Polygamous family launches challenge of Utah law

SALT LAKE CITY – Reality TV stars Kody Brown and his four wives say they just want one thing: to be left alone.

As authorities investigate them for bigamy, the TLC “Sister Wives” family is asking a federal judge to overturn part of Utah’s bigamy law because it bans them from living together and criminalizes sexual relationships between unmarried consenting adults.

“What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs,” said Jonathan Turley, their attorney, adding that the lawsuit is about privacy — not polygamy.

The case in federal court in Utah, however, could open up the possibility that a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists could be decriminalized.

While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that both prohibit having more than one marriage license at a time and also ban adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.

The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who do not have licenses but have created within their homes a marriage-like relationship.

Turley, a noted constitutional expert, argued that, under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas’ sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.

The lawsuit doesn’t aim to challenge Utah’s right to refuse to recognize plural marriage, nor are the Browns seeking multiple marriage licenses, Turley said.

The display of the Brown family’s polygamous lifestyle on cable television drew the interest of Utah prosecutors. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Bretheran and practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.

Polygamy is the religious or cultural practice of a person having more than one spouse, which is defined as bigamy under law. Experts say it is a widely practiced, cross-cultural family structure found on every continent and in every major religion.

The family — Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, plus 17 children — fled Utah for the Las Vegas suburbs in January after authorities launched a bigamy investigation. No charges have been filed.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/19/polygamous-family-launches-challenge-utah-law/#ixzz1hGSKJrGK

Note: If all cases of ‘living together without valid marriage certificate’ would be prosecuted the courts would not have time to hear any other cases (in the West at least). In Switzerland for instance the law called ‘prohibition of polygamy’ was removed from the books I think around 1970s (in different cantons at different times) although it was not used for decades earlier).

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