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Published On: Mon, Dec 16th, 2013

TLC’s Kody Brown wins as Utah judge strikes down key parts of polygamy ban

Kody Brown of TLC’s reality show Sister Wives has been battling a lawsuit since 2011 claiming the polygamy ban violates the privacy rights of he and his four wives: Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn.

Kody Brown Sister Wives photoAll states prohibit polygamy, but Utah also bans residents from living together in a polygamous relationship, something Brown said violates his freedom of religion. He is a member of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist Mormon sect.

Brown is married to Meri, and considers his relationship with the other three women as being “spiritual unions.” They had to relocate to Nevada to escape punishment after being investigated by the state.

“Homosexuals and polygamists do have a common interest: the right to be left alone as consenting adults,” Brown’s attorney told reporters. “There is no spectrum of private consensual relations—there is just a right of privacy that protects all people so long as they do not harm others.”

Judge Clark Waddoups determined that Utah’s prohibition on polygamist cohabitation violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and interfered with the right to privacy. He pointed to the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized sodomy in the nation, and differentiated unmarried sexual conduct from criminal bigamy.

“Consensual sexual privacy is the touchstone of the rational basis review analysis in this case, as in Lawrence,” he wrote. “The court believes that Plaintiffs are correct in their argument that, in prohibiting cohabitation under the statute, ‘it is, of course, the state that has equated private sexual conduct with marriage.’”

Waddoups threw out the cohabitation section of the statute, while upholding the prohibition on bigamy.

“The court finds the cohabitation prong of the statute unconstitutional on numerous grounds and strikes it,” he concluded. “As a result, and to save the statute, the court adopts the interpretation of  ’marry’ and ‘purports to marry,’ … thus allowing the statute to remain in force as prohibiting bigamy in the literal sense…”

Brown applauded the judge’s ruling on Friday, releasing a statement that called for tolerance of his polygamous lifestyle.

“While we know that many people do not approve of plural families, it is our family and based on our beliefs,” he wrote. “Just as we respect the personal and religious choices of other families, we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs.”

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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  1. Polygamy Activism in the Reality Show World | Tanya Granic Allen says:

    […] Furthermore, the plaintiff’s attorney said the following: […]

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