'Sister Wives': The Polygamy Loophole That Could Keep Them Out of Jail

PolyamorySister Wives, the reality show on TLC, has brought the practice of polygamy back into the public eye in the last few weeks.

And now Kody Brown and his four wives are being investigated by the state of Utah for being polygamists, an offense that is considered a felony and punishable by up to five years in prison. 

It could be over a year before the Utah Attorney General's Office decides whether or not to prosecute the five adults in the Brown family.

According to The Primer, a guidebook for Utah and Arizona law enforcement and human services agencies that deal with Fundamentalist Mormon families, prosecutorial efforts are generally focused on crimes within these communities such as domestic violence and child abuse.


In the meantime, with the different labels being attached to the type of arrangement in the Brown household, here's a look at what types of "multiple" relationships exist and how to define them.

Polygamy is used to refer to a person having more than one spouse at a time. Polygamy can be further broken down into the following categories:

  • Polygyny refers to a marriage between one man and more than one wife. This is by far the most popular of the polygamy types.
  • Polyandry refers to a marriage with one woman and multiple husbands. This type of relationship is very rare in our society.
  • Bigamy is a term often used interchangeably with polygamy. But it's also frequently used to describe two or more marriages with a common spouse where the other spouses are unaware of each other.

Polyamory, another type of multiple relationship, is sometimes called consensual non-monogamy. It isn't illegal because the participants aren't married to each other yet they engage in multiple long-term committed intimate relationships with more than one person.

One particular characteristic of polyamory is the transparency: participants know about each other and frequently live together. And polyamory seems to be increasing with one estimate putting the number of families in the U.S. at 500,000.

Too bad Kody Brown and his wives aren't polyamorous. It's legal. It's consensual. And unlike the patriarchal polygamy, polyamory is based on gender equality. Something the Sister Wives might appreciate.

It would make for just as interesting a TV show.


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