Groups debate bill that would re-criminalize polygamy

Posted at 10:05 PM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 00:06:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A passionate debate took place Monday evening on the floor of the state capitol centered on polygamy.

The rally was in response to House Bill 281, which would re-criminalize polygamy in Utah by defining cohabitation as part of bigamy, which is considered a third-degree felony.

HB 281 is being run in response to a lawsuit pending in federal court by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, who sued Utah over its historic ban on plural marriage.

In 2013, a federal judge struck down part of Utah's ban, making it no longer a crime for multiple people to cohabitate together or "purport" to be married.

Enoch Foster and his two wives Catrina and Lillian traveled from southern Utah to talk about polygamy with the people who have the power to make it a felony.

“To start getting a voice, to start showing a presence with our legislators,” Foster said.

He was able to have that conversation with the man behind HB 281, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab.

“My law didn’t change anything on the books. My law changed one word from ‘or’ to ‘and,’” Noel told Foster.

Similar discussions between people on both sides of the issues were happening at the same time.

There were people in favor of a bill, which would re-criminalize polygamy, like Christine Marie, who traveled all the way from Las Vegas to share her point of view.

“As a lifestyle, it’s like setting up your child for a life of sadness. A life that has more heartache than they need,” Marie said.

There were also several people there just like the Fosters.

“Lillian is so much a part of who I am and I love everything this lifestyle has provided,” said Catrina Foster.

The Fosters and others like them say they’re families, not felons.

“If they’re mistresses I couldn’t be prosecuted, but because I claim them as wives and we’re a family I can be prosecuted and I’m a felon,” Foster said.

HB 281 passed the House and is now in the hands of the Senate.

If the bill passes, the Fosters and other people who practice polygamy could serve up to five years in prison if charged and prosecuted.