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Buzzard

"Sister Wives" File suit challenging bigamy law

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Buzzard

So this explains why they freaked out and ran out of the state - to add fodder to their lawsuit!

http://www.accessatlanta.com/celebritie ... id=thbz_hm

"Because the Browns are open about their polygamist lifestyle, the criminal bigamy statute has the effect of publicly labeling them as presumptive felons," the Brown's Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Jonathan Turley, wrote in court papers filed Monday. "The statute further brands them as immoral and societal outsiders."

Well, yes. If I went on television and talked all about my drug habit (I dont have a drug habit) and I knew that said drug, like weed, is illegal then I am a presumptive criminal. That most certainly does not brand me as immoral and a societal outsider. I think the fact that TLC still has the show on air speaks to that alone.

Affidavits from Kody, Meri and Janelle Brown detailed the financial impact on the family. Those included a loss of sales accounts for Kody Brown and the termination of Meri Brown's employment because her bosses were concerned about the criminal investigation and the public statements suggesting she was a felon.

Well, um... you're only a felon if youve been convicted of a felony. But there is no question that they are violating the law. This whole thing screams weak PR attempt.

The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, one of handful of self-described Mormon fundamentalist churches that continue the practice as part of their faith. The polygamy advocacy group Principles Voices estimates there are about 40,000 fundamentalists who practice or believe in polygamy living in Utah and other western states. The practice is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mainstream church abandoned polygamy in 1890 as Utah moved toward statehood.

I guess this explains what church they belong to.

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skankbiscuit

Kody is such a freaking attention whore :roll:

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atheistjd

I had a feeling they might be up to something like this. I say bravo... I see anti-bigamy laws as being the same as anti-sodomy laws. It's your life, your bedroom(s), your business. So long as there is no domestic abuse I am glad they are happy. I strongly disagree with religiously-enforced relationships (i.e. the bible/josepsh smith/the prophet says you must marry someone of the opposite sex/have shit-tons of kids/marry as many women as you can) but am glad people have the right to follow their beliefs in America and I hope that remains true/becomes true in all states. Go Browns! Just please don't name your newest kid Cleveland. Or Charles.

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Buzzard

I like that the state was honest and said that they only prosecute in cases where there is an additional crime, like child abuse or molestation. I think thats a good way to go. Consenting adults can do what they want and the compounds can still get raided.

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atheistjd
Kody is such a freaking attention whore :roll:

Very true. But very little gets done regarding civil rights without someone being willing to be an outspoken (sometimes annoyingly so) attention-seeker.

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atheistjd
I like that the state was honest and said that they only prosecute in cases where there is an additional crime, like child abuse or molestation. I think thats a good way to go. Consenting adults can do what they want and the compounds can still get raided.

I actually strongly disagree with this. I think the law should be what it is - any promises by authority figures that they won't enforce unless they have to just leads to abuses of the law down the road. Also, if it's broken, fix it... this kind of policy is an admission that the law is ridiculous but also a refusal to fix it. The law should reflect what society believes is a crime - if no one really thinks polygamy is "that bad" - it shouldn't be criminal.

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skankbiscuit

Very true. But very little gets done regarding civil rights without someone being willing to be an outspoken (sometimes annoyingly so) attention-seeker.

Very good point.

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Buzzard

I actually strongly disagree with this. I think the law should be what it is - any promises by authority figures that they won't enforce unless they have to just leads to abuses of the law down the road. Also, if it's broken, fix it... this kind of policy is an admission that the law is ridiculous but also a refusal to fix it. The law should reflect what society believes is a crime - if no one really thinks polygamy is "that bad" - it shouldn't be criminal.

If they were in my jurisdiction I would prosecute them. I respect the political situation that they are in over in Utah so they can handle their laws how the wish.

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atheistjd

If they were in my jurisdiction I would prosecute them. I respect the political situation that they are in over in Utah so they can handle their laws how the wish.

Well, I guess we have very different opinions on what criminal law should handle and how. We'll have to agree to disagree. I wish them luck though, and can't think of a much better poster family to break down this particular stigma/legal barrier to civil rights.

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Kitten
Under Utah law, it is illegal for unmarried persons to cohabitate, or "purport" to be married. A person is also guilty of bigamy if they hold multiple legal marriage licenses. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in state prison. Both men and women can be prosecuted under the law, which also applies to unmarried, monogamous couples that live together.
Okay, so they are only potentially guilty on one count, cohabitation, because they don't have "legal marriage licenses" for marriages 2-4, so bigamy doesn't apply. But, I will admit that Utah cannot selectively enforce the law. If the law applies to all unmarried couples, then it should be enforced equally, and the DA's office would be busy from now until eternity. There wouldn't be time for any other cases to be heard. Criminal attorneys fresh out of law school could look forward to lifetime employment. And they would need a LOT more prisons...

I don't like Kody and wouldn't spend 10 minutes with him, and I'm doubtful about the true extent of the police's interest in him and his family (because, ya know, Kody gets a WEE bit dramatic now and then). And that whole "presumptive felon" bit the lawyer cooked up? How does a statute make someone a presumptive felon, unless they publicly behave contrary to the statute? There are laws against robbery, and if I commit a robbery and go on national TV and tell everyone I did it, then yeah, I guess you could call me a presumptive felon. But it was my behavior that made me that, not the law.

But yeah, if they were actually trying to use this law to selectively go after one public polygamist relationship, that use of the law should be challenged. Whether or not it's a stupid law is an entirely different matter.

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Letgo
But yeah, if they were actually trying to use this law to selectively go after one public polygamist relationship, that use of the law should be challenged. Whether or not it's a stupid law is an entirely different matter.

I think Utah will be between a rock and a hard place with this one. I think the state is especially senstive about polygamy because of the past teachings on it within the LDS church. They must really want to distance the state (and church) from what the Browns and their church practice to even think of prosecuting. But they can't prosecute selectively without expecting legal consequences. They are going to have to give the Browns a pass. If they do, will the family return to Utah?

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mirele

Jonathan Turley and I are going to have to disagree on this one...I'm of the opinion that this lawsuit will go exactly nowhere. Why? Because the Browns fled the state! Turley says this is what gives the Browns "skin in the game" (in that they had to leave the state to avoid prosecution), but I don't think the courts are going to buy that. Usually, this involves a criminal conviction, not merely the threat of prosecution. Given that every county everywhere is cash-strapped out the wazoo, and filing these kinds of charges is just asking for an inevitable and very expensive path to the Supreme Court, a DA is going to think VERY HARD before filing charges in a case like this, absent some other charge.

This whole case irritates me because there's this idea that the Browns have "suffered," well, no, they've not suffered. They've not been arrested, charged, tried and convicted. They moved over to Nevada, which is not such a big change to me. (Las Vegas has a significant Mormon community.) If the Browns want to challenge Utah's polygamy laws, they need to move back and live their lives in such a fashion that it's ONLY polygamy that they're charged with, not child abuse or ripping off the state welfare system as in other cases.

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2xx1xy1JD

Sounds like an interesting case.

I have no idea how constitutional cases work in Utah, but the law against bigamy is also being challenged in Canada by the FLDS in Bountiful, BC.

It's possible that the Brown's may get their case defeated on technical grounds - no criminal charges were ever filed, so it can be argued that any damages came from their own paranoia. I think it's also hard to argue the stigma issue, because I don't think that society necessarily determines what is moral by looking at laws on the books. Cheating on a spouse is often legal, but widely seen as immoral. OTOH, occasional weed smoking doesn't necessarily make you a social pariah even if it is technically illegal.

If it does proceed, however, it may not be that easy to defend the law. Logically, it doesn't make sense for the State of Utah to be saying, "let's keep this law, because we never really enforce it anyway". If you don't enforce it, get rid of it. You can prosecute underage sex and domestic violence without it. I can see how keeping it on the books can lead to unfair selective prosecution. Look at what happened in Lawrence v. Texas - a gay couple engaged in consensual sex in the privacy of their own home suddenly had the police burst in (false report from malicious neighbor) and found themselves arrested and jailed for sodomy. Ironically, we'll see the Supreme Court's decision in that case, which struck down sodomy laws, being used by these traditional Mormon-offshoots.

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gustava

Any attorneys on this board?? Why did they go to federal court to challenge a state law? Is that the normal route?

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2xx1xy1JD

They are claiming that the state law violates the US Constitution.

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gustava
They are claiming that the state law violates the US Constitution.

Makes sense. Thanks.

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gilora

In order to invoke federal court jurisdiction, they would need a "federal question." Presumably they are challenging the Utah law on the basis that it violates the US Constitution. This would likely be enough to get them into federal court.

There is another basis for federal court jurisdiction -- diversity of citizenship plus amount in controversy, but I don't know if they are pursuing this route.

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emmiedahl

I don't think there should be victim-less crimes. I am glad that they are challenging the law. Just knowing that it exists must make a lot of polygamists in Utah nervous, especially those that can remember the raids from a few decades ago.

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GenerationCedarchip
I don't think there should be victim-less crimes. I am glad that they are challenging the law. Just knowing that it exists must make a lot of polygamists in Utah nervous, especially those that can remember the raids from a few decades ago.

Having read books like Under the Banner of Heaven, I'm not so sure I think of polygamy as a victimless crime. Some of these folks may go into it with their eyes wide open, but there seems to be an awful lot of coercion and exploitation involved, particularly with the marriages of some of the very young wives.

Of course, if they legalize polygamy, that may remove the state and its taxpayers as victims. Under current law, many of these polygamous families are not self-supporting. The various wives file for benefits as unemployed, unwed mothers and collect checks. If their lifestyle becomes legal, that may change their eligibility because then they will be married. Personally, I don't like the idea of taxpayers subsidizing these folks' personal decisions but it's a tough issue because it also wouldn't be fair for the children to go hungry just because of the stupid decisions the parents make.

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emmiedahl

I have read "Under the Banner of Heaven". If someone is coerced, that is the problem--not the polygamy. Being forced into marriage or being exploited is a general problem that occurs outside of polygamy.

I don't really care if they get food stamps. Their kids deserve medical care and food as much as my kids, and the taxpayers pay for mine. I would be a giant hypocrit if I had a problem with that.

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GenerationCedarchip
I have read "Under the Banner of Heaven". If someone is coerced, that is the problem--not the polygamy. Being forced into marriage or being exploited is a general problem that occurs outside of polygamy.

I don't really care if they get food stamps. Their kids deserve medical care and food as much as my kids, and the taxpayers pay for mine. I would be a giant hypocrit if I had a problem with that.

I agree that these things happen outside of polygamy. However, the way that polygamy is set up seems to invite it. It sets up one man to basically take a bunch of wives and since the women(with their children) are having to compete for a finite amount of attention and resources, they're going to be at a disadvantage vis a vis the husband. I just don't see how that's healthy for the children and I'm not sure it's a great idea for the women either. Also, in some of these systems where men are competing to get a number of wives, you have the phenomenon of the "lost boys" being pushed out of the community so that they don't take any of the supply of available women. I'm pretty sure those young men would consider themselves victims of polygamy.

As for the food stamps, I don't have a problem if people who need them get them. They shouldn't be going hungry as I said above. What I was taking issue with is the fraud and that's what I was saying might end if polygamy actually became legal. If it's legal, then we wouldn't have someone applying as a single mom with 4 kids because in reality she's a mom with 4 kids who are in an intact family unit receiving support for however many other adults are there. That would take into account the full number of children needing support, the adults who are there and what the real income/assets of the whole family are. They may still need help, but if other moms are working and dad's a successful businessman (as was the case in a family I read about), then they may not.

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Kitchen Princess

Maybe someone has said this already, but can you say "Test Case?"

He doesn't have money for legal fees. He's being used at the front man for a group who wants to change the law. He's the perfect man for it, too. Doesn't mind the spotlight at all.

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mirele
Maybe someone has said this already, but can you say "Test Case?"

He doesn't have money for legal fees. He's being used at the front man for a group who wants to change the law. He's the perfect man for it, too. Doesn't mind the spotlight at all.

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2xx1xy1JD

I think the next legal frontier, if this law is struck down, would be the argument over redefining marriage.

Do you allow marriage licences for plural marriages?

If someone lives in an area that doesn't allow plural marriage, will a plural marriage performed elsewhere be recognized?

How will entitlements to government benefits, pensions, survivor benefits, etc. work?

What will happen when there is a divorce?

Recognition of same-sex rights came in stages. I can see some of the same process unfolding and similar issues arising. In some cases, there may be some sort of back-door recognition of the issues by dealing with marriages that took place elsewhere. For example, did you know that in Ontario, Canada, section 1(2) of the Family Law Act says that the definition of "spouse" includes a polygamous spouse if the marriage took place in a place where polygamy is legal? I had a case with a polygamous Muslim marriage before.

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SunnyAndrsn
Maybe someone has said this already, but can you say "Test Case?"

He doesn't have money for legal fees. He's being used at the front man for a group who wants to change the law. He's the perfect man for it, too. Doesn't mind the spotlight at all.

Yup, and I say go for it. This family really doesn't bug me at all. I think it's weird, but could less. The kids are doing fine, the wives are not property so who cares?

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