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Beliefnet News

TV stars seek to overturn Utah anti-polygamy law passed to placate foes to statehood

By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s complicated history with polygamy will start a new chapter Wednesday when an attorney for a reality-show family says he will file a lawsuit that could send the state’s ban on plural marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Until the 1890s, marriage between one man and multiple women was permitted by the Latter-Day Saints or “Mormons” and was legal in the Utah territory. However, it was banned in the 1890s as an informal requirement for Utah’s statehood.

Nationally-known constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said the lawsuit to be filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City will not call for plural marriages to be recognized by the state. Instead, it asks for polygamy between consenting adults like his clients, former Utahn Kody Brown and his wives, to no longer be considered a crime.


“We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs,” Turley said in a press release.

The Browns star in the TLC network show “Sister Wives.” There is no word yet on whether they will appear in a press conference scheduled for Wednesday.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the country’s ongoing legal wrangling over same-sex marriage will necessarily grow to include plural marriage — quite possibly centered around this case.

“I’m confident that we can [defend] a challenge all the way to the Supreme Court,” Shurtleff said.

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  • Sanjiv

    The issue isn’t whether polygamy is good for women, or for men or for society for that matter – it’s reasonably clear that polygamy fails on all fronts. Girls are forced into marriage, boys are expelled from the culture and society is gifted with a surplus of unmarried men, who are historically prone to fight, rob and burn things.

    But the guiding principle of American Constitutionalism isn’t to legislate according to smart policy – if it was we’d have sensible gunlaws, slower cars and universal healthcare – it’s to bend to the rights of individuals, consenting adults. And by that token, you have to give the Browns their due.

    For a full argument for decriminalization, and a full expose of what a toxic, broken culture polygamy is, read Secrets & Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy (Soft Skull).

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    If marriage can be redefined for homosexuality then it is open for polygamy as well.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joe Schmoe

    OK, here’s a history lesson.

    At the time that polygamy was first allowed among Mormons, a military tragedy had befallen most of the male followers of the sect. Thus, there were many more women than men. It was necessary and appropriate under those circumstances. However, that was so long ago, that the imbalance no longer exists. While polygamy may have been ended at that exact moment for the expediency of statehood, it was time for it to end anyhow!

    Note that pre-existing inforce polygamous marriages remained valid for as long as the parties lived.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    Have you researched the male-female ratio? lol

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    IF the law was actually overturned (and I’d be surprised if it was) there would be LOTS of folks moving to Utah—mostly men I expect, so they could gather unto themselves lots of legal women to sleep with–they could have their own harems. :o)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jenmeyer

    Polygamy ban should be overturned. Marriage should be open to consenting adults for any type of marriage. Freedom of choice. Mono, plural, bigamy, polyandry, polygamy, gay, gay multiple marriage, community marriages. Polyandry is the best for the economy, where one woman marries multiple men, because it will keep a stable population & prosperity. All thru time many men had mistresses or concubines while married. Women also consorted with multiple men. Tribes in South Asia knew polyandry was the best solution and South America settled with multiple people according to the need. (i.e. if there were too many women, more than one settled with a man and if there were too many men, more than one settled with a woman and they all cared for the children.) Lets not fight over marriage but work on the real problems of the world. Freedom of choice to marry anyone you want.

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