Utah may appeal polygamy ruling

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawyers for the state of Utah are huddling to decide whether to appeal a federal judge's ruling, striking down part of Utah's polygamy ban as unconstitutional.

The decision late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups essentially decriminalized polygamy in the state of Utah. It is a decision that has thrilled polygamists.

"We're ecstatic!" Joe Darger, a polygamist who has three wives, told FOX 13 News. "To be able to be open and live free, and just step out of the shadows of fear."

The ruling declared the portion of Utah's anti-polygamy law dealing with cohabitation unconstitutional. Utah has used it in the past to prosecute polygamists, by showing they were "purporting" to marry someone, regardless of whether the union was legal.

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, challenging the state's ban on polygamy, claiming it violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. Judge Waddoups did not strike polygamy from the books, but preserved the bigamy statute to simply target someone who seeks multiple marriage licenses as a fraud.

On Saturday, the Utah Attorney General's Office had lawyers huddling and studying the ruling. Interim Utah Attorney General Brian Tarbet told FOX 13 News that a decision on an appeal could come as early as next week.

"I don't think we were surprised, given the court hearing back in January," he said of legal arguments made in the case. "But we'll take a look at it and go from there."

Utah gave up polygamy as a condition for statehood around 1890. The state also has a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to something between "one man and one woman."

Asked about the ruling on Saturday, Governor Gary Herbert told FOX 13 News it "certainly has ramifications for Utah."

"I'm always a little concerned when we have decisions that change public policy by the courts," the governor said. "I'd much rather see decisions on social issues come from our legislature, representing the will of the people."

Darger said the ruling certainly has implications for Utah's definition of marriage.

"For us, we simply wanted to be left alone and be free," he said. "And we think we finally have that."

What do you think the law in Utah should be regarding polygamy? Answer in our poll below:


  • Debbie Smith

    I’m happy for these people. you told me to get out of our lives in our family’s business. I’m not a polygamist but I don’t judge them. but dcfs took my grandkids away . ruin my family. duh did it ever occur to you we love our kids. mind your own business Utah. and dcfs you make me sick stop violating our civil rights. I’m not done I’ll never be done I want my babies back. oh sorry I can get one of them back the other one you killed. we also would like privacy in our family life 2 but out Utah

  • ivan

    As long as everyone is an adult and is not forced into it the government should leave them alone. There are many instances of polygamy in the old testament.

      • ivan

        The government has no right to be in our personal affairs. If it does not hurt someone else and everyone is an adult it is none of their business and it is none of your business. I am not LDS or a polygamist myself but at least they are honest with their partners rather than all the married/committed people that have someone on the side.

  • Eric Anderson

    The law leaves intact the ban on multiple marriage licenses, which the polygamists never have anyway.

    If they’re consenting adults it’s legal for them to do as they please, sexually. It was just illegal for them to SAY they were “married” while doing so. A bizarre restriction, and obviously unconstitutional.

    This isn’t the 19th century.

  • Hyrum_Justice

    All of the Mormons who have been lying for years that polygamy was against their own core beliefs are now coming out of their closet. Utah should just start making their own money and turn down all funding from the Federal Government who would not allow Utah as a state unless the anti-polygamy law was written into the constitution of Utah. What a lying bunch of scum.

    • sadpanda

      Mormons never said it was against their beliefs. They “outlawed” it in order to become a state, and only because it was a requirement of statehood. It was not because they needed statehood, it was because the USA needed them. At the time it was a sacrifice for the greater good of becoming a strong nation, but now that we live in a time of tolerance and respect, it is time to reinstitute this lifestyle.

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