The Browns, a polygamous family from the reality show Sister Wives, hopes to make their case for legalizing polygamy before the United States Supreme Court. They filed a request for hearing on Monday, September 12, and await a decision.
According to Yahoo! News, Kody Brown and his four wives, Meri, Christine, Janelle, and Robyn, seek to combat a Utah appeal court’s ruling that forbids cohabitation with more than one partner. Although Brown is only legally married to one of his wives—he is “spiritually married” to the other three—it remains illegal for him to live with all four women.
Generally, Utah does not pursue its polygamist residents, but prosecutors explain that banning the practice is a necessary measure. Without the ban, it’s much harder to charge members of the community with crimes like underage marriage and sexual assault.
The Browns once lived in Lehi, Utah, but relocated to Nevada in 2011. Local authorities began to investigate them after the family appeared on Sister Wives and chronicled their way of life. They currently reside in Las Vegas, and while no charges have been filed against them, the Browns fear that they remain at risk.
Attorney Jonathan Turley represents the family and argues that religious freedom is at stake in the case. Via Yahoo! News:
“‘This has been an extended and difficult struggle for the Brown family, but they have never wavered in their commitment to defending the important principles of religious freedom in this case,’ Turley said. ‘Utah is a state that was founded by courageous citizens seeking these very protections from government abuse and religious inequality. This lawsuit is true to the original dream of those seeking freedom in Utah.’”
Some 38,000 Mormon fundamentalists follow a polygamist lifestyle, or believe in the practice. Most live out West, generally in Utah. However, the mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prohibits polygamy, and eliminated it from their doctrine in 1890.
Will the Brown family galvanize a significant legislative change in this domain? First their case must be selected for hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s statistically unlikely. Roughly 7,500 cases are appealed every year, and less than one percent are heard by the court.
You can read the Brown’s petition in full here.