Sister Wives Stars Are Your New Civil Rights Heroes

Kody Brown and his family — the stars of the TLC series Sister Wives — plan to file a lawsuit challenging Utah's bigamy law. Kody has four "wives": Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn. But he's only legally married to Meri — the other weddings were religious ceremonies, and polygamy is part of The Browns' religious beliefs.

According to the AP:

Bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah. A person can be found guilty of bigamy through cohabitation, not just legal marriage contracts.

In a statement posted on his blog, [the Browns' lawyer, Jonathan Turley] said the lawsuit will challenge Utah's right to prosecute people for their private relationships.


Since marriage rights have been in the news lately — specifically New York State's — it seems like the Browns want some of that "everybody's free to feel good" pixie dust sprinkled on them. Their lawyer is arguing that challenging this law in Utah is good for all Americans:

"We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs… In that sense, it is a challenge designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values - even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state."

And dammit, he has a point. It makes sense. There are about 38,000 Mormon fundamentalists living polygamist lives. Even if you're not a fan of these people or their values — it's completely creepy to me that Kody has sex with four ladies but is "sickened" by the thought of his wife with another man — they should not worry about being arrested. Interracial marriage was illegal until 1967. Prior to 1962, sodomy (defined as oral, anal or same sex sexual contact) was a felony in every state of the United States. Times change. the Browns aren't asking for their multiple marriages to be recognized (yet?) but this particular bigamy law does seem problematic.


Of course, that doesn't mean that the religion the Browns practice isn't creeptastic. If you watch the show, you know that Kody didn't even grow up in the AUB — Apostolic United Brethern — he just liked the whole "marry more than woman" part. And when we talk about "the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations" we should remember that the FLDS has a problem with child brides. Sometimes the government does need to step in. Marriage is a legal contract, so the law is involved, even amongst consenting adults… Or one adult, as with the woman who married an amusement park ride.


'Sister Wives' Family To Challenge Utah Bigamy Law [AP]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Sandra Dee

Isn't it only bigamy is you legally marry someone while still being legally married to someone else?

You can have religious ceremonies, hand-fastings, parties, etc. that say you are married to as many adults as you want and that's between you and your religious and social communities.

However if you file multiple marriage licenses or file joint tax returns with multiple people then you are in bigamy territory and subject to prosecution.

As far as I can tell the Browns have broken no laws.

Sorry long day at the office and I missed the part about Utah having cohabitation = bigamy laws. Yeah that law should be removed.