‘Sister Wives’ polygamy lawsuit dismissed, may be appealed to Supreme Court

© Kamil Krzaczynski
A lawsuit to decriminalize polygamy brought about by the family of the reality TV show “Sister Wives” was thrown out of a federal appeals court in Utah when a judge found neither Kody Brown nor his four wives had faced prosecution for their consensual relationship.

In 2013, Kody Brown filed a lawsuit that sought to strike down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws. The language of the laws prohibits “cohabitation,” people living together as married without the legal stamp of approval, which is how many polygamist families practice their lifestyle. Although Brown has four wives and 18 biological children, he is only married to one of his wives legally – the others are all just “spiritually married.

In 2014, Brown’s lawsuit won him and his gaggle of wives the right to cohabit – although it was still illegal to obtain multiple marriage licenses.

However, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit on Monday, citing a lack of evidence that the Browns were facing prosecution. The Circuit Court cited the Utah County Attorney’s as proof of this.

In 2011, the family was under investigation by Lehi police after their show hit the TV channel TLC. However, in 2012, the Utah County Attorney testified under oath that he would not prosecute the Browns for polygamy unless they used it to commit other crimes, such as abuse or fraud.

Polygamy has been prohibited by federal law since 1852, but the Civil War got in the way of enforcing it, according to the Utah state government’s History to Go online course. Polygamy wasn’t banned-banned until 1879 when the Supreme Court upheld the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act in Reynolds v. United States.

Members of the Brown brood are planning their next moves following the decision. Their lawyer, Jonathan Turley, released a statement explaining that the family will appeal the decision, although it is not clear to which judicial body. The Supreme Court remains an option.

"The underlying rights of religious freedom and free speech are certainly too great to abandon after prevailing below in this case," Turley said.