This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Polygamy has a lot of baggage attached to it.
Too often, those who practice it, usually under the guise of some religious belief, are actually engaging in heinous forms of child abuse or patriarchal domination. It has been associated with the taking of child brides and the expulsion of young men from their homes and families.
The polygamous family of Kody Brown and his four wives has been accused of none of those things. No fraud. No deception. Not even trying to get more than one state marriage license.
Which is why it would make sense for Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes to accept a federal court ruling that found unconstitutional the state law purporting to ban the Browns' lifestyle. Utah is already spending millions on what promises to be a futile effort to defend its ban on same-sex marriage, and another expensive and wasteful series of appeals would benefit no one.
The investigation of the family by the Utah County Attorney's office which ended in 2010 without any charges being filed was based on the section of Utah law that threatens anyone who "cohabits with another person" to whom they are not legally married with a prison term of up to five years.
It could be argued that the Browns, who have since moved to Nevada, practically begged for the legal attention by starring in a reality TV series called "Sister Wives." But they fought the threat to their household(s) with a federal lawsuit challenging the state's right to pass judgment on their domestic arrangement.
Last December, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups agreed that the part of the Utah anti-bigamy law that prohibited mere cohabitation was an unconstitutional imposition into the family's privacy. He upheld the part of the law that restricts everyone to one valid marriage license.
Waddoups finalized that ruling last week, finding that the probe violated the family's civil rights to the point that the state should cover the Browns' legal fees.
Reyes is on record as promising to appeal that ruling, and last week Herbert said he supported that course of action.
"I think it's probably not good policy and practice for families to have that kind of situation," Herbert said.
Probably not. But probably isn't good enough to make it any of the state's business, absent some credible accusation of crimes such as coercion, fraud or abuse.
The Browns, and those in similar situations, aren't seeking the state's blessing or recognition. Just the right to be left alone. Without some evidence of another crime, that's just what the state should do.