Polygamist Kody Brown ‘disappointed’ that new Utah AG will appeal

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Polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives (left to right) Robyn, Janelle, Christine and Meri. The family stars in the reality TV show "Sister Wives." (Photo provided by TLC)

SALT LAKE CITY — Reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives said they are “disappointed” by incoming Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ announcement that he would appeal a federal judge’s ruling that essentially decriminalized polygamy.

On Thursday, Reyes gave an interview to FOX 13’s Ben Winslow where he said it was his intention to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups’ ruling striking down part of Utah’s bigamy law. The judge overturned the provision of the law that dealt with cohabitation, which was used to prosecute polygamists in the past.

“Our intention is to appeal,” Reyes said. “When I am sworn in that again is my intention, to defend the laws that have been passed by the state of Utah.”

The Brown family’s attorney, Jonathan Turley, issued a response on his blog, saying he was disappointed but willing to challenge the appeal in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

“Fighting to strip citizens of core rights of religious freedom and privacy is hardly a necessary or a redeeming act for any public official,” Turley wrote. “Nevertheless, these are not Utahan (sic) rights but American rights. It will be an honor to defend this decision, and the rights of the Brown family, in Denver.”

The Brown family issued a statement through Turley that reads:

“We are obviously disappointed by news that the incoming Attorney General has decided to appeal the decision to strike down the criminalization of polygamy. We left Utah after being subject to two years of investigation by prosecutors who called us felons because we chose to live as a plural family. We were told by our lead counsel, Professor Jonathan Turley, that we will now go to Colorado to defend this decision protecting our religious and privacy rights. While we regret the decision of the incoming Attorney General to try to strip our family of these rights, we look forward to arguing the case before the federal court of appeals and have absolute confidence in our cause and our counsel. Out of respect to the court, we intend to continue to limit our public discussion of this case. We want to let the legal process run its course and for the focus to be on the important legal issues of this case. Those issues go beyond our family and, with this appeal, will now hopefully benefit families beyond Utah.”

The clock for any appeals has been reset by Judge Waddoups. Court records indicate he vacated his final order because of a clerical error. Instead, he has scheduled a Jan. 14 hearing to address “unresolved issues.”

In the interview with FOX 13, Reyes also weighed in on last week’s ruling that overturned Amendment 3 — the voter-approved constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Reyes said he would continue to defend Amendment 3, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

“I think the voice of the people was clear. It’s my job not to speculate about political or social issues, but legal issues. My job and our job as a team will be to continue to defend, legally, the state laws,” Reyes said. “Beyond that, I think the citizens, regardless of the side of the issue you might fall on, deserve to have the process taken and have final word from the Supreme Court on this issue.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has said it will seek outside legal counsel as it prepares to appeal the Amendment 3 ruling. An application for a stay, halting same-sex marriages in Utah, could be filed with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as early as Monday.

10 comments

  • Eric Anderson

    The law can’t possibly be constitutional, since it’s legal for a man who sleep with as many women as he pleases. These folks just SAY they’re “married.” They don’t have marriage licenses…..and that part of the law remains intact.

    “Polygamy” is a THOUGHTCRIME, to borrow a word from Orwell. It was only illegal because they considered themselves “married.” What goes on in your own mind should never be a crime. You’re entitled to your own thoughts, for crying out loud.

    He’s guilty of nothing except taking his multiple relationships seriously.

  • Trish Ramirez

    Yeah, I agree Eric. These people aren’t any more married to their second and subsequent spouses than little children who play pretend marriage are to each other. It’s all just words and non-legally binding ceremonies. True bigomy/polygamy is the seeking out of multiple marriage licenses through the state and attempting to marry through legal means multiple times. These people are only being persecuted because they are bad PR to the state of Utah.

    If the state wants to do something useful with its time and money, they need to go after the religious fundamentalist sects that force child marriage and the like. Open the door on the secretive cultures that breed abuse and oppression. Stop the practice of allowing judges and police officers to enforce FLDS religious dogma as the law of the land down in Hilldale and Colorado City. Instead of prosecuting people, provide resource officers in these known oppressive religious communities to assist those who want to leave the lifestyle .

    The state should be using its limited funds in the manner that most benefits people, not the manner that provides the best PR.

    • Eric Anderson

      As long as it involves consenting adults it’s not only legal but specifically protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. (Twice, in fact…..free speed, and free religious expression.)

      They tend to defraud the welfare system…..but who doesn’t? Is that any more fraudulent than a guy with a string of welfare queen baby mommas? I would submit that there is NO difference…..and, if anything, the kids have a better family life among the polygs than they do in inner city ghettos.

      Involving children is illegal. The kids are protected by the same laws as any other kids. Polygs often get away with it only because they live in isolated communities with their own members acting as law enforcement. But a pervert is a pervert. Warren Jeffs is a major pervert. But guess what? He’s in PRISON. (I laughed when they moved to Texas. What were they thinking?)

  • Ruthie

    But it’s my understanding that the cohabitation portion of the law was included to prevent common law marriages and licenced marriages from other states from doubling up on benefits. The law is was misused by prosecutors to prosecute polygamists, the law is outdated and I agree it is unconstituonal to use it to discriminate a lifestyle.

    • Eric Anderson

      The anti-polygamy laws were originally intended to end polygamy. They were directly specifically at “Mormons.” (Although only about 20% of Mormon men were polygamists even at the height of the practice, and they had to be specifically appointed by the Church to take plural wives. The Church never taught that you had to be a polygamist to get into heaven. That’s a myth.)

      The trouble with the laws is that they are based on the idea that having s e x outside of a legally sanctioned marriage is “illegal”, and those kind of laws were struck down a long time ago. That leaves only the THOUGHT as the remaining “offense.” Should we be making THOUGHT illegal? Of course not.

      It was inevitable that these laws would be struck down. They had no Constitutional backing once the Blue Laws disappeared from the books.

  • Eric Anderson

    My atheist rabble-rousing thought for the day: If the LDS Church’s polygamous marriages were “instituted by God”, and based on “revelation”, then will polygamy make a comeback in the official Church now that the practice is legal? If not…..why not?

    I can understand the argument that ending polygamy could be the decision of a practical-minded God, but what now? If it was a good idea originally, then why isn’t it a good idea today?

    Enquring minds want to know…… ;)

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