Does marriage equality include polygamy?
That’s what Kody Brown, patriarch of the TLC reality series Sister Wives, and his four wives are arguing.
CBS reports that the famous family is headed to court to make the argument that allowing gay marriage means there’s no constitutional basis for denying consenting adult relationships of any sort, including polygamous ones like theirs.
“The Browns were investigated and no crimes or harm was found in their plural family,” the family’s attorney, Jonathan Turley, wrote in court documents filed on Wednesday in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The family, who live in Utah, said they are prepared to take their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
And the groundwork for a victory for the Browns is already there. In 2013, a federal judge struck down major parts of Utah’s ban on polygamy. According to polygamists and activists in the state, that decision keeps polygamous families safe from being arrested and prosecuted for their lifestyle.
But Utah’s Attorney General, Sean Reyes, appealed that decision, saying laws against polygamy exist because they protect women and children from abusive relationships and families.
But unlike advocates for same-sex marriage, Brown and his wives aren’t seeking full legal recognition of their plural marriages (under their arrangement, Brown is legally married — as in he holds a marriage license for — to one of his wives and is “spiritually married” to the others).
Instead, they’re only seeking to have the legal bans removed. Their court filing doesn’t mention the ability to have legal marriage licenses — or full marriage benefits — with more than one woman.
In the prior case that rewrote the polygamy laws in Utah, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, who ruled that laws against cohabitation violated the family’s religious freedom, left in place provisions limiting marriage licenses to one per person.