Federal Judge Clark Waddoups of Utah struck down a section of the anti-polygamy law in the state that outlaws “cohabitation" due to a lawsuit brought by Sister Wives patriarch, Kody Brown.

Kody Brown Celebrates Court Victory

The case was brought to the judge by Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, two years ago. Brown claims that the law violates his right to privacy.

“Many people do no approve of plural families… [but] we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices as part of this wonderful country of different faiths and beliefs,” Brown said in a statement following the ruling.

Though many have been heralding the case as a victory for polygamy, Judge Waddoups made clear that the part of the law that bans bigamy was not affected by his ruling, defining bigamy as “the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses for the purpose of entering into more than one purportedly legal marriage.”


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According to the original anti-polygamy law, the cohabitation statute of 1973 said that a married person cannot cohabitate with another person, meaning a third party in the relationship is not legally allowed to live under the same roof.

“The bigamy statues does not require a party to enter into a second marriage (however defined) to run afoul of the statute; cohabitation alone would constitute bigamy pursuant to the statue’s terms,” reads the official court document.

The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist church operating under the umbrella of Mormonism, and cited that the law was in direct violation of their right to practice their religion freely.

Investigation Into Brown And His Plural Marriage Practices

A popular topic for debate throughout the trial was the Brown’s television program, Sister Wives, a TLC reality show that gives viewers a window into the lives of a polygamist family. With his four wives, Brown has seventeen children total. And authorities have been building a case against Brown and his family ever since the first episode aired in 2010.

The investigation persisted, though Brown insists he has not done anything to violate the law, save the cohabitation statute. Though Utah County’s County Attorney, Jeffrey R. Buhman, the defendant in this case, said that he would not pursue charges against the Brown family solely based on the cohabitation charge, the Browns decided to take the matter up in court. For fear of legal prosecution, the Browns moved to Nevada prior to filling their case against Buhman in 2011.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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