Thursday, August 27, 2015

Brief In Polygamy Appeal Garners Attention

In 2013 in Brown v. Buhman, a Utah federal district court  struck down much of Utah's statute which criminalizes polygamy.  The decision limits the statute's applicability to cases in which an individual has multiple marriage licences, concluding that the statute's broader ban on cohabiting while married to another person is unconstitutional. (See prior posting.) The state of Utah filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit in September 2014.  Yesterday, appellees filed their brief with the 10th Circuit. It is gaining particular attention (as in this Fox 13 piece) because of (1) the celebrity status of appellees -- the polygamous family that is the subject of the popular reality television series "The Sister Wives; (2) the high profile counsel who filed the brief-- law professor and frequent legal commentator Jonathan Turley; and (3) the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision which was handed down subsequent to the district court's ruling on the anti-polygamy statute.  Some opponents of same-sex marriage argued that its legalization would create a "slippery slope" toward other marital arrangements.  The Supreme Court's Obergefell decision is cited extensively in the brief, but appellees emphasize: "This case is about the criminalization, not recognition, of plural relationships."  The full brief may be read here.