Judge Finalizes ‘Sister Wives’ Polygamy Ruling, Both Sides Prepare For Appeals

A federal judge who issued a final ruling that struck down parts of the state’s anti-polygamy law has also offered the family that appears on the television reality show Sister Wives another victory, collection of attorney fees.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, ruled in favor of the stars of the TLC reality show in December striking down bigamy laws. Although the judge held back on the final ruling as he weighed whether Kody Brown and his four wives could collect attorneys’ fees. Waddoups ruled in their favor on that issue Wednesday, capping a landmark decision for the family that sued Utah in 2011 after a county prosecutor threatened to charge them following the premiere of the TV show. This means that Kody Brown and his four wives will be reimbursed for the expense the case caused the family.

For those not following the case, back in 2012 the Brown family fled the state of Utah after their reality television show aired. The state threatened legal action against the family noting that bigamy was illegal in the state. Bigamy is defined by the State of Utah as follows,

(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. (2) Bigamy is a felony of the third degree. (3) It shall be a defense to bigamy that the accused reasonably believed he and the other person were legally eligible to remarry.

If found guilty of bigamy, a person can face up to five years in prison. The Browns were technically guilty under that definition, but the family said the law impeded on their Constitutional right to freedom of religion. The family left Utah in fear of legal persecution and potential jail time and moved to Nevada. Once in Nevada, the family filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah stating that their freedom of religion was violated and that the Utah bigamy law is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was ongoing until December of last year when Judge Waddoups ruled in favor of the family.

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However, the state’s Attorney General Sean Reyes has said he will appeal the decision. The Brown’s attorney is hoping that Reyes will reconsider his decision to take the case to appeals.

“Attorney General Reyes takes an oath to protect the Constitution and that is exactly what this decision does. For the state of Utah to appeal this case, it will have to go to [the appeals court in] Denver and argue against the freedom of religion.”

The ruling does not allow for one person to have more than one marriage license; however, it does allow consenting adults to live together in relationships with as many individuals as they choose without prosecution.

What do you think of the ruling? Should polygamy and bigamy be illegal?