Utah will appeal polygamy ruling

Posted at 11:30 PM, Sep 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 16:28:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — In papers filed in federal court, the Utah Attorney General’s Office revealed it will appeal a judge’s ruling that essentially decriminalized polygamy.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office filed the notice late Wednesday night, saying it will ask the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to take up the case. Reyes spokeswoman Missy Larsen confirmed to FOX 13 that an appeal would be filed shortly, but said the scope of it has not yet been finalized.

Read the notice of appeal here:

The case was brought by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives, who sued claiming Utah’s ban on polygamy violated their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion. The family came under law enforcement scrutiny after they appeared on the TV show “Sister Wives.”

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that Utah’s ban on polygamy was unconstitutional, but he held off on issuing a final order while he considered the issue of financial compensation. In August, Waddoups issued a final order declaring that the cohabitation prong of Utah’s anti-bigamy law was unconstitutional. The judge upheld the portion of the law that makes it a crime to seek multiple marriage licenses.

In a statement posted on his website, Brown family attorney Jonathan Turley said he was prepared to defend the judge’s ruling in Denver.

“It is a rather curious position for the state of Utah in seeking to reverse one of the strongest defenses of religious liberty handed down in decades. This is a discretionary appeal and nothing compelled the state or Mr. Reyes to try to reverse the District Court of Utah. Mr. Reyes takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The final judgment did precisely that,” he wrote.

Turley said that combating abuses within polygamy may finally be stopped because people will feel free to report them without prosecution of their families.

“Neither the Attorney General nor the state of Utah should fight a ruling that reaffirmed freedom of religion and equal protection. Utah is a state that was founded by citizens seeking those very rights against government abuse. Utah is better place because of the courageous decision of Judge Waddoups and the commitment of the Brown family in defense of our Constitution. Now the state will seek to reverse that outcome and walk back to the long-troubled history surrounding this law,” he wrote in the statement.

“The Browns remain entirely committed to fighting to preserve the protections of religion, speech, and privacy established in this case for their family as well as other citizens. As lead counsel, it will be a distinct honor to defend not just the Brown family but this historic decision by Judge Waddoups.”