Clark Waddoups, a judge in the U.S. District Court of Utah, overturned a section of the state law that prohibits bigamy in a 91-page opinion released Dec. 13, according to Baptist Press.
The judge, appointed by President George W. Bush, legalized polygamy as practiced in Utah primarily by Mormon sects. The sects usually do not have multiple marriage licenses but treat the relationships as marriages. Waddoups said the cohabitation portion of Utah’s anti-polygamy law violated the free religious exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
The ruling followed a lawsuit by Kody Brown and his four wives, who appear in the TV reality show “Sister Wives” on TLC. Brown and only one of his wives have a marriage license. They are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, which believes polygamy is “a core religious practice,” according to the judge’s opinion.
Defenders of traditional marriage said this ruling will further erode the institution and provides more evidence the redefinition of marriage will go beyond same-sex relationships.
Utah officials haven’t said if the state will appeal Waddoups’ ruling, but Gov. Gary Herbert said Dec. 14 he wants to review the opinion before a decision is made. The scope of Waddoups’ opinion is limited to Utah, according to Baptist Press.
Waddoups’ ruling disagreed with a 1973 state law that says a “person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”
Waddoups upheld “purports to marry another person” in the ’73 law, but struck down the portion dealing with cohabitation.
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