If she had the fitness and stamina to peform a little jig, National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher would likely be doing just upon learning that the family from Sister Wives is officially suing the state of Utah for polygamy rights. Details follow.
The Brown family will file a lawsuit in Utah on Wednesday that seeks to dispute the state's law against polygamy. After coming out on national television via their reality show Sister Wives, the family was subjected to a criminal investigation, which patriarch Kody says spurred them to finally pursue the dismantling of the law.
The New York Times points out that the lawsuit will not seek polygamy marriage rights, but instead ask for protection so that states cannot punish polygamists. Their suit plans to use the landmark case which many believe to be a watershed moment for gay rights in the U.S.: the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that found state sodomy laws to be unconstitutional.
The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.
Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.
Making polygamous unions illegal, they argue, violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment.
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