Federal judge refuses to dismiss challenge to Utah polygamy ban

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [court website] on Friday refused to dismiss [opinion] a case challenging the state's prohibition on bigamy. The lawsuit was filed by the stars of the reality TV show "Sister Wives." Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that even though the Utah County Attorney has stated his office would not prosecute the family, the family is not barred from pursuing the suit based on the constitutional mootness doctrine. The family's attorney, Jonathan Turley, welcomed the news in a blog post [text] saying that as a result of the opinion "both the Brown family and the people of Utah can now expect a ruling on the power of the state to criminalize private relations among consenting adults."

Kody Brown and his four wives, the plaintiffs in this case, are stars of TLC's reality show Sister Wives [official website]. A police investigation [Utah News report] against them has been ongoing since September 2010, when the show was first announced and premiered. Utah's Anti-Bigamy Statute [statute, text] has been on the books since 1862. The family challenged the law [JURIST report] last year as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. While polygamy is now recognized in most of Africa and the Middle East, it is still illegal in most of North and South America, Europe and China. In 2005, the US District Court for the District of Utah rejected a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] brought against Utah's Anti-Bigamy Statute, reaffirming the 1879 US Supreme Court case Reynolds v. United States [text], which upheld a conviction under an anti-polygamy law as constitutional.

 

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