More than a dozen children of polygamist families spoke publicly at a Utah rally for the first time on Saturday about their lifestyle and called for more understanding.
"I'm the 14th child in a large family and I have several moms," said Mary, 18. "All my mothers love me."
Using only their first names to protect their families, 15 young men and women ranging in age from 10 to 20 addressed a pro-polygamy crowd of 200 to 300 in downtown Salt Lake City.
"I did not come here today to ask for permission to live my beliefs. I shouldn't have to. I came here to defend a principle," said 19-year-old Tyler.
Organisers of Saturday's rally say plural families have historically avoided the spotlight, fearing criminal prosecution and ridicule. Polygamy is outlawed across the United States, but researchers estimate there are more than 30,000 practicing polygamists in Utah.
"There has been so much negative publicity about the polygamy lifestyle; we felt it was time to present the other side of the story," said Anne Wilde, spokeswoman for the polygamy advocacy group Principal Voices.
"I just don't think it's for everybody but I also think it should be a free choice and what we would like to see is equal civil rights so people don't lose their jobs or are ostracized for any reason."
Ten-year-old Sarah told the boisterous crowd she gets her homework done faster because of the help from "lots of brothers and sisters."
Seventeen-year-old Jessica called her several dozen siblings her best friends. "We're not brainwashed, mistreated, neglected, malnourished, illiterate, defective or dysfunctional," she said.
Most of the young men who spoke wore slacks, shirts and ties; the women wore long dresses and blouses.
Katherine, 16, told the crowd she hopes one day to become an attorney so she might "fight for the rights of others."
Following the rally, Katherine's mother Rachel said in an interview that when she grew up in polygamy there was much less openness.
"It is very historic ... I was very proud that the younger generation is stepping up and saying what they believe," said Rachel, who has three "sister-wives."
"I think the next generation is saying I'm not going to hide anymore, I don't want to live in fear like my parents did."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Utah, stopped the practice of polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood. They now excommunicate anyone practicing polygamy, although several splinter groups still practice it.