Bill would basically decriminalize polygamy in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill has been introduced in the Utah State Legislature that would essentially decriminalize polygamy in the state, following a federal judge’s ruling that had the same effect.

HB 58, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, would strike the cohabitation portion of Utah’s bigamy statute, a line that has been used to prosecute polygamists in the past.

In an interview with FOX 13 News, Anderson said his bill would help address issues in polygamous communities by allowing people to feel free to come forward.

“To relieve our attorney general and all of our law enforcement, I think this is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Besides being in line with the First Amendment religious liberty.”

Anderson’s bill comes after a federal judge ruled last month that part of Utah’s bigamy statute is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled in favor of reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives, who sued Utah over its ban on plural marriage on religious freedom and privacy grounds.

“I think it’s a good bill to get in line with the reality of what’s going on,” Anderson said of Waddoups’ ruling.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it was aware of Anderson’s bigamy bill, but had no comment on it. Attorney General Sean Reyes told FOX 13 in an interview last month he intended to appeal the polygamy ruling, but his office said it was still deciding whether to formally appeal.

Polygamist Joe Darger, who lives in Utah with his three wives, said he was happy to see such a bill introduced in the legislature.

“The intent of what he’s trying to accomplish, I absolutely am behind,” he told FOX 13 News. “We should not legislate morality.”

During last year’s legislative session, Darger and his wives lobbied lawmakers for a similar bill. Judge Waddoups’ ruling, Darger believes, gave it a boost. Looking over the bill’s language, Darger said he would like to see the language dealing with “purporting to marry” clarified further.

“If I called my wives mistresses, it was OK,” he said. “But if I called them wives, then I was somehow a criminal? That made me a polygamist criminal.”

Anti-polygamy activists expressed concerns about the bill.

“We haven’t addressed the problems within polygamy,” Kristyn Decker of the Sound Choices Coalition told FOX 13 News. “The harms to women and children, the harms to society.”

9 comments

  • Eric Anderson

    Absolutely. Unless they “marry” children, in which case they should be pulled to rags and tatters by wild horses. But consenting adults? That falls under the category of “none of my business.”

    “Welfare fraud”, say you? No more so than any other single mothers with shack-ups who are knowingly and deliberately playing the system.

  • Shannon

    Legalize Polygamy if you are going to decriminalize it! Then they would need to obtain marriage licenses and birth certificates like everyone else. They need to be counted and made responsible for the financial support of the children that they create and not place this burden on the rest of us.

    • Eric Anderson

      No, it’s not government’s job to decide who is married and who is not. Giving them licenses would require private employers to provide benefits for all those wives and kids. And that’s just 1 of a million reasons that would be a bad idea.

      It’s already legal for people to have s e x with multiple partners, which means that “polygamy” is just a THOUGHT CRIME. If you consider yourself “married” then it becomes illegal. That is manifestly absurd.

      Legalize adult behavior. But there is no requirement to put an official stamp of approval on it, and expect society to subsidize it. Taxpayers are people too. So are employers.

  • Denna Montano

    It’s a crime! Till you live in it and have to deal with it. You would not understand how it tears the normal family unite apart! With jealousy, neglect, and no one on one connection with the kids and one wife! Its a deasetful life . Always not having that close connection with a single family brings! No vacations, Polygamy does not belong in our life Period!!!!!!

  • Keith Pullman

    You what harms society, women and children? Criminalizing CONSENSUAL ADULT relationships. It means abuse victims and witnesses will be less likely to cooperate with law enforcement. There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality “just for some” is not equality. Let’s stand up for EVERY ADULT’S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!

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