On Thursday, the “Sister Wives” lawsuit which challenges the state of Utah’s bigamy laws arrived in U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups’ federal court, according to various sources including Yahoo News. The lawsuit is being referred to as the “Sister Wives” lawsuit because the persons involved with the lawsuit are the persons who are in the TLC reality show of the same name.
The controversial case involves Kody Brown and his four wives who believe the bigamy law in Utah – which does not allow a man to have more than one wife - is unconstitutional. The Browns fled to Law Vegas in 2012 due to the threat of being prosecution. In fact, they weren’t even in the federal court in Utah for the court case on Thursday. Instead, a constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, deliver the arguments against the law.
Judge Waddoups heard the arguments against the bigamy law but gave no ruling yet. In Turley’s statements he told the judge:
The Browns wanted to show people that a plural family is not a monstrosity. They don’t commit collateral problems. The state is saying if you didn’t do this TV show, you wouldn’t have a problem. They have a right to free speech and are being prosecuted for it.
In the other 49 states, having multiple marriage licenses is usually prohibited. However, in Utah, it is illegal to purport to be married to more than one person.
Making the case logically related to what might be considered legal, Judge Waddops asked an attorney on the state’s side of the case, Assistant Utah Attorney General Jerrold Jensen:
What if Kody Brown kept separate households for each wife, or was just having affairs?
Jenson responded that that would not be polygamy. Jenson went on to argue regarding what he believed were problems of Utah’s specifically-different history of polygamy with its high population of Mormons – a faith in which multiple wives is allowed. He cited a 100-year or more history of young women being forced to marry at ages of as young as 13 while young boys were thrown out of the house so that the older men would not have competition for the females for their multiple marriages. According to Jenson, the state has a social responsibility to end this type of behavior.
Waddoups point-blank challenged Jensen as to whether the case was designed to go after the Mormon religion. Jensen rebutted that every state has such laws but not every state has a large population of Mormon polygamists.
Turley asserted that Utah has to prove that polygamy is harmful while saying that the part of the case involving boys thrown out of their homes was no more than a myth. Turley believes that the law in Utah is an effort to enforce morality on people. Basically, the belief is that the law is designed to harass polygamists.
The initial lawsuit filed by the Browns which challenged the bigamy law in Utah was filed in July of 2011, and the court case continues.