Appeals Court Restores Ban on Polygamous Cohabitation as Law Won’t Be Enforced

Sister WivesSALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A federal appeals court has restored Utah’s ban on polygamous cohabitation in stating that the law posed no threat to polygamists since the state has outlined that it will not be enforced unless other crimes are involved.

As previously reported, Kody Brown of the TLC reality show Sister Wives, along with his four “wives,” Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, filed suit in 2011 to challenge parts of the law that they claimed violated their privacy rights.

The five had been under investigation by state officials for violating the statute, and moved to Nevada to escape punishment. Brown is married to one of the women, and considers his relationship with the other three women as being “spiritual unions.” He has fathered 17 children with his four lovers.

Brown considers “Sister Wives” as his avenue to normalize polygamy in the public eye and to combat what he believes is stigma against having multiple relationships.

“When I talked with my children about doing the show, I said we have an opportunity to not only change our world, but to change the world for everyone else,” he told reporters.

While all states prohibit bigamy–entering into multiple marriages–Utah also bans residents from living together in a polygamous relationship. Brown, a member of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist Mormon sect, contended that such a prohibition violates his freedom of religion.

In December 2013, Judge Clark Waddoups, nominated to the bench by then-president George W. Bush, sided with Brown in determining that Utah’s prohibition on polygamist cohabitation violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and interfered with the right to privacy. He pointed to the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized sodomy in the nation, and differentiated unmarried sexual conduct from criminal bigamy.

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“Consensual sexual privacy is the touchstone of the rational basis review analysis in this case, as in Lawrence,” he wrote. “The court believes that Plaintiffs are correct in their argument that, in prohibiting cohabitation under the statute, ‘it is, of course, the state that has equated private sexual conduct with marriage.’”

Therefore, because Brown does not claim to be married to all of the women–nor does the state ban cohabitation in premarital or adulterous relationships—Waddoups threw out the cohabitation section of the statute, while upholding the prohibition on bigamy.

In August 2014, Waddoups issued his final ruling in the matter, striking the law and ordering the state to pay Brown’s attorney’s fees surrounding the lawsuit. Officials in Utah then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2015, asserting that polygamous relationships are harmful to women and children.

“Utah has an interest in regulating marriage because it is an important social unit, and this interest remains as this court has recently recognized regardless of how other state provisions regulating marriage are evaluated for their constitutional soundness or infirmity,” Utah Solicitor Parker Douglas wrote in his brief.

On Monday, the 10th Circuit unanimously overturned Waddoups’ ruling, stating that the lower court should have dismissed the case because Brown and his “wives” had not been charged with a crime and it was not likely that they would have been. The court noted that prosecutors in Utah had discontinued their investigation in 2012 and announced that they would only enforce the polygamous cohabitation law if other laws were violated, such as fraud or abuse.

“The record shows the [prosecutor’s office] has adopted, and intends to abide by, a policy under which the Browns face no threat of prosecution,” Judge Scott Matheson, nominated to the bench by Barack Obama, wrote. “Although Mr. Buhman cannot control his successors and extend his non-prosecution pledge in perpetuity, there is no reasonable expectation the Browns will face prosecution.”

“Similar to our own office policy, Utah County only prosecutes bigamy crimes against those who induce marriage under false pretenses or if there is a collateral malfeasance, such as fraud, domestic abuse, child abuse, sex abuse or other abuse,” also explained Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in a statement. “As a result of this policy, the 10th Circuit found that there is no harm to the Browns.”

Brown plans to appeal the ruling, either back to the 10th Circuit en banc or to the United States Supreme Court.

“We’re only guilty of trying to love a different way than the norm,” said supporter Brady Williams, who has five “wives.” “They are marginalizing a minority class in the United States. That’s unconstitutional.”


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  • Emmanuel

    Supporters of Alternative Relationships, is this right or wrong?

    • Guest

      The Utah law is unique – it declares polygamy as simple co-habitation with another adult while legally married as bigamy:

      76-7-101. Bigamy — Defense.
      (1)
      A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.

      The original ruling found the cohabitation part unconstitutional as per the SCOTUS ruling in Lawrence.

      The appeals court has ruled since the state has sworn they never prosecute under the law the point is ‘moot’ and dismissed the ruling.

      The plantiffs say they were investigated and given the impression that was for the purposes of future protection and to avoid that the family moved out of state.

      I do find the appeals court reasoning as troubling. Saying there is a rule on the books that is never enforced doesn’t protect a citizen from feeling they are still engaging in a criminal act, I know I would never want to be ‘not a criminal’ only by the largess of a government agency, I’d much rather not be a criminal because there is no law against it.

      And I live in Washington state, one of 5 states that I know of that there is no problem with someone living with as many other adults as they want – what they do is their business. The second wife of a Somali Islamic familly lives next door. These states only consider having more than one concurrent wedding contract counts as polygamy as well as no crime of adultery or common-law marriage.

      • Amos Moses

        Asked if it was right or wrong…. not if it was legal or illegal…..not the same thing.

        • Guest

          Do I think the Utah appeals court ruling was wrong? Yes, it is saying an unconstitutional law can stay on the books because the government ‘promises’ they don’t enforce it.

          How would you feel if there was a law on the books that said going to church was criminal but the government promised they never enforced it so it should stay on the books?

          The unconstitutional law was struck down by the court – restoring it because the ‘law isn’t enforced’ seems odd no matter what you feel about polygamous relationships.

          • Amos Moses

            Well, abortion is actually still illegal in Texas,,, but not enforced…. but again…. i think a different question was being asked… not if the ruling was right or wrong…. but whether the activity was…… but thats just me.

          • Guest

            Ah I took it as the topic of the article being asked about since, as per the court, nothing has actually changed regarding polygamous living in Utah.

      • bowie1

        The article indicates only one wife is legally married to him.

        • Guest

          yes it does, and?

    • Amos Moses

      Kind of like a blind person asking a blind person to lead them to a place when neither of them know where it is.

      • Jalapeno

        So..what’s wrong with it?

        Maybe some people have religious beliefs that lead to it being acceptable or encouraged.

        Why do you think that anyone who’s okay with alternative relationship types just doesn’t have a sense of right or wrong? That seems a bit unfounded and biased.

        • Amos Moses

          “Why do you think that anyone who’s okay with alternative relationship types just doesn’t have a sense of right or wrong?”

          Oh, they have a sense they are in the wrong….. but they do not care, they are lawless.

          • Jalapeno

            What makes you think that?

            Last I checked, they aren’t hurting anyone. Maybe their morals are based on the Golden rule, for instance and consider you the immoral one.

          • Amos Moses

            They are hurting each other…………they are hurting society….. they have no moral basis to determine who is moral or immoral………….

          • Jalapeno

            How is it hurting anyone? Just because some people think it’s immoral and they do it anyways?

          • Amos Moses

            No, because they are hurting people with their lies about who they are and what they are doing……………………… Lying is pretty much universally considered to be immoral……… we can just for the moment set aside how they hurt themselves and others in a physical sense……. They lie to themselves and they lie to others…..

          • Jalapeno

            Who are they lying to by being in an alternative relationship?

          • Amos Moses

            You repeat the lie in that sentence and you are deceived by their lies. The lie is “alternative relationship”………that is deception…….that is a lie……..it is corruption of language…… it is corruption of truth……….

          • Jalapeno

            How is it a lie?

            It’s a relationship and it’s not a traditional one.

          • Amos Moses

            They will not call it what it is,,,, they are trying to cloud issue of what the relationship is in a different light with the corruption of language with the purpose to deceive others. They are homosexuals in a homosexual relationship………not an “alternative”…………

          • Jalapeno

            Polygamous relationships are alternative relationships, not the same as homosexual relationships.

          • Amos Moses

            And again a lie…………..

          • Jalapeno

            How is it s lie?

          • Amos Moses

            Not sure what is more disturbing… the lie… or your inability to discern it….

          • Jalapeno

            Should be a simple question.

            They say they’re in an alternate relationship. (Well, I see the term polygamous more than alternative, but someone else used the word so I’m sticking with it. )

            And..it’s completely true.

          • Amos Moses

            Yeah,,, disturbing……….

          • Jalapeno

            Are you incapable of explaining anything?

          • Amos Moses

            i have tried to explain it to you……….you reject the truth…….. what would you have me do?

          • Jalapeno

            You didn’t explain anything, you just said it was a lie because it was a lie because it wasn’t it true…

            None of it was anything other than circular ranting.

          • Amos Moses

            It is a lie because they are not calling it what it is…. they are trying to cloud it by use of deceptive language…..

          • Jalapeno

            It’s not deceptive at all.

            It’s a different type of relationship.

          • Amos Moses

            It is a lie……..and you are deceived by it……..got it.

          • Jalapeno

            How is it deceptive?

            Are you saying it’s a normal relationship and not “alternative” at all?

          • Amos Moses

            you are decieved…i got it…. you refuse to hear the truth…. you suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It is not an “alternative” and it is not “normal” it is ABnormal and they do not want to say that…… so it is a lie…………….. they want the deceived to think it is “normal, natural and healthy” and it is not…………

            25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

            26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

            Communist Goals (1963) Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35 January 10, 1963
            [From “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen]

          • Jalapeno

            So you’re just mad that they call it alternative instead of abnormal?

            Wow. That’s a bit silly. Calling them liars and claiming that they’re harmful because they use a word that doesn’t have as negative of a connotation as you’d like?

            I’m talking polygamy, by the way. Homosexual relationships aren’t generally called alternative, they’re just relationships.

          • Amos Moses

            Again, you are deceived……..

          • Jalapeno

            You struggle with things not going exactly your way, don’t you.

            No other type of person would whine that people they don’t like are labeled with a neutral connotation.

          • Amos Moses

            i expect things not to go my way………… so what? A lie is still a lie….. even if the whole world and everyone in it believes it.

          • Jalapeno

            If it’s a lie, you’d be able to come up with something better than whining because they use a word with a different connotation.

          • Amos Moses

            You are a homosexual………….

          • Jalapeno

            Cute.

            So.. Is that all you had? Just didn’t like the connotation of the word?

          • Amos Moses

            If the connotation is a lie……..why would i like it.

            You are a homosexual……….

          • Jalapeno

            Liking it and saying that they’re hurting people by using a word that isn’t insulting it for your tastes are wildly different concepts.

          • Amos Moses

            A lie is a lie………..

            You are a homosexual…………

          • Jalapeno

            Yeah.

            Nice solid logic there. Kudos.

          • Amos Moses

            So what is the problem with the truth…………………?

          • Jalapeno

            Truth is good.

            That’s not what you’re doing of course, but.. It’s a good concept.

            What you’re doing is saying “they hurt people because they don’t go by an insulting enough term”.

          • Amos Moses

            And what is insulting about being called a homosexual,,, that is what you are….. right?

          • Jalapeno

            I’m not gay, and that wouldn’t be insulting. You obviously intend it ad a (rather pathetic) insult though.

            Youre whining because the term “alternative” isn’t as negative as you want it to be though.

          • Amos Moses

            i was making a point about your statement……..So if you are not a homosexual….. then why does it bother you… you said “whining because they use a word with a different connotation”…. so why are you now whining………… all i did was use a word with a different connotation…… but you are upset by it….Why?

          • Jalapeno

            You’re saying that they’re lying because of the word they chose.

            Did I ever say you were lying?

          • Amos Moses

            Not sure what that has to do with it…………… but lying is about words….. so what? How do you lie and not use words… not familiar with that concept……. how do you do that?

            And that does not answer the question….. if you are not a homosexual… why does being called one bother you? …..all i did was use a word with a different connotation…… but you are upset by it….Why?

          • Jalapeno

            Saying that the word isn’t insulting enough doesn’t mean it’s not accurate.

            It doesn’t bother me, but I know you’re trying, really badly, to be insulting and it’s really immature.

          • Amos Moses

            No, it is just another word with a different connotation,,,,,,, it is the truth that they do not want to speak,,,,,,,, they are using language to cloud the real problem that they have,,,,,,, and it is a lie…… The real word they are trying to avoid……is sin…….. they are in sin.. they know they are in sin…. but they think if they change the language…. people will not see it and that ….. somehow…. by that trick…. they will be acceptable…. when they know they are not….. not even to themselves………….

          • Jalapeno

            Are you claiming that the word they use doesn’t apply? That it doesn’t describe the situation, or are you just being childish because you think it doesn’t insult them enough?

          • Amos Moses

            How can it insult them……… unless it is a truth they want to distance themselves from with a lie? Liars do not like being exposed in their lie………

          • Jalapeno

            The term “abnormal” has a negative connotation and, well, a more negative meaning.

            That’s obviously why you insist on using it, but you take it to whole new levels of idiocy by saying they’re lying if they don’t use it.

          • Amos Moses

            How is what they do even considered “normal”? ………So that is a lie…….. So what if it has a “negative connotation”….. they have “pride” in that…… this is what they have chosen…. i insist on using it because it is the truth and that is what it is………. no amount of sophistry is going to change it……….

          • Jalapeno

            How is being in a polygamous relationship not “alternative”?

          • TheKingOfRhye

            Abnormal, alternative…..six of one, a half dozen of the other, if you ask me. But then again, I don’t consider the word “abnormal” to be an insult, like Amos Moses obviously does.

          • Bob Johnson

            Bird watching, motorcycle riding, monogamy, – my lifestyle is full of abnormal activities. Another one of my abnormal actives was to take a statistics class.

          • Amos Moses

            The first person liars must convince……….is themselves………

          • Amos Moses

            FYI, the truth is not a concept. The truth is not a what, it is a who…………….

          • ComeOnPeople!

            There will come a time where men call good… evil and evil… good. That time is at hand.

      • Josey

        so true

    • jjgrndisland

      To them, if it feels good, it’s right. In their worldview, sex is god.

    • gogo0

      group of people living together: not wrong.
      group of people legally married to each other: not right.
      group of people informally but not legally married to each other: I couldn’t care less.

      aside from that particular christian sect, who in the USA is fighting for polygamy?

      • Emmanuel

        Those that are currently and maybe those that want to be polygamists including secular and atheists. You said, it’s not right, why?

        • Guest

          Biblical polygamy was the male being able to have multiple concurrent marriage commitments and females only being allowed to have one. That would be unconstitutional. And no Abrahamic polygamist male wants their concubines to be able to legally have as many concubines as they want.

          As far as I know no one is even trying to create a civil contract recognizing legal concubinage.

          • Emmanuel

            Thank God that we live in secular America where everyone can have as many as possible.

          • Guest

            Yep, the alternative is a theocracy and we know how those have always gone.

          • Emmanuel

            Lord forbid we follow any biblical standards

          • Guest

            There is no biblical standard to force others to live according to beliefs not their own. Need only look at Israel in biblical times, Jesus never once said people should be force converted.

            Of course it would be great if people would live according to bibilical standards but if they did most of the articles on this blog site wouldn’t even exist.

        • gogo0

          i’m jealous of the tax breaks i’ll never get

          • Emmanuel

            LOL, me either so I have tons of kids.

    • Peter Leh

      “Supporters of Alternative Relationships, is this right or wrong?”

      outside of him being a deacon.. seem to me there is no explicit prohibition is scripture for polygamy.

      • Emmanuel

        Have you read the first couple of chapters of Genesis?

        • Bob Johnson

          It isn’t until Genesis 4:23 before the Bible starts mentioning multiple wives.

        • Peter Leh

          Indeed. if fact I believe in a literal adam and eve.

          Still waiting on that verse…. 🙂

          • Emmanuel

            genesis 2:24

          • Peter Leh

            24″ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

            indeed.

            So where is the verse that prohibits polygamy? God had plenty of opportunities with all the Israelite and families post adam and eve to say “Hey, one wife, got it?”

            He did with incest… not polygamy.

          • Emmanuel

            Notice that the verse says “to his wife”, plural or singular?
            Just a side note; Jesus’s standard is for the church and not the non-followers. We, as his church, need to follow his laws. The secular world can have polygamy.

          • Peter Leh

            like jacob? After wrestling with god all night god did not say ” wth, dude? two wives?”

          • Emmanuel

            Why not; yo Joseph make sure you only take Mary. Right?

          • Peter Leh

            right.

            No explicit prohibition… anywhere in scripture

          • Emmanuel

            so then; sin or not?

          • Peter Leh

            My OPINION notwithstanding…..only of you are a deacon from what i read in scripture.

            why one would WANT to have more than one wife is beyond me.

          • Emmanuel

            so not a sin, got it.

          • Peter Leh

            as always… i am open for correction. 🙂

  • Michael C

    How interesting. The appeals court didn’t say that Utah’s law prohibiting cohabitation was constitutional, they just said that the Browns had no cause to sue the state in the first place because they weren’t actually harmed by the law.

    This would make it very likely that, if this law was ever actually enforced, it would probably be ruled unconstitutional again.

    • Peter Leh

      would he have to get married to the other women in order to challenge?

      • Michael C

        No, that would be illegal everywhere.

        The Utah state law basically says that it’s illegal for a person to have multiple sexual partners living in the same house. That law is pretty certainly unconstitutional.

        The state never charged, arrested, fined, or took any sort of action against Brown for violating this law, thus he had no reason to sue. The appeals court didn’t as much issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law as they did just simply throw the whole case out.

        If Utah ever tries to take any sort of action against someone for breaking that law, that person would be able to sue the state and the law would probably be ruled unconstitutional.

  • faithful

    GOD did not tell anyone to marry more than one time an less you are a widow that does not mean cheat or have more than one wife at a time

    • Peter Leh

      nor did he tell them not to.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Polygamy is wrong although some men are so weak they practice it anyway. God’s will is one man and one woman for marriage. One man and one woman in the lifetime marriage covenant is God’s design and true love. All else are wrong and sinful. Even if man quests for what is right and good, he’d sin and mess up things. What would happen to a society if man actively seeks wrong and evil for himself and others? Post-christian or Ex-christian is far more tragic than Pre-christian. Man needs Jesus for salvation and the Judeo-Christian values to become civilized.

    • Peter Leh

      “Polygamy is wrong”

      opinion or scripturally based?

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        The Holy Scripture says so. God created one man and one woman for marriage. (Genesis) Jesus declared one man and one woman for marriage. ( The Gospels) All others are sexual sins. (The Epistles) Period. It appeared that God overlooked polygamy of some men in the Old Testanment because men are weak, but He never commenced it. Because of survival issues, capital punishment was not applied to the sins of polygamy.

        • Peter Leh

          I like that opinion… as there is not scripture , outside of being a deacon, the explicitly prohibits polygamy.

          We chrisitans had a stronger argument from scripture against homosexuality than polygamy.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You are not accurate. Both are sexual sins defined by the Lord Himself. Use concordance. If you read the entire Holy Bible on the regular basis, you’d know the above content is a summary of the Biblical message. You need to know the whole message. Please get a copy of the Holy Bible. Even if you don’t have a copy, you can use Biblegateway on internet. True Christians seek out what God wills and means by studying ALL of His Word and by asking the Holy Spirit for guidance, instead of excusing sins or clinging onto a few verses. Study the whole. Christianity is not for laziness. Finding out what the Author intends is the basis of the interpretation.

          • Peter Leh

            still waiting on that specific scripture explicitly prohibiting polygamy…..

            (i’ll be waiting for awhile as there is none.)

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Genesis 1, Matthew 19, I Corinthians 7, and Revelation 22.

          • Peter Leh

            i have read those. none prohibit polygamy.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You haven’t. Marriage between one man and one woman is not polygamy. Jesus declared all others as sin. What is not God’s will must not be done by men.

          • Peter Leh

            so in the meantime Jacob wrestles with god who is going to bless him and never mentions ” 2 wive Jacob really?” The only time god got after David is when he took ANOTHER mans wife… so while god is talking through nathan, he never said” multiple wive’s david, really?”

            so there have been plenty of face to face opportunities for god to establish prohibition in the very face of the polygamist he was to bless or curse…but god did not

            the only explicit requirement for a man to have one wife is to be a deacon.

            There is no explicit prohibition in the scriptures to polygamy.

            inferences? yes you listed verses that infer one man one wife. BUt as we view how the bible plays out form adam to john’s vision and the opportunities for others (who obviously knew god law as well, no?) to correct those in the “sin of polygamy” there is not one example.

            NOT ONE

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You are wrong. the number for wife is always singular. [“Haven’t you read,” He(Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Mathew ch 19)]

          • Peter Leh

            “You are wrong. the number for wife is always singular.”

            Tell that to Jacob. God certainly did not tell him when we was wrestling face to face.

            Nathan said nothing to David either.

            Seems to me if it were a sin and god was talking to you face to face he would bring it up, no?

            Instead Nathan only brought up the sin of David taking ANOTHER man’s wife. He did not lose his children over multiple wives David lost his son with the wife that as not his.

            Then came Solomon…. the son of a polygamist. Direct lineage to the messiah.

          • Peter Leh

            still waiting on that verse explicitly, not inferring , prohibiting polygamy.

            i told you.. it is not there. even when god had a chance face to face with those who are, he never brought it up.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            In the OT era, God did not explicitly punish men’s such weakness maybe because surviving was too hard. It’s something like not-punishing the bread thieves for theft who did it out of starvation. Stealing is always sinful and wrong, but not all theft brings exactly same punishment. The Messiah came through Jacob’s first wife Leah. In King David’s case, all the oldest sons were not fit for the royal line for one reason or another. Don’t forget David was punished for murder as well, although he is less guilty than all modern men and women who just keep watching infanticide(abortion) in silence and do nothing about it. Solomon is Joseph’s ancestor, not Mary’s. He was led astray by many pagan wives. Jesus declares man and women, never man and women or men and woman. Stop excusing sins. In the NT era, polygamy is unacceptable to Christians and to all civilized people. No ands and no buts. God’s design and His will is Adam and Eve, man and woman. Period.

          • Peter Leh

            “In the NT era, polygamy is unacceptable to Christians and to all civilized people”

            culturally unacceptable? yes.

            expressly prohibited by scripture… again… no

            “In the OT era, God did not explicitly punish men’s such weakness maybe because surviving was too hard.”

            so god is going to over look what he established in the beginning? doubtful.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            In the beginning, God established monogamy. (Genesis ch. 1 and 2) Cultures always contain falsehood. Jesus prohibited polygamy by declaring the marriage of one man and one woman. He never mentioned any other forms as marriage. The NT era was declared as a new era where every man has to repent of sins. Read the Book of Acts. The system of polygamy probably prevented many women’s suicide in the OT era and throughout the pagan world where Christianity is absent, but the wrong is wrong.

  • http://www.bing.com/ Martin Smit

    So the law is the law, and it applies except when it is not applied. I wonder if this ruling will be applied. Maybe it’s just advice.

    • Josey

      right…lol

  • Josey

    Like Paul the apostle said, it would be better to remain unmarried so he could solely focus on the ministry Jesus called him so he would not be distracted but he understood that not all were called to that lifestyle and a single guy or woman cannot procreate as God has commanded but having one wife or one husband is enough, imo and has enough stress at times as well as joy, I am positive hubby would agree…ha.