Federal judge partially strikes down Utah polygamy law

Federal judge partially strikes down Utah polygamy law

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [court website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] portions of the state’s Anti-Bigamy Statute [statute, text] that were challenged by the family of TLC’s reality TV show Sister Wives [media website]. The lawsuit was brought in 2011 by the family after their polygamous relationship was threatened by a county prosecutor under the state’s bigamy law. In Wednesday’s ruling, the judge found that the provision of Utah’s law forbidding cohabitation of those in the polygamous relationship violated of the family members’ freedom of Fundamentalist Mormon religion. The judge also determined that the family would be able to collect attorneys’ fees acquired during the lawsuit.

Kody Brown and his four wives, the plaintiffs in this case, are stars of TLC’s Sister Wives. A police investigation [Utah News report] was launched against them in September 2010, when the show was first announced and premiered. The anti polygamy law has been on the books since 1862. The family challenged the law [JURIST report] in 2011 as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. While polygamy is recognized in most of Africa and the Middle East, it is illegal in most of North and South America, Europe and China. In 2005, the US District Court for the District of Utah rejected a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] brought against Utah’s Anti-Bigamy Statute, reaffirming the 1879 US Supreme Court case Reynolds v. United States [text], which upheld a conviction under an anti-polygamy law as constitutional.