Cartoon depiction of polygamist family
The Browns, the polygamist family in "Sister Wives," are suing the state of Utah, contending that prosecuting them for polygamy would violate their constitutional rights. Photo: soxophone player/

The polygamist family in The Learning Channel reality show “Sister Wives” has filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah, challenging anti-bigamy statues that outlaw polygamy. The suit asks for an injunction against any prosecution for polygamy, contending that it violates their constitutional freedom.

Reality television family claims constitutional freedoms at stake

The Brown family, featured on reality television show “Sister Wives,” is suing the state of Utah, according to the International Business Times, to prevent prosecution against family patriarch Kody Brown and his wives. The Browns left Utah for Nevada in 2010 because they believed the state of Utah was going to arrest them for bigamy, the criminal charge that often brought against polygamists in Utah. Now the family wants to move back to Utah. Bigamy, according to the Christian Science Monitor, is a third-degree felony. The Browns’ suit asks for an injunction against prosecution, contending that because the branch of the Mormon church the Browns belong to practices polygamy, it is their First Amendment right.

Church and state

Brown’s attorney said that because heterosexual relationships involving more than one partner are not illegal, polygamy shouldn’t be either. There have been two similar suits brought against Utah, one in state court and one in federal court, but neither was successful. The Browns don’t currently face any charges, though authorities in their hometown of Lehi, Utah, were looking into filing charges after the family began starring in the show on TLC. Each state views bigamy differently, but essentially the crime is entering into more than one marriage. Kody Brown is legally married to only one of his wives and contends all other unions are “spiritual.” The lawsuit contends that because the relationships are consensual and are only official in the Fundamentalist Mormon church the family is part of, the state thus has no business interfering, according to Courthouse News. Many people believe Utah turns a blind eye to polygamists because of the state’s historical involvement with the Mormon church. Some Fundamentalist Mormons also marry young girls to older men, such as the case with Warren Jeffs, leader of a Fundamentalist Mormon sect and convicted sex offender.

Other bigamy cases

According to UPI, a man was charged in October with bigamy in Florida when his wife discovered he had married another woman in Las Vegas. The case was dismissed this month because Florida law only recognizes bigamy if the second union is carried out in Florida. In June, a Portsmouth, Va., man was convicted of bigamy after marrying a woman without divorcing his first wife, whom he had been separated from for years, according to the Virginia Pilot Online. He could face 20 years. Bobbi Ann Finley, according to the Daily Mail, was convicted of bigamy after marrying 14 different men in the military over a period of almost 20 years. She would leave them, and use her legal status as a spouse to drain their bank accounts.


International Business Times:

Christian Science Monitor:

Courthouse News:


Virginia Pilot Online:

Daily Mail:

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