'Sister Wives' Lawsuit Could Change Polygamy Laws

sister wives baby solomonDoes reality TV imitate life or does life imitate reality TV? In the case of Sister Wives, it looks like life may at least be influenced by reality TV: A federal judge ruled that Kody Brown and his family are allowed to sue over the constitutionality of Utah's bigamy law.

Whoa! Is it just me, or is that a pretty huge deal? What started out as a guilty pleasure weekly drama documenting the ups and downs of life in a polygamist household(s) is now potentially powerful enough to make a change in legislation.

Of course the Browns aren't merely speaking for themselves; they represent a demographic we hadn't heard much about until fairly recently.

So maybe it's more about reality TV giving people a voice, particularly those who, for whatever reason, have remained largely silent. (And no, I'm not talking about young tanning addicts with questionable taste. They've always been plenty loud.)

What's ironic is that the Browns have only ended up fighting for their beliefs because they're being forced to fight back. Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn only sued after Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman threatened to prosecute them for practicing polygamy. He never did, but U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups doesn't care. In his ruling, he wrote:

The entirety of actions by the Utah County prosecutors tend to show either an ill-conceived public-relations campaign to showboat their own authority and/or harass the Browns and the polygamist community at large, or to assure the public that they intended to carry out their public obligations and prosecute violations of the law.

So not only is Judge Waddoups taking the Browns seriously, he's also treating them sympathetically. Does this reception have anything to do with the family's status as reality TV stars? We feel like we know the Browns personally -- it's harder to judge a friend or acquaintance than a random name without a face.

Whatever the case, it will definitely be interesting to see which way this lawsuit goes. And whether there are more suits like it in the future ...

Do you think polygamy laws really will change because of Sister Wives?


Image via TLC

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yayhe... yayheadstart

While I could never live my life the way they do, I don't understand how what they're doing could be illegal. I mean, you can only legally marry one person, so the other marriages are essentially just spiritual marriages, right? So how is it any different than a man having a mistress(es)? We don't prosecute cheaters, so how can we prosecute this family?

nonmember avatar Ashley

They might. To be honest, I've never understood polygamy laws. It's none of my business if someone CONSENTS to being married to more than one person. I mean, truly, who cares?

When people think of polygamy, they tend to think of FLDS types who marry off young kids without their consent. That's not what this is, and I'm not sure very many people truly considered that until this show. I can't imagine actually doing it, but that's not a reason to not allow it.

Perhaps a change to the law could include a provision that means all parties must be made aware of any instance of additional marriage.

nonmember avatar Ashley

@yayheadstart I wondered the same thing, but I actually found out why- it's illegal in Utah to even act as though your married to more than one person and/or cohabitate with another person of the opposite sex.


So technically, even though they're not legally married, they are in violation of the Utah bigamy law.

Alipooh Alipooh

I think it comes down to how you are raised.  I don't believe it for me but for some people it works, and who are we to judge them.  People need to stop judging and real look at the situation.  It's not like they are trying to convert people, they are just say hey this works for us and to show us the insight to their lives.  The people who are up in arms over this have probably only watched the HBO "Big Love" and are basing everything off that.  Do I think the law will change- No, not a this time due to everyone believe that their faith is the right one..and that is sad because law should not be pass on religious values...So good luck to the Brown's...

Littl... LittleFrogsMA

Polygamy is bad for society.  In order for men to be able to have extra wives, some men have to do without, or older men have to take young wives leaving young men unmarried until they are much older. 


Frankly, it is bad for women as well.

nonmember avatar Jeanette

I agree with yayheadstart. People would not be prosecuted for living together, and he's only legally married to one person, so why whats the problem? It may not be a lifestyle everyone would choose but look at it this way. They are all consenting adults, the children are well adjusted, they don't live off of taxpayers money and they have a happy home. I say leave them and anyone else choosing to live that life style alone.

buffa... buffalove23

If they are allowed to sue the state of Utah over its polygamy laws then every gay couple should do the same over same sex marriage laws.

ceciliam ceciliam

Who knows.

nonmember avatar Shelly

I think most people agree, that polygamy laws aren't going to be changed. (Most sane people, think they shouldn't change.)

mande... manderspanders

I hope they have a good outcome. I don't think polygamy is for everyone, but it is part of their faith and they should be allowed to live that lifestyle. I agree that it should be only for consenting adults. I think that if you are pro marriage equality, then that encompasses families like th Brown's - not just gays.

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