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'Sister Wives' Lawsuit: Utah Polygamy Ban Partly Struck Down

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on December 23, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The "Sister Wives" lawsuit against Utah's polygamy ban has led a federal judge to partially strike down the law.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups threw out a section of the anti-polygamy law prohibiting "cohabitation," while keeping intact the ban on "bigamy."

Although the law wasn't struck down in its entirety, it seems "Sister Wives" star Kody Brown and his four wives now have something to celebrate during the holidays.

The More the Merrier

The cast of TLC's reality show "Sister Wives" filed a lawsuit in 2011 challenging Utah's polygamy ban. At the time, Utah's law made polygamy a crime. Now under Judge Waddoups' ruling, the cohabitation ban is removed.

To be clear, this ruling doesn't make polygamy itself legal in Utah; it just clears up a few key points.

Cohabitation refers to unmarried couples who live together. Since Utah doesn't recognize polygamous marriages, the "Sister Wives" stars are considered unmarried couples who live under the same roof.

The Huffington Post reports that the cohabitation ban was found unconstitutional because, as the state admitted, the law only targeted Mormons. The ban didn't punish any other groups for living together out of wedlock.

It's unconstitutional to restrict people of a certain religious group or race from doing something while letting everyone else participate in the same thing without consequences.

No One Likes Fraudulent Marriages

Although the prohibition on cohabitation has been stricken, the bigamy ban is still in effect. In general, a person can be convicted of bigamy if he or she marries another person while still legally married to someone else.

CNN suggests that the main reason the judge kept the bigamy ban in the law is to prevent fraudulent marriages. If you've watched any crime drama, then you've certainly seen an episode that depicts the criminals using multiple marriage licenses to prove their innocence. No one wants it to happen in real life.

While the "Sister Wives" lawsuit wasn't a complete victory for them, at least some key changes were made to Utah's polygamy ban that works in their favor.

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