In ‘Sister Wives’ filing, Utah points to Warren Jeffs as why polygamy should remain illegal

Posted at 10:17 AM, Oct 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-06 20:18:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the latest filing in the "Sister Wives" case involving reality TV polygamist Kody Brown, the Utah Attorney General's Office argues the state has an interest in keeping polygamy illegal by pointing to cases like Warren Jeffs.

The Fundamentalist LDS Church leader was cited in a filing before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as an example of "harms" associated with the practice of plural marriage.

Polygamist Kody Brown (center) and his wives (left to right) Janelle, Meri, Robyn and Christine. (Image courtesy TLC)

"That is what the boots on the ground fact of bigamy and polygamy can look like, and it is one reason the irrevocable ordinance recognized as perfectly constitutional in Reynolds and Potter remains fully supportable and in conformity with the Constitution today," Utah Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas wrote in the court filing obtained by FOX 13 on Tuesday, citing two cases that declared polygamy illegal.

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Utah-based FLDS Church, is serving a life, plus 20-year sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage "marriages." Polygamist Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn are members of a different Utah-based polygamous church and appear on the TV show "Sister Wives."

Unlike Jeffs, who is accused of marrying underage girls and performing marriages involving minors, Brown married his wives when they were all adults.

See photos of Warren Jeffs and some of his alleged wives obtained by FOX 13 (faces blurred to protect any alleged crime victims):

The Browns are suing the state of Utah over its ban on polygamy, arguing that it violates their First Amendment religious freedom rights and equal protection under the law. A federal judge in 2013 struck down a portion of Utah's polygamy ban, about a week before another federal judge in Utah struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The decision by the judge effectively decriminalizes plural marriage in Utah, but the judge has preserved a portion of the law that makes it illegal for polygamous families to seek multiple marriage licenses. For the time being, the state is not prosecuting bigamy alone.

The state appealed the decision and Denver's 10th Circuit Court is expected to hear arguments in the "Sister Wives" case as early as next year. If the 10th Circuit Court sides with the Brown family, the case could potentially wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the filing by the Utah Attorney General's Office here: