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I have to say, I debated with myself at length upon hearing that the "Sister Wives" family won't face felony bigamy charges in Utah County.

The question entailed examining my deep unease with plural marriage, which in this state and nation involves one man and however many women he can persuade to wed him or, more darkly, command it as a patriarch's right not only to women, but to young girls.

The terrible story of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Warren Jeffs and his subjugation of men, women and children — and the sex crimes that landed him in Texas prison — is enough to make a grown woman cry.

But the Browns — Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robin — are adults who willingly joined in this marriage of many and found fame with TLC's "Sister Wives" (a program I have not watched and probably never will).

They also have a federal motion for summary judgment on Utah's bigamy statutes, claiming they violate their constitutional rights to due process, privacy, free speech, association and the exercise of religion.

What I finally realized is that, as a fervent backer of gay rights, including marriage, I could not gainsay the right of one straight man and four straight women to live together as their beliefs and convictions guide them.

The Browns are affiliated with the United Apostolic Brethren, a group of about 7,500 members that practices polygamy but without child-bride or arranged or forced marriages. (Side note: I used to work with a man who was a member of the UAB, and I learned to recognize his wives' voices when they called.) Unlike the FLDS and other isolated groups, they also live productive lives in the modern world.

Several years ago, I sat down with a bunch of polygamists to hear their stories and talk about their beliefs. They were smart and decisive and some were very witty. It opened doors, as conversations do.

It's obvious the Utah Constitution's ban on polygamy — it is "forever prohibited" — has done little to prevent the practice over more than a century. The Utah Attorney General and now the Utah County Attorney's Office have officially pulled back from prosecuting consenting adult polygamists under state bigamy laws except in cases of fraud, abuse or violence.

So, as with all American civil rights movements, it seems appropriate that otherwise law-abiding polygamists who take care of themselves and, importantly, their children, step up for their rights as free adults.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at, and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.