The polygamist family featured in the reality television show “Sister Wives” lost its bid to overturn parts of Utah’s anti-bigamy law under a federal appeals court ruling issued on Monday.
The case, filed after the show’s popularity prompted a criminal investigation into whether star Kody Brown was illegally married to four women, drew international attention and raised questions about whether the state could bar consenting adults from living together as a family.
Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states. But Utah’s law is unique in that a person can be found guilty not just for having two legal marriage licenses, but also for cohabiting with another adult in a marriage-like relationship when already legally married to someone else.
Brown is legally married to one of his wives, and “spiritually” married to the others.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups struck down part of the state’s law, saying it criminalizes intimate relationships among consenting adults.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit overturned that ruling on Monday. The court said because the Browns had not actually been charged under the law – and the state said it would not prosecute multiple marriage cases unless there were allegations of fraud or criminal activity – the case was moot.
“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,” the court wrote. “They lack power to decide issues – however important or fiercely contested – that are detached from a live dispute between the parties.”
Utah is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, which abandoned polygamy in 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood. Some sects and breakaway groups, however, follow the early doctrine of plural marriage.
The Brown family and their 17 children are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, a Utah-based church which follows a plural marriage doctrine.
The family’s attorney, legal scholar Jonathan Turley, said in a blog post Monday he would appeal the decision.
“The Brown family is obviously disappointed in the ruling but remains committed to this fight for the protections of religion, speech and privacy in Utah,” Turley wrote.
But Utah Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas said the state had a legitimate interest in prosecuting abuses that can arise in polygamous relationships.
Shortly after Waddoups struck down the law, a woman alleged that her polygamous husband had shunned her and planned to “sell” their daughter and a niece, and he was not able to use the bigamy law in prosecution, Douglas said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Leslie Adler)
How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement
When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.
Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.
Quantum physics experiment shows Heisenberg was right about uncertainty — in a certain sense
The word uncertainty is used a lot in quantum mechanics. One school of thought is that this means there’s something out there in the world that we are uncertain about. But most physicists believe nature itself is uncertain.
Intrinsic uncertainty was central to the way German physicist Werner Heisenberg, one of the originators of modern quantum mechanics, presented the theory.
He put forward the Uncertainty Principle that showed we can never know all the properties of a particle at the same time.