‘Sister Wives’ Case Uses The Recent Same-Sex Court Ruling To Defend Polygamy

Family members in the TLC series, Sister Wives, has used the U.S. Supreme court ruling on gay marriage to help support their claim to practice polygamy without the threat of criminal charges.

A statement on the current court appeal by Sister Wives’ Kody Brown and his four wives, challenging a Utah judge’s decision to strike down part of the state’s polygamy ban was released, via Reuters, recently.

“The filing with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Kody Brown and the four women he considers his wives – Meri Brown, Janelle Brown, Christine Brown and Robyn Sullivan – came in response the Utah Attorney General’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling in their favor.

Fox 13 Now states that Kody Brown and his sister wives sued the state of Utah for its ban on polygamy, stating it directly violated their right to freely practice their religion. The cases cited in the Sister Wives hearing involve same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges) and a case that brought an end to the ban on gay sex (Lawrence v. Texas).

Eugene Volokh from the Washington Post also posted the friend-of-the-court brief on the Sister Wives case — Brown v. Buhman. This court brief outlines that “in Utah, one can promise love to someone in addition to one’s spouse. One can share one’s home and create a family with someone in addition to one’s spouse. But one cannot, under penalty of criminal law, call this other person one’s wife or husband, or otherwise express that one is religiously or spiritually married to more than one person.”

This is because, while polygamy is illegal in all states of the U.S., in Utah, there is also extra penalties for husbands and sister wives who practice polygamy. In Utah, it is a criminal offense to live with someone — even if you are not legally married — if you consider them a spouse or sister wife and you already have a legally binding contract calling someone else your spouse who you are currently still in a relationship with. Kody Brown and his sister wives argue that this criminal charge should be removed, citing the new same-sex marriage laws. The full court brief Volokh released can be viewed here.

But should polygamists such as the Sister Wives family be allowed the same rights as same-sex marriage? This is a heated question and many people who feel very strongly in favor of same-sex marriage are opposed to the notion of polygamy and multiple women living together as sister wives. After all, when men like Warren Jeffs take advantage of young, religiously brainwashed women and marry them for his own sexual gratification, then it is understandable that people are morally outraged by the thought of the sexual victimization. There are plenty of women (including Caroline Jessop who wrote a book on her life in the FLDS, Escape) who have escaped the clutches of the fundamentalist Mormon cult (FLDS) and have told their harrowing tales of neglect and abuse by both their husband’s and their sister wives.

HBO's Big Love explores the union of polygamy and sister wives

However, what if it were a family like what is seen in HBO’s TV series, Big Love? What if it is a genuine, law-abiding family who are living a polygamist relationship and all the adults are consenting participants? Shouldn’t the husband and his sister wives be given the right to make their union official in the eyes of the law as well as the eyes of God? Yes, they should as far as implications of the same-sex marriage laws go. There is the assumption that minority groups should be allowed to marry regardless of the definition of what constitutes marriage in the recent same-sex ruling. However, as it is with many laws, while the fundamental concept may be right, it is up to individuals to do the right thing by their fellow humans and not abuse the law.

What do you think on this case against the polygamist family in Sister Wives? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

[Image credit: TLC / HBO Inc.]