'Sister Wives' stars sue over Utah anti-polygamy law
Kody Brown and his four wives.
July 13th, 2011
08:46 PM ET

'Sister Wives' stars sue over Utah anti-polygamy law

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - The stars of TLC's "Sister Wives" reality show sued Utah's governor Wednesday, asking a judge to block the state's long-standing law against polygamy.

The suit, filed in federal court on behalf of Kody Brown and his four wives, argues that Utah's restrictions are unconstitutional.

"By criminalizing religious-based plural families and intimate relationships under the criminal bigamy law, Utah officials prosecute private conduct between consenting adults," the lawsuit says.

In a statement posted on his attorney's website, Brown said he and his family "only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs," adding they are ready for what could be a long legal battle.

"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," he said.

Bigamy is a third-degree felony with a potential penalty of up to 15 years in prison, Utah Attorney General's Office spokesman Paul Murphy told CNN Tuesday. Officials first enacted the law in the 1890s and the Utah Constitution also forbids polygamy. Both steps were required conditions for Utah to become a state, he said.

The state "has defended the state's bigamy law in the past and the Utah Supreme Court has held that the state has the right to regulate marriage and to ban bigamy," Murphy said.

But after filing the lawsuit, attorney Jonathan Turley told reporters that polygamy also has deep roots.

"Polygamy, whether you like it or not, is a deep-seated religious belief. It has been present in this country since the founding of the republic and before," said Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School.

The last person charged with bigamy was Rodney Holm, a Hildale, Utah, police officer who was also charged with unlawful sex with a 15- or 16-year-old, Murphy told CNN.

Holm was convicted of bigamy and unlawful sex in 2003 for taking his first wife's younger sister as a third wife. Holm challenged the law but the Utah Supreme Court in 2006 held that the state has the right to regulate marriage and ban bigamy.

Turley told reporters that his clients are not criminals and stressed that they are not seeking marriage licenses.

"There are no crimes in this case," he said. "There is simply a family that is different from other families."

In a statement on his website, Turley said the lawsuit is "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."

Utah is the base of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, and it has a history of polygamy. Although the church renounced the practice more than a century ago, offshoots of mainstream Mormonism still engage in the practice.

"They are subject to criminal prosecution ... solely because they call themselves a family in the eyes of their church," the lawsuit says.

Millions of people have tuned in to watch "Sister Wives" since it began airing on TLC in 2010, the network said.

The show documents the lives of Brown, his four wives and 16 children. The family has moved from Utah and now lives in Nevada, a TLC spokeswoman said.

The week the show first aired, police in Utah said they were investigating the family and would forward evidence to state prosecutors.

"When we decided to do this show, we knew there would be risks," the family said in a statement at the time. "But for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking."

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. LifeBetraysU

    1st let me say I am not a Mormon. Most Americans if asked about Polygamy would first think about this religious group in America that historically has been the largest group of people practicing polygamy as a life-style. I regret that our government has dealt with them so harshly when you look at their homes and families they prove to be the best of role models or examples of what a moral "family values" based home should be. The only dispute I have with them is theological in that they are considered a "cult" because they do not acknowledge the "Diety" of Christ (they think Jesus was a brother of satan-not the incarnate GOD of the Trinity).
    I will pray for them, they may one day repent get their doctrine straight ,(just like the Church of God did several years ago), and end up as one of the best examples of orthodox Christianity. The truth is their family life would put most of our so called "Christian homes to shame:".

    July 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm |

      Wrong. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. We just don't believe in the trinity doctrine because we don't believe that God is some mysterious substance which can transform from Father, to Son, to Holy Ghost. Mormons believe in all three, they just don't think that they are one substance, Mormons believe that they are three separate beings . Mormons think they're united in purpose as to make them one, but not one substance. Mormons do believe that everyone is part of on eternal family. You can't just take one fact and present it by itself. You have to actually look at everything in context. Text without context is pretext. Go to mormon.org to learn what they really believe, instead of learning what they believe on this website through people that have misconceptions.

      July 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Anniecee

      Hercules, Christians don't believe in the Trinity the way you describe it either. In fact, your description is rather repulsive. We believe the Trinity is three separate beings... they don't "morph" into one or anything weird like that. It's more like they are in such perfect unity, one accord or agreement on everything: this is what makes them "One". Since humans are not capable of getting along together in such perfect harmony we have a hard time understanding the concept of the Trinity because of it.

      August 8, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  2. LifeBetraysU

    Why does CNN not allow any truth about Polygamy to be posted in their comments?

    July 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • LifeBetraysU

      Probably because they are afraid of undermining the power of the US. government, The power of the Church, the power of western civilization based on monagamy, getting the Muslims stirred up again which believe in Polygamy, trying to prevent the bandini from hitting the rotary oscillator, worry about causing any problems in society least of which is CONCERN FOR THE ACTUAL TRUTH ABOUT POLYGAMY!

      July 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  3. Pattie

    Please don't let this show on for another season,thank God for the remote,I can fast forward through the advertisements for the stupid show.They.re enough to make a person sick.

    July 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • irene

      when is enough a enough? this show is just trash for one thing. and Those so called rational adults are just brain washed to thinking that it okay to share one mans manhood. Just how sick can a woman be to live like that. I truely beleive that these people are lost as last years easter egg and stinks to high heaven. So enough is nough no more show and judge throw them all in prison for a real long time maybe they will come to their silly senses reminds me of those groups of mansion except no killings just star gazed wierdos.

      July 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  4. David Johnson

    I think it not a question of what is moral and not moral. What is good or evil. All morals are relative.

    Society should decide on what they will allow or disallow, based on the action's impact (perceived impact) on society. The times and circ_umstances alter societies' decisions.

    There appears to be no detrimental effect to either gay marriage or polygamy. They should be allowed.

    There is no slippery slope. Society enforces right and wrong. Allowing gay marriage and polygamy does not mean marriage to animals or to close relatives will be allowed. These are dumb arguments. But, consider its source.


    July 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • SnowVeil

      David, yours is a moral chaos, a doctrine of Sodom that brings the end. Mankind has the Bible. Christians will fight because immorality in society creates innocent victims. Evil cultures must be fought back for the sake of victims, never to be left alone.

      July 16, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  5. SnowVeil

    For the sake of the kids, these women should get a brain and leave this narcissy man.

    July 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  6. James Black


    July 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  7. wvman

    I think it's really cool that every new religion that comes down the pike since Christianity [that includes the 1800's with the likes Mormonism and latter with David Koresh] all includes provisions for males to bang more than one woman. You can tell a false religion when it revolves around male egocentricity. duh.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • jofro

      And that is bad becos why exactly?

      July 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • SnowVeil

      You idiotic uneducated ignorant illiterate Americans. The Biblical Christianity made the world civil to have only monogamy of one man and one woman. All other barbaric civilizations allowed polygamy and everything worse.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Jane

      Please define barbaric.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Chris

      What about Abraham and others
      in the Bible? False religion?

      July 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • SnowVeil

      Chris, it was tolerated for a time because men were weak and there were physical survival issues. God never condone it. Clearly prohobited after Jesus came. Read Matthew 19 and Mark 10 and Epistles in the Bible.

      July 16, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • SnowVeil

      Unlike Christianity, Judaism failed to fix the world because the ancient Israel was disobedient to God.

      July 16, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • LifeBetraysU

      ALMOST 7000 yrs of human history culture was dominated by polygamy. Modern western society (monogamy) is an aberrational form of culture not the norm; Study your history of the world. There are over 40 Patriarchs in the Bible who had more than one wife. GOD never made any prohibition against having more than one wife! Do not assume that western culture and brainwashing in the church or society is according to biblical doctrine IT IS NOT!

      July 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Anniecee

      Wvman, yes... I've noticed that too. Good point.

      August 8, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  8. someone

    Can I marry my dog?

    July 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Artist

      If you cannot do you understand why?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • jofro

      Sure, free love for all species, from the evolved ape to the humble amoeba

      July 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • SnowVeil

      Does the word "marriage" have any meaning in America?

      July 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Jane

      Marriage is obsolete just like your VCR

      July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  9. SJ

    "The Browns have long said they believed making their life public on cable television was a risk worth taking if it helped advance the broader understanding of plural families. The lawsuit appears to be an extension of that belief." Face it people, they did this show for the MONEY and the notoriety. It is ENTERTAINMENT! Kody is a narcissist. What he has done to the older children by uprooting them from Utah to Nevada is inexcusable. In some episodes the older ones have said they don't intend to pursue this lifestyle – good for them and I pray for their every success after they leave home.

    July 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Buddy R

    Judges are the true power in the US. They can legislate whatever they want from the bench.

    July 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Technically, I think, the only things they can do is 1) interpret the law and similarly 2) determine which laws have precedence. For example, the Consti.tution trumps most other laws and therefore if legislation violates the consti.tution then the legislation is invalid, because the Consti.tution has precedence.
      The two checks to abuse of this power are 1) impeachment and 2) amending the Consti.tution.

      July 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Reality

    Polygamy in today's modern part of the world is another word for adultery punishable by divorce and significant alimony. Of course in Islam, said polygamy/adultery for males is condoned as being blessed by Allah and his prophet/"profit" Mohammed. A Muslim female, however, is not so blessed and is stoned for this transgression showing yet again the terror that is Islam.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • jofro

      Dont worry...in America the Muslim woman will be allowed to take up four husbands too once polygamy is legalised in this great country.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  12. carrie valdez

    leave them alone i think they arent doing anythiing wrong i rather see this then gays getting maried they are just practiceing there religious belive and we do have freedom of religion so back off

    July 13, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Atheist b/c Truth is Better Than Fiction

      Wow, if marriage is based on religion than they should not require a marriage license...right? Thus the separation of church and state. What these people are doing is sickening and more so confusing for the children produced...religion or not, state laws should apply and should be abided by.
      As for your idiot gay statement...what?? That is no more than 2 people of the same gender doing what every human has the right to do-love and be happy. It is a far cry from some pig who feels the need and desire to play out his se.xual fantasies in the name of delusions.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Atheist b/c Truth is Better Than Fiction,
      I don't understand your point of view. How do you justify gay couples, but draw the line at multiples, i.e. triads, quads, etc.?

      July 14, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Atheist' s Mom

      As an atheist and an atheist Mom, I too am confused by Atheist' condemnation. But I am actually more curious about what Ron Paul's position would be. If these are consenting adults, who are we to determine how they should live their lives as long as their is no visible harm. And please don't tell me it's harmful to the children. Probably 50% of parents are harmful to their children.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • irene

      carrie in one way yes i agree with you on the respect that i do not want gays to have marriage but this is wrong too. two wrongs dont make a right. remeber wht your momma or grandma used to say ? America hae some morals and values and

      July 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Gerald

      Dam right Carrie, I'm with you on this one. We(us hetero's) have been forced to redefine – marrige* – for gays and lesbians to include them, because they made enough fuss about it. In response to that, I say any straight man can have all the dam women wives he wants, so long as it's consensual. You know? If two DUDES can marry each other nowadays, why can't I have more than one wife? Fair is fair. I mean really, which sounds more shocking to hear at first utterance; "That man has 3 wives" or "That MAN is married to ANOTHER MAN"????!!!!!!!! The former sounds interesting...the latter invokes persistent dry-heaving. So what...at least he's pointing it in the right direction. They should leave him and his brood alone and let 'em be.

      *(i know...)

      July 16, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  13. Odessa

    America, you still had a hope when you were simply an air-headed party goer. Don't blame others. Immorality leads to perversion and then to destruction. It's your own making. I feel sorry for many grieving Christian Americans who are normal human beings.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • DiamondSkyOdessaJustina

      MY MEDS ARE WEARING OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      July 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  14. Odessa

    America is labeled as a nation of perverts. Nobody will listen to her anymore.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  15. The Ole Bullsh!t Detector is Going Off Again

    They did the show "for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking." We felt being on TV was so important that going to prison and having our kids put into foster care was a risk worth taking for our kids."

    July 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  16. Diogenes3p0

    First gays, now polygamists, next will be bestiality and pedophilia on this slippery slope

    July 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Clues to the Clueless

      Do they train you morons to automatically say that really idiotic schtick about "marrying animals is next"? It comes up again and again from Borg like you.

      Here's a hint: informed consent.

      July 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • jofro

      And what, pray tell, is the problem with pedophilia and beastiality? Get over ureself, they will be legalised in time and you can do nothing about it. But first, we may have to legalise complete incest though....

      July 14, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Nonimus

      I think you may want to give up you screen name there. Diogenes was known for going against the cultural norms, not promoting conformity.

      And any philosopher worth their salt would know that "slippery slope" is a logical fallacy, not a sound argument. In this case, it is fallatious because there is no reason to think that legalizing gay marriage, or even polygamy (which no one is attempting currently,) would bring us any closer to legalizing pedophilia and/or betsiality, since nether children nor animals are capable of informed consent.

      Diogenes, would still be searching after meeting you, I think.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  17. If an angel named Moron shows up at your door, pretend you aren't home.

    Fundamentalist Mormon media whores. How cute.

    July 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • .

      If a moron named, "If an angel named Moron shows up at your door, pretend you aren't home." shows up, pretend you're an angel named Moron(i) so he'll go away.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  18. LINDA


    July 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Ummm

      You seem to think typing in all caps gets your point across but in regards to internet etiquette you're screaming. So your post is meaningless.

      July 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • The Way It Is

      Actually, Linda has screamed out an interesting point. The Kody Brown herd has no standing in a lawsuit as they are not residents.

      July 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  19. Hassan

    What these women need is the Qur'an. Only than, will they understand what marriage is ment to be.

    July 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • frank

      I think they need a gym membership.

      July 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • jofro

      The two on the left need the gym membership, the two on the right are fine by my standards,,,especially the one on the far right..hottie MILF alert

      July 14, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  20. DiamondSky

    Polygamy – one of the most primitive forms of man's selfishness and greed and woman's folly and enslavement to man. The Bible never condones it, though it was allowed for a time because of high mortality rate in the ancient time. Read Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19, and Mark 10. Marriage is between one and one woman. Any other thing is against God's will and His design and thus a grave sin.

    July 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • DiamondSky

      "Marriage is between one man and one woman."

      July 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • DiamondSky

      "A sandwich is between one slice of bread and another."

      July 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Odessa

      The third DiamondSky is a fake.

      July 13, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      For a better understanding we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com

      July 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Odessa

      @AvdBerg, gay and Christians are forever incompatiable. You guys are self-stuffers who care nothing about God or His ways. Ranting religious vocab will do no good to you since you chose filthy sin over God.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.