'Sister Wives' Family Sues Utah Over Bigamy Law

TLC's Sister Wives allows the rest of America an inside look at the every day life of a polygamous marriage, and now the stars of the show are doing everything they can to defend their way of life. Kody Brown and his four wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn have sued the state of Utah and the county they were forced to leave last year in an attempt to have the state's bigamy law declared unconstitutional.

As Utah is known for its large community of Mormon fundamentalists, the state is home to tens of thousands of people whose religion condones polyamorous relationships. But Utah has some of the strictest anti-bigamy laws in the country, treating it as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Brown family was forced to flee to Nevada after they discovered prior to the 2010 debut of Sister Wives that Utah police were investigating Kody and his wives for polygamy. They now live in Las Vegas, as is documented by the show, but are sick of being labeled felons. Although charges were dropped back in June, the Browns are seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed entirely, and to have the state bigamy law revoked.

"The underlying statute is facially unconstitutional," the Browns' attorney Jonathan Turley tells Entertainment Weekly.

Polygamy has been illegal in the United States since 1860, and Utah's statehood was given back in 1890 under the stipulation that it wouldn't allow plural marriages. Utah's law also prohibits unmarried adults from living together and having a sexual relationship, which includes homosexual couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and families like those in the Browns' situation where there is only one legal marriage and the others are spiritual ones.

There have been several attempts in the past to overthrow this law in Utah to no avail. Even though it's a crime in the state and country, Utah has adopted the policy that it will not investigate polygamous families unless there is some greater crime being committed, like child trafficking or child abuse. But the Browns want their record to be completely cleared.

When the Browns filed their complaint in U.S. District Court back on July 13, they released this statement:

"There are tens of thousands of plural families in Utah and other states. We are one of those families. We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. While we understand that this may be a long struggle in court, it has already been a long struggle for my family and other plural families to end the stereotypes and unfair treatment given consensual polygamy. We are indebted to Professor Turley and his team for their work and dedication. Together we hope to secure equal treatment with other families in the United States."

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