Sister Wives is set to return to TLC in May as the Brown family continues to challenge Utah’s law banning bigamy.
Kody Brown and his four wives from TLC’s Sister Wives filed appeal papers late Monday, asking a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling earlier this month that upheld Utah’s bigamy law and actually dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state by the Browns in 2013.
The Brown family says Utah’s bigamy law violates their constitutional rights. After Sister Wives first aired on TLC in 2010, the Brown family came under investigation by the state of Utah and the Lehi, Utah, police for possible bigamy violations.
Kody Brown and his four “sister” wives responded to the investigation by filing a lawsuit in 2013 against Utah, challenging the state’s bigamy law that altogether bans having multiple wives.
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At the time, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups sided with the Brown family and struck down several key components of Utah’s bigamy law.
However, the state of Utah went on to appeal Judge Waddoups’ decision, and filed an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, which then went on to uphold Utah’s law banning bigamy. The 10th Circuit Court also threw out the Brown’s case against the state of Utah.
A panel of three judges dismissed the Brown’s lawsuit earlier this month in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the Browns don’t face prosecution because Kody Brown is legally married to only one woman. The court said the Brown family can’t challenge Utah’s bigamy law because they were never facing criminal charges under it.
Kody Brown is legally married to only one of his four “sister” wives, and has previously admitted that he’s only “spiritually” married to the other three.
But the Brown’s lawyer, Jonathan Turley, is asking the court to reconsider the Brown’s lawsuit, because the court system in Utah still considers their lifestyle a crime. The Browns want an entire of panel of 12 judges to hear their case.
Turley said the Sister Wives family would constantly face a threat of prosecution in Utah. In fact, the Browns say that Utah’s law banning bigamy still hangs over them when they visit the state.
“The Browns, and all cohabitating adults, live under the continual threat of such prosecution and remain labeled as felons under the law. That threat is not just capable of repetition, it is ongoing.”
Fox 13 out of Salt Lake City, Utah, reports that late on Monday, the Browns filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals, asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to review the decision to uphold Utah’s law that bans bigamy. The appeal asks for a new panel of 12 judges to review the decision handed down by the panel of three judges.
According to the Browns, their family can still be targeted and prosecuted for years as a felony under the Utah law, even though they are all adults with a consensual, private relationship.
Some critics agree that polygamy is not a lifestyle most people would choose, but states should not tell consenting adults how to live. Others argue that if gay marriage is alright, then why not polygamy?
Supporters of Sister Wives and the Browns say there are no victims in this case, and the kids are all loved and provided for.
Since all states allow same-sex marriage licenses, Brown family supporters also say that states should allow polygamy marriage licenses. Others believe that states should stay out of all marriages and stop regulating, saying it’s ridiculous what is and isn’t allowed.
The Brown family actually ran from the state of Utah after Sister Wives aired in 2010. In 2011, Kody Brown and his four wives moved from Lehi, Utah, where Sister Wives started, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to avoid polygamy prosecution.
According to CBS News, Utah has a unique history of polygamy dating back more than 100 years that has forced girls to marry at a young age and boys to be kicked out on the streets due to competition among older men seeking multiple brides.
Assistant Utah Attorney General, Jerrold Jensen, says the state of Utah has an interest in preventing further child abuse and social harm caused by polygamy.
Jensen said in 2013 that if Kody Brown kept separate households for each wife, or stayed legally married to only one wife and had affairs with the other three, then their relationship wouldn’t be considered bigamy.
Judge Waddoups also said in 2013 that Utah’s bigamy law is stricter than the other 49 states, and should be thrown out. According to Waddoups, other states only make it illegal to have multiple marriage licenses, but Utah “makes it illegal to even purport to be married to multiple partners or live together.”
But the Brown family won’t consider changing their polygamous lifestyle to satisfy the law of one state. The four women in Kody Brown’s life believe they are following their faith by living this way and sharing one man.
Instead, the Brown family is asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider their recent ruling in support of Utah’s law that bans bigamy.
Patriarch Kody Brown says he only agreed to participate in Sister Wives as a way to educate the public and shine some light on polygamy, and to combat societal prejudices against polygamist families. The Brown family managed to keep their polygamist lifestyle a secret for years prior to Sister Wives.
Three out of four of Kody Brown’s “sister” wives were raised in polygamist families. But Kody’s wife, Janelle, was not. Kody has been with Meri for 25 years, Janelle for 22 years, Christine for 21 years, and Robyn for 5 years. Kody remains legally married to Robyn, and “spiritually” married to the other three women.
Kody Brown was first legally married to first wife, Meri, until they divorced in September, 2014. He then legally married wife number four, Robyn, in December, 2014, so he could legally adopt her three children from her first marriage, which was a monogamous marriage.
Some people can’t believe Sister Wives is even still on the air, but a new season of Sister Wives is coming to TLC in May.
Sister Wives first broadcast on TLC in 2010 as a reality TV show that follows a polygamist family with one husband, advertising salesman Kody Brown, his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, and their 18 children.
At the time, polygamy and multiple wives were hot topics in American culture, with Big Love on HBO and Lone Star on Fox. Those two TV shows surrounding polygamy have since been canceled, but Sister Wives has managed to survive through six full seasons.
According to Parent Herald, Sister Wives Season 7 is set to premiere on TLC on Sunday, May 8, at 8 p.m.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]