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US top court rebuffs ‘Sister Wives’ challenge to anti-bigamy law

Kody Brown, center, stars in TLC's "Sister Wives.” Photo courtesy of TLC

(Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to Utah’s anti-bigamy law brought by the polygamist stars of the popular reality television show “Sister Wives.”

The justices declined Monday (Jan. 23) to take up an appeal by Kody Brown and his four wives, only one of whom he is legally married to, of a lower court’s ruling that threw out their challenge that claimed Utah’s law banning multiple spouses violated their religious liberty rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

They also claimed the law violated their legally protected right to privacy.

After the show first aired on cable television network TLC in 2010, authorities in Utah announced they were investigating the family for violations of the anti-bigamy law. Fearing criminal prosecution, the family moved to Nevada in 2011.

“Sister Wives” revolves around the lives of Kody Brown and wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, as well as their many children. The family has a religious belief in polygamy, according to court papers.

Brown and the four women are fundamentalist Mormons, part of the Apostolic United Brethren Church.

The family sued Utah authorities in Salt Lake City federal court. The district court found that part of the law relating to cohabitation violated the Constitution but the rest was lawful. The family appealed but the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the case because Kody Brown and the four women “faced no credible threat of prosecution.”

While Utah’s state attorney general had a policy not to prosecute polygamists under the anti-bigamy law unless other crimes were involved, such as child abuse or domestic violence, Jeffrey Buhman, the county attorney for Utah County, did not have a similar policy in place.

During the litigation, however, Buhman adopted the same prosecution policy, prompting the 10th Circuit to throw out the case.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court. They should not be blocked from moving forward with their suit based on a new policy that could easily be revoked by officials in the future, the family told the justices.

The case in the Supreme Court of the United States is Kody Brown et al v. Jeffrey Buhman, No. 16-333.

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  • “While Utah’s state attorney general had a policy not to prosecute polygamists under the anti-bigamy law unless other crimes were involved, such as child abuse or domestic violence”

    Then get rid of the law. What the heck is the purpose of a law you never enforce?? Or, never enforce except to slap on additional penalties to people who broke different crimes (and therefore received punishment deemed appropriate for those crimes??)

  • Utah still has their sodomy laws on the books. Why? Because they 1) want to send a message, and 2) they really, really hope they are able to have them be valid once again.

  • I’ve no doubt this issue will be raised again by one side or the other in the not so distant future. It will be interesting to watch it play out in the courts.

  • There are polygamist enclaves all over the place. I have an objection based on the issue of polyandry. If a man can have many wives, why can’t a woman have many husbands? As long as the wives are over 18 and as long as the matings are voluntary, what’s the problem? If all the wives are treated equally, what’s the problem?

  • This demonstrates the bankruptcy of the Supremes. On what basis did they declare the right of homosexuals to “marry” and deny the same to polygamists? Mass impeachment is in order.
    Throw out God and you lose your mind.

  • The SCOTUS shows it’s hypocrisy! If homosexuals have a “right” to “marry”, against all evidence, being an un-natural act, then certainly one could argue that there is more evidence supporting (I don’t personally)polygamy, and that if anti-sodomy laws are “unconstitutional”, then why would anti-polygamy laws be valid?

  • The Supreme Court is a fraud. They throw out God’s definition of a marriage and say that two men can make a marriage. If man is going to define marriage, than the idea that only two people can enter into a marriage is just as arbitrary. Supreme Court Cowards didn’t want to have to face the music about the Pandora’s Box they have now opened. They have zero reason NOT to hear this case except that it will reveal the mess they have now unleashed.

  • Don’t worry. We will be there in a decade, two at the most. I fully expect human/animal marriages in 50 years or so. We have taken leave of common sense and so we run around like blind men, condemning nothing and endorsing everything.

  • Just refile claiming it violates the 14th amendment. Use the same argument the gays did and slam dunk.