They told their stories, asked for legislative changes and talked about a shelter to house only women trying to escape from Utah's polygamous communities that some say are abusive and violent.
In the first meeting of this scope, state lawmakers and officials from the governor's and attorney general's offices met Monday with a group of five former polygamist wives.Some common ground was reached between the 10 people who attended the meeting, said Vicky Prunty, one of five women from the support group Tapestry of Polygamy. The group is comprised of women who grew up in polygamous families or were involved in plural marriage.
"We realized we had some common goals, and that is to protect individuals who are being abused or their civil liberties being violated."
The nation's spotlight has turned to Utah in recent weeks after Gov. Mike Leavitt responded to questions about polygamy in a press conference July 23.
A reporter is in town from USA Today, and several national magazines and newspapers have featured stories about polygamy and its uneasy coexistence with the rest of Utah's population.
Prunty and other Tapestry members have been on one national television show after another in recent weeks.
Carmen Thompson, who was married to two polygamist men, appeared on "Good Morning America" Wednesday.
The Tapestry group came forward this spring. Shortly afterward, a teenage girl who is a member of the powerful Kingston polygamy clan in northern Utah, ran away from a polygamous marriage to her uncle and was allegedly beaten by her father.
At Monday's meeting, in the office of Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, D-Granite, the group discussed the implementation of a task force on polygamy and gathering funds to help women and children leave polygamy.
Officials also discussed raising the age limit for marriage in Utah from 14 to 18 and clarifying the state's controversial bigamy statute to make it easier to understand and enforce.
It was the second time members of Tapestry have met with Howell and Michael King, an official from the attorney general's office. Others who attended the Monday meet-ing include Leavitt's legal counsel, Gary Doxey; Reed Richards, chief deputy for the attorney general's office; and House Minority Leader Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday, Leavitt spokeswoman Vicki Varela said the meeting provided a chance for everyone to understand the issue.
Will the governor consider a task force?
"I think it's too early to figure out whether that is the best way to respond to the concerns out there," Varela said. "The key thing is for prosecutors who are closest to the process, . . . for them to take leadership and find out how to best prosecute these cases."
Thompson said Utah must enforce its laws or women and children will continue to suffer in a secret lifestyle.
"You're indoctrinated to be afraid of the outside world," Thompson said. "That's why I get so upset when the state says, `Well, give us physical evidence.' First of all, how do we prove emotional damage? And, how can we give you evidence when we're fighting for people who don't know they have rights?"
Thompson said the previous meetings with Howell and King were very matter-of-fact. But she felt confident after Monday's meeting that state officials are starting to really grasp the issue.
"I think they're starting to understand these laws are on the books, that there is abuse and this is not about consensual sex between adults," Thompson said. "I won't say they've done a 180-degree turn, but I think they're starting to see the way it really is.
"We found ourselves no longer just a support group," Thompson said. "Suddenly we're having to educate officials on what our laws are."
Richards, who has tracked polygamy cases through the years, said it would be difficult to make reality out of some of the support group's suggestions.
For example, members of Tapestry want to educate women in polygamy on how to get help. "That's a tough one," Richards said. "How do you get information to people in those secret societies?"
Tapestry also believes a shelter should be dedicated solely to polygamous wives.
But costs and time involved in building a shelter must be addressed, Richards said.