‘Sister Wives’ family wins ruling in bigamy suit

Star Advertiser 14 December 2013
A federal judge ruled Friday that key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional, handing a legal victory to a polygamist family that stars in the TV reality show “Sister Wives.”

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups said in the ruling that the phrase in Utah law that forbids cohabitation with another person was a violation of the First Amendment.

Washington D.C.-based attorney Jonathan Turley has said that Kody Brown and his four wives drew the attention of Utah authorities because of their TLC hit series. The Brown family filed their lawsuit in July 2011, and fled Utah for Las Vegas last year under the threat of prosecution.

Turley argued the case before Waddoups in January.

Utah’s bigamy law is stricter than the laws in 49 other states — most of the other states prohibit people from having multiple marriage licenses. Utah makes it illegal to even purport to be married to multiple partners or live together.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Waddoups took a narrow interpretation of the words “marry” and “purports to marry” in his ruling. That means that bigamy remains illegal in Utah only in the literal sense, such as when someone fraudulently acquires more than one marriage license.
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