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Polygamists, citing famous gay case, sue for their rights
by Rex Wockner
2011-07-20

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The polygamist family portrayed in the reality TV show Sister Wives is suing Utah and using the famous U.S. Supreme Court case that erased the United States' remaining sodomy laws to bolster the case.

Kody Brown and his four wives (only one of whom he is legally married to) hope to invalidate a Utah law that prevents residents from having more than one "purport[ed]" spouse. The same law also bans married people from shacking up with a non-spouse.

It says: "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."

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, "The law, therefore, applies not just to individuals who have obtained multiple marriage licenses, but also to those who are legally married to only one person, while also engaging in other marriage-like relationships that are not recognized by the state."

The lawsuit does not seek legalization of polygamous marriage, but only to erase the law that prohibits Utahans from referring to more than one person as their spouse.

The suit is built, in part, on the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down several states' bans on gay sex. In that ruling, the Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional for governments to intrude on consenting adults' "intimate conduct."

Kody argues that the Utah ban on multiple spiritual wives violates numerous parts of the U.S. Constitution in areas that include equal protection, due process, free speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion.

Brown and his family are currently under criminal investigation by the state of Utah. They have moved to Nevada as a result.

—Assistance: Bill Kelley


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