HILDALE, Utah - the decision by a federal judge to strike down parts of the state’s bigamy law means hundreds of Utah families can live without the threat of prosecution.
“It’s nice to know that it’s not illegal,” says Colorado City resident Marvin Wyler.
Wyler left the Fundamentalist LDS Church in the 90s, but continues the practice of plural marriage. The ruling by US District Court judge Clark Waddoups came out of Friday. Wyler says he and the most of the communities of Hildale and Colorado City found out Sunday morning, and there was a collective sigh of relief.
“What I thought was, ‘Hallelujah,” says Wyler. “I’m grateful it’s finally happened.”
Wyler says many of those who still practice plural marriage feared they’d never see the decriminalization of polygamy in their lifetime. Wyler says when the Utah attorney general announced in 2002 they wouldn’t prosecute individuals for polygamy alone; many believed it was the first step in decriminalizing. The recent court ruling had brought some peace to families, but Wyler says it’s not likely to change anything.
“It was all going on anyway,” says Wyler. “Everybody feels like it should have never taken place in the first place”
But ex-FLDS and polygamous support groups say they hope it takes the fear out of the lifestyle, particularly when dealing with abusive situations.
“A lot of times people are hiding behind their fear of being arrested if they come forward,” says Family Support Center Executive Director Bonnie Peters. “So this could definitely have an impact that way.”
Peters says they’ve heard nothing but positive reactions of the ruling, but say time will tell to see if the reversal can undo the criminal stigma attached to plural marriage.
“I think it could open that door to report more abuse,” says Peters. “So we'll just have to see how it goes and how it shakes down."