Sunday, December 15, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: Federal Judge Declares Utah Polygamy Law Unconstitutional

The phrase "or cohabits with another person" is a violation of both the 1st and 14th amendments, says Judge Waddoups 

There's blockbuster news on the Utah domestic relations front this weekend, as the Salt Lake Tribune reports on what can only be described as a stunning Federal Court development:  On Friday (12/13/13) "a U.S. District Court judge sided" with a polygymous Utah family, ruling that "key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional." Here's yesterday's eye-popping Jim Dalrymple II story, folks.
Specfically, Friday's ruling invalidates portions of  Utah Code Section 76-7-101which provides, among other things, that "(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." [Emphasis added.]

Here's the gist,  from the above linked SL-Trib writeup:
Judge Clark Waddoups’ 91-page ruling, issued Friday (12/13/13) , sets a new legal precedent in Utah, effectively decriminalizing polygamy. It is the latest development in a lawsuit filed by the family of Kody Brown, who became famous while starring in cable TV channel TLC’s reality series "Sister Wives." The show entered a fourth season at the end of the summer.
Waddoups’ ruling attacks the parts of Utah’s law making cohabitation illegal. In the introduction, Waddoups says the phrase "or cohabits with another person" is a violation of both the First and 14th amendments. Waddoups later writes that while there is no "fundamental right" to practice polygamy, the issue really comes down to "religious cohabitation." In the 1800s — when the mainstream LDS Churh still practiced polygamy — "religious cohabitation" in Utah could have actually resulted in "multiple purportedly legal marriages." Today, however, simply living together doesn’t amount to being "married," Waddoups writes.
"The court finds the cohabitation prong of the Statute unconstitutional on numerous grounds and strikes it," Waddoups later writes. Utah’s bigamy statute technically survived the ruling. However, Waddoups took a narrow interpretation of the words "marry" and "purports to marry," meaning that bigamy remains illegal only in the literal sense — when someone fraudulently acquires multiple marriage licences.
Needless to say, the the plaintiffs and their trial counsel are "whooping it up" (even more than usual), in which connection we're delighted provide this link to prevailing attorney Turley's blog, where the post-decision tone is more than a mite celebratory:
As Mr. Turley anticipates, this matter will be no doubt taken up on appeal by the Utah Attorney General’s Office (what's left of it) to the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

It goes without saying, of course, that we'll be keeping a close eye on this.

As an added bonus, we'll present what we suggest might be the possible new "Brown Family" theme-song, heheheh:
In the meantime, what say our gentle readers about all this?

9 comments:

BlueSky said...

I don't care what consenting adults do as long as their children are well-taken care of and raised so that they can fit into "regular" society. The irony is that this is in the state that won't yet recognize same-sex marriage.

Bob Becker said...

Lot of kerfuffle about relatively litte. All the judge invalidated was part of the law declaring a married person cohabiting in addition with someone or someones not his or her spouse is bigamy. That's all. This brings Utah law into compliance with the law in very nearly every other state. His ruling did not "legalize polygamy" in Utah. Merely said it's shacking up (legal) so long as no more than one marriage license is issued joining two people within the group.

Jan said...

Yah,
if that is their faith, why do I care? If my husband wanted another
wife, he'd be divorced by me. I guess I just don't care what people do
to "harm" themselves if it does not harm others. Let him have 5 wives!
How many married men have 5 girlfriends?

Catherine said...

It
makes no sense for a man to have multiple wives. It makes much more
sense for a woman to have several husbands. In any case I know some
people in the polyamory community who will be relieved that living all
together is finally legal ... lol

Virginia said...

Having
several hubby's is another question, which should be legal, too. i
don't need that, but if u want a legal union, then so be it.

Virginia said...

My main concern, is, young 30 yr old women who can't find the "right" man.... if they can enter into a polyamous relationship, then i say, go for it. MY OPINION is, monogamy is no better.

Catherine said...

Polygamy
certainly does reinforce patriarchy. Of course if it were legal, it
would have to work both ways - as for myself... I like the idea of
marriage, but not particularly keen to have even one spouse at this
juncture of my life.

Mike said...

This
guy "Mr. Brown" grew up about 25 miles from where I live. They all lived here for
awhile. I think they are attracted to his "big"... Heart.

Dan S. said...

I disagree. There are thousands of polygamists in Utah who have lived in fear of prosecution under this law and who can now relax a little, assuming the ruling stands. I hope this will lead to better integration of polygamous communities into the rest of society, which can only be good for the poor kids...

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