This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah Legislature has been debating whether to amend the state's criminal polygamy statutes, and on Thursday, four plural wives went to visit Sen. Jim Dabakis.
Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, put video of the conversation on his Facbeook page. The four women are from the Davis County Cooperative Society, better known as the Kingston Group, and asked Dabakis to vote against the bill, HB99. One of the wives is Heidi Foster, who has been at the legislature multiple times to lobby against HB99. The other women are identified only as Joy, Holly and Anna.
About 6 minutes into the conversation, Dabakis says that lawmakers' real concern seems to be underage marriage, especially teen girls marrying much older men. Dabakis asks the wives if they are concerned about that.
"Yes, we are," Joy replied. "My 13-year-old isn't going anywhere … until she's 18."
The other three women seemed to agree. And those responses created howls from Facebook commenters who used to be in the Kingston group.
One of those commenters is Jessica Christensen, Foster's daughter and a star of the reality show "Escaping Polygamy." She commented on Facebook about how her mother was married at age 15 to and gave birth to her at age 16.
Christensen also claimed on Facebook that she attended Holly's wedding. Holly was 16, Christensen said.
HB99 says someone is guilty of bigamy, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, if they cohabitate with more than one person and "purports" to be married. The current statute only requires one of those criteria. The penalty could increase to 15 years if prosecuted in conjunction with crimes such as sex abuse, fraud or human smuggling. The bill also creates amnesty for anyone fleeing a plural marriage who reports abuse or is trying to protect a child.
Dabakis did not indicate how he plans to vote.
The four women made arguments to Dabakis that polygamists and their supporters have made for years, including that Utah makes a crime things that people who doesn't purport to be married can do legally, and that the state already has statutes to address sex abuse and fraud.
In the video, Foster recounts a story Holly told. Holly's young daughter disappeared out of the bed she had been in the night before, Foster said, and Holly had to decide whether to call the police to help find her or risk exposing her husband as a polygamist. Holly decided to put her daughter's safety first and call the police, Foster said. The girl was found hiding under her 14-year-old sister's bed. It wasn't specified what happened to the husband, though, if he had been prosecuted for bigamy, we probably would have all heard about it.
Politically speaking, it's not clear any of this matters in 2017. HB99 passed the Utah House of Representatives last week but appears lodged in the Utah Senate. It has not received a hearing. The Senate could bring the bill to the floor next week, but such maneuvers can be more difficult than moving a bill through a committee. The Legislature's general session ends Thursday.