Repuke-li-C##ns) won't fool me but I don't know about others!

"She is married to her

"She is married to her current husband through her faith tradition, and are in the process of legally ending the last marriage, so she can legalize her current husband."

You seem to be determined to argue that Ms. Omar is a bigamist. She simply cannot be married to two people at once in the United States, no matter what her faith tradition might be.

Her ex-husband left the

Her ex-husband left the country and went back to UK after they divorced through her faith tradition.

Let's be very clear here. Ms. Omar entered into a valid marriage with a living man from whom she is not divorced. Whatever her faith tradition may say, under Minnesota law she is married.

"do you expect her to forever wait for the response for a guy who would never sign those legal papers? "

I have no expectations at all. It's really no one's business except to the extent she misrepresents her marital status to the voters of her district.

"And where is her right as a woman to marry and divorce whomever she chooses? "

That's not an issue. She chose to marry the man to whom she is married. Like any individual of any faith tradition, she has no right to be married to more than one person at a time.

Her ex-husband left the

"Let's be very clear here. Ms. Omar entered into a valid marriage with a living man from whom she is not divorced. Whatever her faith tradition may say, under Minnesota law she is married."

They have been divorced through her faith tradition, he is not living with her, he is not financially supporting her, he went back to his country (UK), and he isn't responding to her requests to legally separate her. The Minnesota law is not forcing a woman to wait for an ex to sign those the papers until God knows how long. Some people argue as if there is no reason in the laws we have in America. The laws allow women and men to have a way out of difficult, past marriages where ex-spouses won't submit to divorce. All she has to do is to sign an affidavit showing that she tried to reach that man, he is not responding, and they have been divorced through her faith tradition. Remember in the Islamic faith no divorce takes place without at least 2 witnesses, and as this has already happened and those witnesses are in Minneapolis, Mrs Omar is done with that man.

Republicans have no other skeletons in her closet after they first accused her of marrying her brother, which turned out to be a hoax, and now all they can talk about is her marriage to some ex-husband who is not challenging and telling them he is married to her, and Mrs Omar stating she divorced him through her faith tradition.

"Like any individual of any faith tradition, she has no right to be married to more than one person at a time."

Mrs Omar is only married to one man, and that is her current husband. She is in the process of legally ending the previous marriage even though they were divorced through her faith tradition, and after she completes that, she will legalize her marriage of her current through America's civil law. In reality, there is only one man in her life now and that is Mr Hirsi. Her previous husband is not pursuing and claiming Mrs Omar is his wife; it is only the Republicans wingnuts who are running with this false charge. They have nothing else on her, so they're running with this irrelevant and nonexistent charge.

Valid Marraige?

I'm actually not sure Omar was ever legally married in the first place. Perhaps under some definition of common law marriage but in the US every state issues a marriage license and if you don't get one it's very difficult to claim marital status. Again, this is what the whole kerfuffle about gay marriage was all about.

If the only marriage we're talking about here is a "Traditional Faith" marriage, then legally I don't think Omar can be accused of bigamy.

Did she lie?

That is the question. She is, as of now, representing the folks of her district and honesty still matters (I know that is hard to believe watching Presidential campaigns) especially at the local level when it is someone from your community. When you become an American don't you agree to follow our laws? Why is "faith tradition" even being talked about? Shouldn't Ms. Omar be following USA and Minnesota marriage laws?

Maybe I'm missing something...

It doesn't look like she actually lied, she wasn't trying to deceive anyone or obscure the nature of her relationship. It looks like she was just speaking from the standards of her community which are somewhat at odds with the legal standards here in the US.

In the US as a general rule you don't call someone your husband unless there's a marriage license sitting in a drawer somewhere. In Somalia and the Somali community apparently the license isn't required. Little conflicts like this aren't unusual among immigrant communities.

It looks like Omar IS married under one set of standards but NOT married according to a different set of standards. I can't actually think of a reason to be concerned about this as a voter but I would think Somali immigrants might run into problems at some point if and when they try to claim marital status without obtaining the marriage license. In the meantime since being married isn't a qualification for public office I don't see how this matters and I doubt it will change the outcome of the election in a DFL dominated district.

When you become an American

When you become an American don't you agree to follow our laws? Why is "faith tradition" even being talked about?

The law is applicable to citizens and non citizens alike. Laws are binding on individuals whether they agree with them or not.

Understanding...

I'm having a hard time understanding the hang up. She is legally married to ONE man, who she is apparently in the process of getting divorced from. So, legally, she is not a bigamist. I'm not sure why you insist that she is.

She IS in a relationship with another man. She prefers to call HIM her husband, because, by her faith tradition, she has ended her previous marriage and entered a new marriage. The term "husband" is not a legal status, but a term of personal relationship. I do note, though, that it technically makes her and her "husband" adulterers. But, unless her legal husband complains, there is no legal repercussion.

Personally, I see this as a molehill and I just can't figure out why it's such a mountain for some people. It's not like she's telling other people to live by standards that she herself does not live by. That's my main irritation at those who claim to support "family values" while acting against the "family values" they tout. Stay out of my bedroom and I'll ignore what happens in yours. The moment you start trying to mandate how I live my personal life, I'll start caring about how you live yours.

All that said, so far, there has been no evidence whatsoever that her legal marriage was a manipulation of the immigration system. Unless there is credible evidence of such, speculation is merely the basis for a smear campaign. HOWEVER, should such evidence appear, it would be a good basis for keeping her out of office.

So, legally, she is not a

So, legally, she is not a bigamist.

That is the path I would choose myself. But others seem to want to claim that the man she is currently living with is her husband. In doing so, they are arguing that she is a bigamist.

Ms. Omar's domestic arrangements and her faith tradition couldn't possibly be of less interest to me. Those who argue that they are personal matters which are no one's business but her own, are absolutely right as far as it goes. But once she enters the public domain by making assertions about these matters which are untrue, than it is at least arguably a mwatter of public interest. What matters to me isn't her personal life, but that she is making representations to me and to the voters of 60B that are untruthful and deceptive about them. It simply has to be made clear to aspiring politicians like Ms. Omar at the start of their careers that we expect the truth from them, in small matters and large.

Simplicity

What exactly was she supposed to say about the guy she never legally married but had kids with, broke up with (during which time she had a subsequent legal marriage, but isn't quite divorced), and then got back together with? The guy she's got standing behind/beside her? Maybe, to avoid "misguiding" voters, she should simply have called him her "love?" Do you think there would have been no "confusion" (or rumors, or outright bigotry) if she had? In view of certain confusion, lots of people, especially women, generalize relationships into terms that people get. For example, I have been with my boyfriend (now fiance) for going on 6 years, and when people refer to him as my husband, I rarely correct them. Like Ms. Omar, I have been married in the past. I am now divorced.

Why do people, particularly women, do this? Because our familial relations form part of who we are in the eyes of others. And, as part of the Western tradition, there are certain expectations about your name and your childrens' names that go along with that association. It's a social, and legal, PITA. You will see confusion, and sometimes contempt, on the faces of people who try to figure out why a woman has a different last name from her "spouse." Most men have never had to show proof of their marriage to do things like get on a plane before your legal documents match your married status. There was a time when I was still married that I had achieved a PhD and my spouse had not, where proper etiquette indicated that communications addressed to the both of us should be addressed to "Dr. and Mr.", people insisted on addressing such communications to "Mr. and Mrs." with the added insult of referring to the both of us by my ex's first name. Why? Mostly because people needed to define us by our relationship. Sometimes, I'm sure, because of sexism.

In any case, no one really wants to wander through your legal status to understand how you're related to someone. Further, there is no requirement in the MN Affidavit of Candidacy to name a spouse, legal or otherwise (https://ballotpedia.org/wiki/images/b/bc/MN_Affidavit_of_Candidacy.jpg). It's reasonable to believe that no one needs to identify their legal marital status at all if they're running for office. Really, it appears to be a personal matter rather than a matter of public concern. So, unless there's evidence that her legal marriage was to take advantage of immigration laws (seems unlikely--the guy is a British citizen), then really, it's not a matter of /anything/ small or large.

Outstanding comment

While so many others here are struggling to make a mountain out of this molehill, your lucid explanation fairly puts paid to the tortured arguments that Ms. Omar has somehow deceived the voters of 60b. This voter of that district couldn't give a hoot about these fatuous claims about impropriety, despite their being packaged in a I-personally-don't-care-but-I'm-still-going-to-criticize-her-for-it line of reasoning.

And just like Nixon

it's not the original problem, but the cover-up.

Inapt

The analogy is inapt. I see no signs of a cover-up, nor do I even see signs of a creative ambiguity of phrasing (read: fudging). The comparison fails under further scrutiny, as the Nixon "problem" was that he was overseeing a conspiracy, which is indeed a real problem. Avoiding a tediously long explanation of a nettlesome personal issue is hardly commensurate.

do I even see signs of a

do I even see signs of a creative ambiguity of phrasing

It isn't necessarily a question of what you or I see, but what a reasonable person might see. And it's quite reasonable for a person to conclude that if someone says they are married to someone to whom they are not, they are fudging the truth, to put it nicely.

Fudging?

I would call it flat-out lying.

Maybe, but politically meaningless

Legally speaking, sure, he's not her husband (as far as I know). But there is so much fluidity in our culture now about partnerships that these distinctions, when removed from strictly legal contexts, are meaningless because variegated and, most importantly, nobody else's business. People can be partnered for decades and view their partners as spouses; others get civil unions; others get married, leave that person without legally divorcing, and go on to be with another person for a long time. Ain't nobody else's business, regardless of the height of one's public profile.

The maladriot argument is, of course, "Well, if she lied on this, what else will she lie about?" How little wisdom do people possess that they believe others to be infallible and incapable of lapses? It's obviously on a scale (certain departures from the truth [itself a problematic and nebulous concept] are worse than others; cf. lying about WMDs and calling the man whom you identify as your husband as such), but this oversight hardly rises to the level of reasonable public concern.

Again, the issue lies within the realm of one's personal life. Her family structure or legal marital status are immaterial to her ability to represent the residents of 60b (unless the auspicious opiners of the Fourth Estate and its hangers-on succeed in keeping this non-story alive). Frankly, given that this dimension of her life is not germane to her legislative acumen, all of this falderal about mendacity is but a distraction. It also reinforces an unhelpful discourse of trolling about for the lurid, when political discussions ought to focus on policy, an intellectual posture that is clearly not appealing enough for the demos.

Legal

As a lawyer, I may get hung up on the legalities more than most people. And I am familiar with the cultural issues here and the informal marriage-like relationships. I once handled a probate case where the deceased man had a faith-tradition-but-not-legal marriage, and predictably, the "wife" got nothing.

I agree that Omar not being truthful about who she is married to is not a big deal politically (in this district at least) or legally. I know people who never get around to divorcing spouses they left, and couples who are together for decades without formalizing the relationship. For the most part, it doesn't matter.

I am not completely sure this story is over, even with Lugar saying he is not pursuing it. Omar was with her faith tradition husband for years and had several kids, but never married. Omar says they split up and in 2009 she entered into a relationship with the other man - who was not a citizen or legal resident - who she legally married in February. The three of them (Omar, faith-tradition husband, and legal husband) then lived together for a time. Later, all three of them moved to North Dakota, where Omar and the legal husband went to school.

So Omar is with the father of her children for years without a legal marriage, but then enters a legal marriage with another (non-citizen) man weeks after their relationship began, and then all three of them lived together? Sorry, but I just don't buy it. You don't have to buy into the lurid details - marrying her brother (which she has expressly denied) or bigamy (not possible because only one marriage was legal, to think this was immigration fraud.

Disappointment

A reasonable rejoinder. It would be a disappointment to many, if that turns out to be the case. If not, then my objection is sustained.

You are doing the same thing

You are doing the same thing the anti-same sex marriage people do: You are conflating religious marriage with civil marriage.

Legally, she is not a bigamist because she has only one legal, civil marriage, which is in the process of being dissolved.

According to her religion, she's not a bigamist because she met the requirements of her religion to divorce the first person before she sought a religious marriage Mr. Hirsi.

"What exactly was she

"What exactly was she supposed to say about the guy she never legally married but had kids with, broke up with (during which time she had a subsequent legal marriage, but isn't quite divorced), and then got back together with? The guy she's got standing behind/beside her? "

The truth might be an option. That she is living with a guy. It happens all the time. If she didn't want to do that, another option would have been to avoid the matter altogether. It really is no one's business, unless she chooses to make it so.

"In any case, no one really wants to wander through your legal status to understand how you're related to someone."

This certainly not true as evidenced by the fact that the Republicans did.

"Further, there is no requirement in the MN Affidavit of Candidacy to name a spouse, legal or otherwise "

In so many ways, this tempest in a teacup was of Ms. Omar's brewing. It could so easily have been avoided. It was so unnecessary. And yet here we are.

Patrons

What strikes me about the overall tenor of this discussion is how patronizing it all is. Up until the amount the marriage issue emerged, my impression of the Ihlan campaign was that it was a very sophisticated operation mounted by someone who seemed to be an effective and experienced political operator. At a political level where campaigns are usually run literally by moms and pops, this was a campaign that had a spokesman. It was also a campaign that managed to elicit support from some of the most grizzled political veterans around. And more power to her. Among other things, Ms Omar's campaign demonstrated effectively and clearly that Kahn, someone I do admittedly love and admire, was a candidate out of the past in an enterprise that is almost exclusively about the future.

But suddenly all that sophistication, all that savvy, which I had rather grudgingly begun to accept and admire, seems to have evaporated over night. Now the effective political campaigner who has lived in this country for many years has been magically replaced by a naive person, seemingly baffled by the most ordinary laws and usages of language. They have reduced her to a caricature of a recently arrived immigrant. At a level in a state where legislative candidates have to be prepared for tough questioning every night at the door, we now have a fragile hot house flower of a candidate who wants to hide behind ambiguity, euphemism and a public relations staff paid for by the state DFL in St. Paul.

I don't live in Ms. Omar's district, but if I did I would unhesitatingly vote for her. And this one incident is maybe just a called strike one at the edge of the plate, in a game where the batter gets three or for. But I have to say I am so tired of being lied to, and I wish our candidates at the top of of the ballot and at the bottom and every where in between, really do the historic thing and just tell us the truth, no matter how inconvenient it might be.