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Polygamy in Utah Decriminalized by Federal Court
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The U.S. District Court, District of Utah, Central Division has ruled that plural marriages do not constitute a crime. While this does not open the door immediately to plural marriage licenses or other rights, it does one thing – families that practice polygamy may not be persecuted by the state as criminals.

The case, brought by the former Utah family of Cody Brown and his 4 wives, who had to flee Utah to escape state persecution, was represented by Jonathan Turley as its lead counsel. Turley wrote on his blog that U.S. District Court Judge Clarke Waddoups had struck down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional.


Turley observed, “With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation – the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists.”

Observing that the law had been challenged dozens of times in state and federal courts over many decades, Turley praised Judge Waddoups and said, “It took singular courage to be the first court not only in this country but any recorded decision to strike down the criminalization of polygamy.”

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In its decision, the court struck down the part of the statute that criminalizes co-habitation between consenting adults. The effect of the decision would also limit future prosecutions of traditional bigamy in cases where individuals have multiple marriage licenses.

Of course, this throws open a door of thousands of other issues like inheritance, and rights of wives and their children, but as the case makes clear – criminalization of polygamy also did not serve to address those more important issues, but served to suppress them.



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