State Sued On Grounds Of "Religious Freedom"

The polygamous family featured on TLC's Sister Wives challenged the laws that drove them out of their home state of Utah Wednesday in federal court.

Sister Wives lawsuit

While Kody Brown and his four wives were not present, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups spent much of the 45-minute hearing grilling state prosecutors who are trying to block the case from moving forward.

The Associated Press reports that in Utah, just claiming to have more than one wife is a third-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to five years.

The Browns have sued the state and Utah County, where they lived before fleeing to Nevada, on the grounds that these laws attack their religious freedom.

The family of Sister Wives fame assert they practice polygamy as part of their belief system with the Apostolic United Brethren, a fundamentalist Mormon church.

The Utah Attorney General's Office claims that the practice isn't a protected religious freedom as states regulate marriage.

They also say they won't prosecute consenting adult polygamists — unless there is another crime involved.

That's important because Utah County dropped criminal charges against the family. In turn, the County moved to have the lawsuit dismissed as "the Browns no longer have standing since they aren't subject to prosecution," according to the AP.

Judge: Reluctant to throw out case?

But Judge Waddoups appeared sympathetic to the Browns on Wednesday — going so far as to say the state and county policies were "simply a ruse to avoid having the issue reviewed."

"What's the policy reason behind this... that would give assurances that similar prosecutions will not be pursued in the future?" Waddoups asked. "What about the next couple?"

While state attorneys insist that the Browns and others won't be prosecuted, the family's attorney says otherwise — that the policies are not "legally binding."

Perhaps more than anything, Brown's camp argues that existing policies "stigmatize" Kody, his "legal" wife, Meri, and "spiritual wives" Janelle, Christine and Robyn.

While the judge seemed reluctant to throw out the case, he hasn't ruled on its fate just yet.

Decriminalizing polygamy would have implications for far more than the famous Browns and their brood of 17 kids; the AP reports there are "tens of thousands" of Mormon fundies practicing polygamy, and many call Utah home.

Image courtesy of Judy Eddy/


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Comments on "Sister Wives stars challenge bigamy laws in court"

kasterkim December 17, 2012 | 1:37 PM

I do understand why America is so fond of this family. They seem like a happy/ loving family. ( I feel sympathetic to the women, but Kody with his constand used car salesman smile- yuck) I see through this fassade. The women look like they always take steps back and suppress their emotions...they feel as jealousy is wrong. Everytime there is a problem they think it's their fault and about their issues. Kody is always the king. They act like independet women on TV- but at the end of the day, their lives revolve around Kody. They share him and everytime he comes they want to make it special for him. He's just like a spoiled kid, that never gets enough. I think it's perfectly normal to not want your man to sleep with other women. And I go further to believe that women are not build for this lifestyle. It might be nice for Kody- because he seems to have the least problems with it. Every time one of his wives opens up about her feelings, he looks like a little boy that doesn't understand the world anymore. They might act like everything is fine and keep themselves occupied with their kids etc. but it shows that they are not truly happy. Everytime they sit on the red couch, they look like they either just cried or cried for days...and TLC edited it out, to make it look all good. Sorry, but I don't believe in this lifestyle ( and it is a lifestyle- therfor a choice, and NOT to be compared to homouals. people are just the way they are and want nothing more than equal rights...not multipile partners) If you choose to live in polygamy, do it...but take care of all of your wives and kids on your own and don't make the taxpayers pay- like it happens so often in these cases. Greetings from Germany

Jancis M. Andrews August 26, 2012 | 9:10 AM

I wonder if these women realize what they're doing to themselves and theeir children, or are they just ignorant? Only the first (therefore legal) wife and her children are covered by the man's pensions, health insurance, vision and dental insurance, life insurance and tax benfits. The remaining women, who are merely concubines in the man's harem, are on their own and face poverty for themselves, and even more importantly, for their children. What's the matter with them? Do they feel they can't manage a household without the help of other women? Don't they care that while he has a fest every night they have to take the humiliating postition of lining up and taking their turn like cows waiting to be serviced by a bull? They should wake up and smell the coffee. The year is 2012 AD, not 2012 BC, and there is no place for concubines and harems in any country that calls itself civilized.

Emma July 26, 2012 | 11:16 AM

I don't agree with polygamy at all and don't feel that they should be protected under any "religious rights." I believe marriage is one man and one woman. But if this is allowed, why isn't marriage?

Caitlin July 26, 2012 | 10:17 AM

I don't necessarily agree with polygamy, but if that's their belief, I think they should be allowed to do what they want, as long as no one is forced against their will and they aren't hurting anyone.

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